Catholic Motherhood and Depression

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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 one 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.

Right.

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 to 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 almost 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 low moments), 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!

Copyright 2012 Marissa Nichols

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10 Comments

  1. Marissa, thank you for raising this important topic which impacts upon so many women – and for recommending that women experiencing depression need to get immediate medical and spiritual help. Suffering in silence does not serve God nor your family. You and all of those who face this difficult situation are in my prayers!

  2. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THQNK YOU for writing this! I am struggling with this right now and it is really affecting my whole family. It is so nice to hear another Catholic woman admit this. I sometimes feel like a “bad” Catholic woman and mom because of feeling this way when many other women are touting their blessings and fulfillment. These women often make me feel more isolated since I don’t always share their feelings. It’s nice to know that I am not alone.Blessings to you!

  3. I think that is one of the best articles I have ever read. Thank you for being the voice of so many. Depression is very misunderstood and still has a bit of stigma assoicated with it. You are article was beautiful and I know will give many hope. May God continue to bless you and your family. And to Sadie, God Bless you too.

  4. Thanks, everyone for the great comments! I would also recommend spiritual direction (and I meant to include it in the article). It’s important to balance the spiritual dimension with the psychological – I hope the helps, Michelle. God bless!

  5. There are so many things to take into consideration when a mom experiences these symptoms and feelings. One that I’ve discovered is to know how she is “wired.” God truly has made each of us very different and an introvert can find herself in very difficult times during motherhood because she doesn’t get the down time and alone time she actually needs to balance her energies. This isn’t something esoteric, it can be very real with very real emotional and physical consequences.

  6. Rebecca de Broglie Vannicelli on

    Thank you so much for raising this topic!!!
    There are so many considerations to be made regarding the traditional role of mother; if you are feeling alone or frustrated, look to the real experts on childcare who acknowledge that we as stay at home mothers are saving a generation of children. For example, you could check out “Who will rock the cradle?” , The battle for control of childcare in America, a series of speeches, essays and studies edited by Phyllis Schlafly, (available at Amazon), which could possibly have you homeschooling your children by the end of the book, or the extraordinarily well documented – and hilarious – books of Ann Coulter.
    Also remember that women who have left the work place to the benefit of their families are considered social pariahs, the antithesis of the feminist dream, and hence have no voice in the media,or statistics are often misconstrued, and we are often left feeling alone and inadequate.
    Check out “Who will rock the cradle?”. You will never forget it!
    Rebecca

  7. I love Catholic/Christian inspiration books but sometimes they made me feel inadequate for getting frustrated with my babies and not continually praising God with gratitude for them, but I realized a big part of my frustration was feeling unaccomplished as a stay at home mom.

    I felt like we were home too much, and I wasn’t stimulating my children enough so I sat down and made an actual schedule of things to do and go out more (park, in laws, playdates), not easy with two under two, but the more I do it, the easier it gets.

  8. Pingback: A Follow Up to Catholic Motherhood and Depression Article | CatholicMom.com

  9. HI I was so thrilled to see an article on depression especially by a catholic mom. I too, suffer with depresssion and am catholic. While depression seemed to be associated with me when the children were small, I am now finding I am depressed just having our 4 children all in their 20’s and still living at home and each with their own difficulties a huge downer! Everything seems overwhelming and I don’t know which way to turn some days. I cry out to God and find moments of comfort but continue to struggle each and every day. I am currently taking medication for the last 8 years which is the longest I’ve been on anti-depressants. I try to journal and get out to exercise and it does help some for sure yet depression lingers in the soul. I must keep going yet I feel so weak and stupid for letting myself get so down. Self-pity stinks and my lack of humility doesn’t help.

    I don’t see many articles out there with regard to “mothering” our adult children and I guess it’s because we’re not supposed to be doing that or at least not in the same way as when they were younger and needed our guidance.

    I just know that I need help. None of our 4 children practice their faith and while my husband (also catholic) is much better at giving this over to the Lord and truly is a wonderful husband and father – I need to take this to someone other than him.

    Our 2nd son is also suffering from depression and at the moment without work and not at all ready to seek any employment. He was working in the family business with his older brother.

    I work 2 days a week in a catholic bookstore, do yoga once a week, swim once a week, and do a seniors exercise class once a week, I take voice lessons twice a month, take a class on Sunday readings each week,and try to pray every day.

    The mundane tasks of cooking meals, cleaning and household chores I just want to run away from and I’ve always taken the easy way out it seems. My whole life I’ve looked to do that. Even though I’ve known that isn’t what we should do, I’ve continued to do things by listening to my feelings and whether or not I ‘feel’ like doing whatever it is I should be doing. I’ve procrastinated and now that I am suffering with some physical ailments as well as the depression I’ve realized my shortcomings too late…..well I guess it’s never too late but I surely see an uphill battle and “the glass half empty” view of things. Oh how immature I’ve been! Thinking so much of myself. I am 56 and feel 106!

    I’ve only just started this small “exercise regime” and am trying to get over the guilt of putting it off til now.

    Everytime I get into a prayer routine that too gets blown out of the water as I spend too much time with that and lack the mundane duties of the house and home.

    I apologize for spewing out all these thoughts and feelings and wasting your time but I do feel a little bit better.

    Oh sweet mystery of life where is the balance? Please Lord help me! Our Lady of Good Counsel please console me with your motherly embrace and wonderful wisdom of pondering all these things in my heart. Have mercy on me Lord and thank you for sending us your saints to assist us here on earth as we journey to our heavenly home. Help me to understand that we have a piece heaven here on earth. I need such cleansing of both heart and mind.

    I need to go and make lunches for my husband and I ….thank you for reading this and I would appreciate some feedback but be gentle please …I ache and am terribly tender emotionally!

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