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Transformation through Depression


Fifteen years ago was a particularly turbulent time of my life. I was growing and changing in my faith and perceptions of God and struggling with my experiences of not fitting with what I knew as “normal”.  I sensed my expanding beliefs were unacceptable to others in my faith community.  This had a profound impact on me and I now see was connected with my experience of depression around that time of my life.


I grew up in the Catholic faith tradition and spent many years deeply receiving and growing my relationship with God and contributing to the faith community from a young age.  I enjoyed interaction with other Christians as a young adult student and the smaller more intimate, creative and liberal celebrations of mass, and stimulating workshops and conferences amongst the student groups of the time.  Then, newly married and having moved on from the student period of life, my partner and I went back to the larger parish scene.  It felt like trying to climb back into a box that I didn't fit into any more. The walls seemed to have shrunk and the air was scarce.

My images and concept of God had been subtly changing for some time.  I was questioning the strong depiction of God as “male” that was reflected in most of the scriptures, songs, prayers and preaching used in the Catholic and Christian tradition.  Around this time my awareness was sharpening around the blatant gender inequality in the Catholic church structure and I began to feel angry and confused.  All the richness of my faith tradition, that had once fed my hungry spirit, grated more and more strongly, and my questions around the theology would not go away.  It no longer made sense.  But this space had been central and dear to my life for so long, I could not easily walk away. 

I struggled over a number of years with these issues and tried all sorts of compromises in myself to be able to manage staying part of the church.  However, I recognized after some time that church was becoming a very unhealthy space for me to continue to stay involved in and I no longer met God there. 

I was experiencing God differently, very strongly in nature (which had been a thread in my experience for a long time that I hadn't noticed before).  I was not sure quite what to do about this.  In a way I wanted to go back to what I'd had – a clear faith structure and experience that was understood and acceptable.  I was grieving around losing belonging and connection with a faith community and I began to get angry with God.  I started rejecting my experience of God, because I wasn't sure how to respond to this invitation – I didn't know how to be intimate with this God all infused in creation.  I felt alone and weird and didn't know who to talk to about what was going on for me.

Around the same time other personal issues were happening in my life. I hugely lost confidence, my self-esteem plummeted and I began to feel very down a lot.  I struggled for energy to do ordinary things and I didn't enjoy life as I had.  I felt I was dragging myself around, with woolly thinking and becoming easily overwhelmed, tearful and anxious about  little things.  I felt very isolated in many ways even though I had loving people in my life. 

The loss of my intimate relationship with God compounded on this other hard experience of life. Looking back I can see now I was lost in a “dark night of the soul”.  I was in too deep to see that my mental health was affected, my whole perception of myself and my thought processes had changed and I had lost hope in life.  I just knew I felt empty.  Looking back now I can see I was experiencing depression, but I didn't recognize that then, nor was I honest with myself or others how bad things had got. I masked it and struggled on.

When I was involved in a car crash I suddenly saw how much I had changed.  Subtly, I had gone from the bubbly, confident and energetic young woman I had once been to feeling like a walking dead person.  I recognized sharply my loss of contact with God - my source of life - and wanted to do something about that.  I tried on my own at first, both in prayer and with my personal attitudes.  I finally realized I needed some professional help to bring me to a healthy space again, both spiritually and personally. 

As I recognized the centrality of the spiritual issues in my unwellness, I sought out a spiritual director who helped me on my slow journey back to health.  It was such a relief to be able to tell my story, in all its detail and struggle and find I was not judged but understood.  I found it a marvellous gift to be heard by someone I trusted and felt safe and comfortable with.  Through this counselling/spiritual accompaniment process I slowly came to look more closely at many painful life issues and their impact upon me.  I was assisted gently and with professional skill to work through my chaos to a place of healing and integration.

Gradually I came to find myself in a new way and to trust my experiences of God again, reconnect with this spiritual relationship and grow into freedom to be me and walk into a life-giving way of living again. 

I now see how interconnected are spirituality and every day living.  I now see God in and through all of it, ordinary life and relationships, spiritual experiences and even the dark empty times.  Like the tomb to the resurrection, my faith and life journey is one through death and breaking into new life through the process of personal transformation.  I have chosen this path and worked through it with the help of counselling and spiritual accompaniment.  And I accept now it's a continuing journey – lots of life/death/life cycles happening all the time, on different levels, beautifully reflected in creation, which call me to and teach me about continuous growing in myself and with Life Spirit in all of life.

My experiences of growing and changing through spiritual crises and depression eventually led me in my journey in life to retrain as a counsellor.  I now am privileged to work as counsellor and I enjoy helping others in their process of personal transformation through both personal life issues and spiritual struggles.  If you would like to contact me email sarareeve@paradise.net.nz


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