What I’m Reading: “The Catholic Guide to Depression” and Mental Illness in the Family

What I’m Reading: “The Catholic Guide to Depression” and Mental Illness in the Family

A family member very close to me has bipolar disorder. Type II, which my doctor tells me is good, because that kind is less likely to be passed on to my babies. Which makes me nearly cry in relief, considering it runs in my husband’s family as well.

As a child, it wasn’t talked about, though. I just thought every grown-up took lots of medications multiple times a day. I distinctly remember the spending phases we were all subjected to. Hundreds of dollars spent on Beanie Babies which covered our shelves, valances, dressers, stair rail. The discovery of eBay and daily shipments of cake pans of all shapes and sizes that didn’t stop coming for months. In the days before Amazon prime, it was impressive. How many boxes of holiday decorations is normal? You mean 80 is a little excessive? But that’s only for Christmas! Scarier, more obvious symptoms were well hidden, popping up infrequently enough that we brushed them off as isolated incidents. 

When I got older, I saw that what I was exposed to growing up wasn’t completely normal. But I still didn’t really take note of this. Until my recent experience with counseling, which has, thankfully, brought up a lot. (You’d be surprised at how much you can forget. It truly is a defense mechanism.)

Now, how much is nature and how much is nurture I don’t know. But I was a the definition of a people-pleaser. One look of disappointment  as a child and I burst into tears, vowing to never do X again. That changed when, more recently, my family member crossed the line. A big, fat, red line that they were blinded to after so many years of decisions furthering the desensitization to reality. I had to stand up for the rest of my family, for myself, and for my loved one. And that was not pretty.

For the first time, I realized that this person was really sick. There was a list of diagnoses I didn’t even know existed. This person was disabled mentally and it was not something I could control or fight. I also realized that this sickness was not something I could let control me. I have had to make a lot of hard decisions. I’ve had to work my way through a lot of hurt and confusion.

What role, I asked, is God playing in all of this? With refutations of the problem of evil I am familiar. Physical evil’s presence makes sense to me in a fallen creation. Moral evil, too, has its place in realm of free will. But what is this? How responsible is my loved one for the pain this person causes? Can someone with such physiological abnormalities be capable of holiness?

A woman I know mentioned to me a few years ago that her husband was writing a book on depression. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I am so glad to have heard of it now.



You can find the book for sale here.

There is no pat answer that allows us to judge another person’s soul, in life or in the science of the medical realm. And we have to be careful not to conflate psychological problems with  spiritual ones or vice versa. But they definitely overlap because we are physical and spiritual beings and cannot live one life for God and church friends, another for our boss and colleagues, a third for our family… This person’s actions hurt me personally and have had ramifications far beyond, I’m sure, what they realize. But Dr. Kheriarty’s book, while more of a basic introduction to the topic, is helping me forgive my family member their harmful decisions, see them as a child of God whom He has destined for Heaven, and at the same time recognize that their illness is not benign and take the steps I need to be healthy myself, for my own sake, and that of my husband and children.

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