punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Catholic Motherhood and Depression

Catholic Motherhood and depression are frequently viewed as mutually exclusive of each other.

After all, isn’t mothering a beautiful vocation as well as a graced state wherein instances of depression aren’t supposed to occur?  Aren’t we Catholic wives and moms not living as God intended us to live?

While our vocations are indeed bolstered by grace, and the joys of motherhood in Christ are real, moms out there everywhere, good Catholic ones even, sometimes endure serious bouts with depression.

And many suffer silently, alone and in the fear that others will judge them or their faith, or their Catholic Faith (which is already barraged enough these days with accusations of waging a “war” on women, nuns, harp seals, sunshine and prunes) should they speak up and appear to have un-met needs.

For someone like myself, I never believed I could ever become depressed. 

I don’t know.  I guess I figured that if I followed all of the rules I’d land in some euphoric state here upon God’s high mountain, set apart in my primordial, Catholic, maternal-ness.  Or maybe I’d just want to bake all of the time.


Reality check: genuinely living one’s vocation is hard especially when the pay off is eternal.  There’s no way around it. 

Becoming a stay at home mom after one has gone to college, established their career and then one day just stopped can be a shock to the system. At least, it was for me.  I've also had many working mom friends of mine, when they’ve seen me with my kids, admit quite honestly that they returned to their jobs because it was easier than what I’m doing. 

If nothing else, their testimony helps me to hear that what I’m doing is universally acknowledged as hard and a genuine sacrifice.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  Making the decision to give up my career and raise my children was a good decision.  In fact, it’s probably the best one I’ve ever made.  But it’s also one that literally almost killed me because of how deeply I sank into a mire of depression.

I lived in a rut for a year, and it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.  It’s not that my career was superior to staying home, it’s just that nothing prepared me for type of all encompassing toughness, nor the sometimes gaping isolation of motherhood (especially with two kids under two years old).   

Eventually though, instead of beating myself up for not savoring the divine glory of every moment, through grace I realized that to ignore one’s genuine suffering, or to try to pretend that grief and chemical imbalances can’t occur even in these circumstances is harmful. It took getting real help – marriage help, personal counseling and a brief stint with medication to finally get better.

My advice to all moms and spouses is this: get help! And don’t wait – a woman can live a long time ignoring her feelings, needs and desires until everything becomes so heavy and lonely and burdensome, she’s done herself a disservice in faking like she’s Wonder Woman’s second cousin.

Women require a community of support.  Making a woman feel like she’s weird, proud, ungrateful, or just crazy for having low moments as she is trying to persevere in being a mom is very destructive.

Catholic women especially need to hear from other Catholic women what their struggles have been and how they, and their spouses, have persevered.

Instead of frightening off secular people from marriage (which was always my fear should I dare share about my hardships), we might be surprised to find they too are grateful for that authentic witness to the truths of life.  Secular moms, I’ve discovered, feel just as lonely as anyone as they live trying their best to serve their loved ones. 

Remember, the enemy hates to see a happy family, and immobilizing the mother, the heart of that home is, I’m convinced, one of his most malicious devices.

So why don’t we talk about it more?  Many suffer.  To my knowledge, not many people write or blog about this topic. But perhaps a reader may be aware of where I might find more information about this? 

I’m all ears.  Any seasoned moms out there care to share how they’ve undertaken and perhaps bested their season of trials?

St Monica, pray for us!


  1. Marissa: I hear you! I struggled with depression all my life and when my husband nearly died in the 9/11 terror attacks, that was it. He came within 11 minutes of losing his life. He lost 25 colleagues and friends. At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom with a four year old and a not quite two year old at home/ Too too much

    We both take medication for anxiety and depression and we sought counseling - from our pastor and from a trained therapist.. I am more compassionate than I likely would have been had I not endured such suffering. And thanks to therapy and medication, I no longer am a depressed person. Thanks be to God from whom all blessings flow.

    1. Allison - that is too much and extremely tragic. Thank God he is ok. I completely relate to now being more sympathetic thanks to my trials. Before I would have probably been quick to judge another woman, but now, I get it...sometimes terrible things happen or life takes its toll. Getting help is necessary adn not something to be ashamed of. (Btw- looking forward to more of your great posts!)

  2. Thank you for writing this. You are so right, and I really enjoy your blog.

  3. Thank you too, Elizabeth for reading and commenting!

  4. Excellent! Spot on! Perfect! That's what I think of your blog post!

  5. You have expressed this very well. Women do need to support one another and share these difficulties.

    Who writes about this stuff?

    I'm a Dad, but I think I can still be useful here because I've written a lot about my own experiences with depression and other illnesses. My book is called *Never Give Up: My Life and God's Mercy*, published by Servant.

    I also have a blog about life as a human being, a Catholic Christian, a husband and father of five children with large personalities, and a person who must live with disability. The blog is called *Never Give Up*, and its at http://www.johnjanaro.com

    My friend Allison (up there) encouraged me to introduce myself. As you say, "many suffer," and I appreciate your testimony. God bless you!

    1. Thank you for introducing yourself. I am always interested in the 'other half' in the trials experienced by fathers/ I have no doubt the devil takes aim in his own way at your guys. God bless you and thank you for your website!

  6. Thanks for the perspective. It was needed.

    My wife recently left her job of five years. From managing twenty people in a busy environment to staying home with two toddlers. We knew, or should have known, it was going to be difficult, but neither of us understood just how difficult. She misses the work, though it was admittedly a bad situation, and the people, but she doesn't know how to meet people when taking care of the kids.

    Blessed Zélie Martin, pray for us!

    Thanks for your blog. I do find its short meditations very helpful. God bless you!

  7. I have bouts of loneliness -- I don't know if that counts or is that officially depression? In any case, I've aways gone to Eucharistic Adoration with any problem so when I had baby blues I went there everyday and one day by God's grace, it was gone. Anyway, I'm actually here to ask you if you'd like to guest post at my blog. I'm collecting a series of Catholic love stories on this page (http://www.anabellehazard.blogspot.com/p/real-life-catholic-love-stories.html) and I just remembered that I like the way your write and hoped you'd be interested in writing your story (I'm assuming God or heaven was involved in your match). Shoot me an email if you are interested bythefinger@yahoo.com Thanks and God bless. Sorry to comment here, I couldn't find your email.

  8. It's unfortunate, Marissa, but you are right. I found that I only started to hear about people with depression when I opened up about my own struggles with it and anxiety over the years. It is tough. It's hard on the kids and husband too. It was actually during the time of growing in my spiritual life the most that the depression was at its worst. Maybe because I was seeing so much truth about my misery, and was still not convinced that I was loved for free. I was fortunate to have a spiritual director at the time who encouraged me to get the medical help I needed. All the while, he reminded me that if God attached graces to the medicine, then I would be healed. The most important thing was to trust in God's grace more than the medicine. The other aspect was that I discovered I didn't have to be brave and suffer the depression on my own. I grew in my relationship with Blessed Mother because of my depression, for that I will be eternally grateful!

    Recently, a relative shared a passage from "Revelations of Divine Love" by Julian of Norwich, an English Benedictine nun. In chapter XV, she shares: "He showed me a very lofty spiritual delight in my soul, and in it I was completely filled with everlasting certitude, firmly sustained, without any painful dread. This feeling was so glad and so spiritual that I was entirely at peace, at ease and at rest, so that there was nothing on earth that could have disturbed me.
    This lasted only for a while. Then I was transformed and left to myself in depression, weary of my life and irked with myself, so that I kept the patience to go on living only with difficulty. There was no comfort and no ease for me, except faith, hope, and charity, and these things I had in reality, though I had very little feeling of them.
    And immediately after this our Lord again gave me comfort and rest of soul in delight and certitude, so blessed and so mighty that no dread, no sorrow, no bodily or spiritual pain that could be suffered should have caused me distress.
    And then the pain returned to my feelings, again followed by the joy and delight – first the one and then the other, at, I suppose, about twenty different times. In the time of joy I could have said with Saint Paul, 'Nothing shall separate me from the love of Christ.' And in the pain I could have said, 'Lord, save me! I perish!'
    This vision was showed to me to teach my understanding that it is profitable for some souls to experience these alterations of mood – sometimes to be comforted and sometimes to fail and to be left to themselves. God wills that we know that he keeps us ever equally safe, in woe as in well-being."

    I found that conclusion so beautiful. "God wills that we know that he keeps us ever equally safe, in woe as in well-being." And for this I desire more than ever to live, like St. Teresa of Avila: GOD ALONE SUFFICES!

    1. High hopes - that was an amazing quote from Julian of Norwich. I found it extremely enlightening and helpful. Thank you so much! I have never read anything from J of N, but perhaps its time I start.
      I also relate to growing in relationship with our Blessed Mother during those hard times. May she continue to strengthen you!MN

  9. the latest issue of the magazine "esperanza" has a very good article related to this:


    for myself, this issue veers into scrupulosity and OCD -

  10. Just found your blog through your funny and true post about confession at catholicmom.com. I can relate...to both that post and this one! I like how you keep your sense of humor through this vocation of ours! Happy to find your blog! I hope you'll stop by mine at www.equippingCatholicfamilies.com

  11. I just found your blog today, and I wish we could have coffee or a playdate. I have been struggling with depression since becoming a stay-at-home parent 18 months ago, and there aren't any easy days. It is hard work. It wasn't until I read your statement about the Enemy immobilizing the mother, the heart of the home that I thought at all about what kinds of bigger consequences this could have. I've been trying to be strong and fight it on my own, but I might need to ask for help.

    By the way, I've got three blog posts on this topic, but I haven't been brave enough to publish any of them. Asking for help is not easy, either.

    Thanks for your courage in writing this.

    1. Abbey,
      Thank you for reading and commenting. If we are as alike as I suspect, then depression might be something completely embarrassing for you to admit out loud. It wasn't until I realized how many people suffer that I began to realize it wasn't something to feel humiliated by. The Church doesn't condemn us, God doesn't want us to be miserable, so why are we so ready to force ourselves to stay in this darkness? It's due to the nature of depression, where we tend to harm ourselves even though we know our behavior and thoughts are harmful. For whatever it's worth, get help, get meds, get a counselor and a spiritual direction, and by all means, go out and get a dang coffee...just because! This is a battle we're in...the devil know our weaknesses already so let's just let that one go. Let's focus more on our strengths, which, if impossible now, will be possible for you with just a little bit of outside help. When you do post, please link me, my dear!
      God bless and I will be praying for you this mother's day especially (and yes, it's okay if your first reaction to mother's day is cynical, as mine often is).

  12. Thank you for your post about this. Depression runs in my family, though no one ever talks about it! I am on meds and have been for awhile but I can't seem to get over the shame of that. Devil is still working on me, I guess!

  13. A Catholic Guide to Depression by Dr. Aaron Kheriaty is a must read for all of us who suffer from Depression and also for everybody so they can better understand what it is and what it is not. Super long run on sentence but you get the point :)