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This is the post that led to the talk, Women on the Way to Healing: She had a strong faith, a good Catholic husband, ten children, a beautiful home, good looks, a bright and well-educated mind, a healthy lifestyle, and a depression that just wouldn’t quit. She was my friend, and she’s dead.
I feel sad, and tired, and wounded, and frustrated. We have people all around us who are so fractured they can barely appropriate the riches they are immersed in. We talk about discipleship as though it’s a matter of getting faith into the faithless, when perhaps we should think more about getting faith fully absorbed by the faith-full. It’s about the content, but also about the integrity of the vessel.
My friend plunged back and forth from the ‘on’ mode (homemaking, new baby joy, meal plans, ideas for the future) to the ‘off’ (drowning in anger and self-loathing, unable to pray, hiding this ‘other self’ from the gaze of anyone who might guess how far the dis-integration had progressed). Too much of her time was spent covering over the growing dark reality with a surface tension of activity and normalcy. Avoidance of the dissonance within herself, fear of giving ‘it’ power by paying too much attention, and complete inability to reconcile the poles of opposition in her own thoughts and behavior all tore at the fabric of being. That fabric – woven of a blend of true faith, real nobility and substance, and good intentions – became increasingly easy to tear as despair eroded hope that escape from depression’s grip was even possible.
Ironically, the very strength of character that made it possible for her to bear these tensions so long, helped make it seem to others all really might be well for her in time. It was too easy to depend on one so gifted to find a way past the condemnation and brokenness of her own being, for the sake of the family she loved. Who takes charge when The Mom is impotent to help herself? Where does anyone look for help when the same woman who is all-providing, all-organizing, all-capable is powerless to help herself? Who could have believed that one so blessed, so creative, so loving could be bearing in her depths such unhealed wounds, such unexpressed need?
I don’t have fill-in-the-blank answers. I’m just hurting – for her, for her family, for all the women out there who have their act ‘so together’ no one realizes how desperately they need help, for all who labor under the illusion they can hold the tension of their own wounded souls together well enough to make it seem God is doing a great job. God forbid He get blamed for what is wrong in me, or that the Church take flak for my imperfections, or that my flaws undermine someone else’s faith in His power to heal, or that anyone use my weakness to call into question the idea of living a Christian life.
If anyone out there is maintaining an illusion of being a poster child for all that is good and holy, but violating yourself to do it, I beg you to step back and seek the help you need. Even if your honesty shakes someone else’s faith, your healing will ultimately do more for those around you!
What God asks of us as women, wives, mothers, is impossible. We cannot ‘do Christian life’ in our own strength. The demands are meant to bring us to our knees in supplication for the grace and help we need. God’s strength is made perfect through our weakness. Oh God, that the tragedy of this woman’s life bring others to You offering weakness, poverty, need, flaws, imperfection and emptiness as a vessel for you to fill!
I recommend Fr. Longenecker’s book, Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing; consecration to Mary (see Fr. Gaitley’s book, 33 Days to Morning Glory); Catholic psychological help (see links, below); and the friendship of strong women to whom you can say, “HELP!” when you need it.