Have you ever been “down in the dumps”…… gloomy, downcast, bummed out, dejected, downcast, depressed, sad …. . If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then I guess you haven’t been. Have you heard of GAD ? ”GAD is generalized anxiety disorder marked by excessive, exaggerated anxiety and worry about everyday life events for no obvious reason. People with symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder tend to always expect disaster and can’t stop worrying about health, money, family, work, or school.” Yikes.
A number of reports say the Irish have high occurrences of GAD. One article mentioned that “Ireland has the highest rate of chronic depression in Europe, with one in eight people reporting recent experiences of the mental illness.” Having a fair amount of Irish in my background ( 80%+ of my grandparents were Irish), this position seems to be true. My mother, Mary Dempsey Touhill, fought depression throughout her life. Fortunately by the grace of God and a lot of perseverance, she ultimately conquered it.
Well if you think, “Great, I’m not Irish, so I have nothing to worry about”, I’ve got some troubling news. Most people struggle at times with “feeling down”, even the saints. I read today that St. John Vianney, the Cure of Arms, (a Frenchman) fought depression. He experienced discouragement and attacks, saying “ I thought a time would come when people would rout me out of Ars with sticks, when the bishop would suspend me, and I should end my days in prison.” (Magnificat, 10-25-22). Woe !!!
So, all humans can be tempted to lose hope and get “down”. St. Francis deSales once said, sadness is the worst thing we can experience other than sin. He reminds us to “oppose vigorously any tendency to sadness … you must persevere. By means of sorrow the enemy tries to make us weary of good works, but if he sees that we don’t give them up and we continue them in spite of his opposition, and that they have become very meritorious, he will stop troubling us.” ( St. Francis de Sales).
In an article called “The Saints and Depression”, Fr. Joseph Esper mentions numerous saints who spoke about the battle with depression. St. Ignatius of Loyola related that depression can be a great spiritual challenge, and also a great opportunity for growth. (Fr. Joseph Esper. “The Saints & Depression, chapter Saintly Solutions to Life’s Common Problems; Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2002. P. 59-64)
So Dr. BLOG would like to leave you with a couple of thoughts. “Don’t be SAD if you struggle with GAD .… but be GLAD .… you’re not alone”. Even the great saints battled this. We just need to keep fighting. It is part of life. It truly is a “great spiritual challenge, but also a great opportunity for growth”.
Oh, and let’s remember to laugh…which can help us to be GLAD and not GAD & SAD. And that is very good news.