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« Can We Please Stop Using This Argument? | Main | A Stray Thought. . . . »

April 11, 2006



This means taking your medications and seeking appropriate psychological help, up to and including checking yourself into a hospital when needed.

Just a couple of points. The advice above is good but you might want to ask a trusted family member or friend to ensure that you seek help when you aren't well because your perception of how you are feeling might be skewed.

I presume your psychiatrist has tried you on all the medications but have you tried Clozapine? A member of my family was prescribed this drug, as a last resort, and the improvement is amazing. This person has not been hospitalised for four years and has had no minor relapses either.

I applaud your courage for posting here and will keep you in my prayers.

Jimmy, as usual, a beautifully sensitive and perfectly intelligible reply.



Your writings for Christians who live with mental illness are some of the kindest, most thoughtful and thorough I have ever seen. I hope you will consider putting some of them in a published form (perhaps with the collaboration of a wise Catholic doctor). After all, there still are people without easy access to the Net.

And to the poster who shared his life situation with Jimmy, that he might share it with us, THANK YOU. I am praying for you!



Bless you for your Christ-like manner in responding to this man! I join my humble prayers to all those praying for him and for you.



Wonderful answer. My prayers and good wishes are with the author of the letter you responded to. I think both he and you took an excellent approach to this issue.

I too would encourage the writer to stay involved in ministry, whatever form that may take.

Jill Sawyer

Good for you, Jimmy. I worked in mental health for 35 years, and your response was exactly right. It must have been heartbreaking for the poster to realize he would not become a priest. During Holy Week, we are reminded of Jesus' prayer in the Garden: "Not my will but thy will be done." So God obviously has other wonderful things for the poster to do! Let's keep him in our prayers.

Mary Kay

Wonderful post and kudos (and prayers) to the person who sent it in.

Two thoughts:

Jimmy, I think you're right about the relationship between sugar and moods, but would think more along the line of low glycemic index foods rather than low carb.

Ditto on the question about anointing of the sick sacrament. The writer is spot on that recurrent suicidal ideation certainly falls in the category of life threatening illness.

Maybe a third thought:

The writer's comment:

"I recently was given a diagnosis that caused me to realize that my depression was not just going to lift, and that I will probably struggle with severe depression for the rest of my life"

gave me pause.

Having worked in the mental health field (although not with Jill's longevity) and just now coming at the tail end of a long-term physical disability, that progress is probably more likely than it may seem to the writer at this point.

The injury or illness never goes away completely, but it can become a much smaller factor in one's life.

From a physical perspective, at the beginning of my back injury, I had to judge progress and small steps of progress, in terms of months rather than days or weeks. At an early stage, the possibility of being pain free and nearly normal mobility was as likely as being beamed up to the Enterprise.

From a mental health perspective, people who have experienced multiple trauma do indeed find that they can keep the effects more in the background than in the forefront. But that again takes time and work and often slow progress. But it is possible.

I didn't mean to ramble so long, but Jimmy gave good suggestions, especially the exercise and placing trust in Jesus and Mary.


Wonderful post, especially for Holy Week. Your reader has my prayers. Stories like this one really put one's own annoying and minor crosses in perspective. Seeing others carry such burdens is consoling, inspiring and humbling. Your reader is a real man!

Gene Branaman

A wonderful & thoughtful answer, Jimmy. Excellent advice.

I'll keep the reader in my prayers.


Responsibility and a routine are very good things for depression. (Heck, Winston Churchill found it so.) So don't turn away from ministry.

(Don't overwork yourself with it, either.)

Also, don't forget that you're not the only person in the world who's tried to commit suicide, or struggled with wanting to do so. It's not easy to manage, but it can be done. And every day you live is a victory.

May God be with you, helping you carry this cross.


Depression is, as you mention, often biochemical/genetic.
There are treatments, not always successful.
As for "not having a vocation", might I remind the writer that we ALL have vocations to holiness...and that St. Benedict Labre and also both parents of St. Therese were turned away from monasteries/convents, and found holiness in a different vocation.


Jimmy, I could have written a very similar letter about eight years ago. I can't say that everything is perfect today, but things are far better than they had been. Better than I would have imagined.

Jimmy gives some solid advice in this column. I'd like to add a couple of thoughts. First, without denying the graces of Anointing of the Sick, I'd caution the writer against anything that feels like giving up. Be very careful to think of this sacrament in terms of strengthening, not as a resignation to your condition. Don't do anything that feels like preparation for an early death!

Also, about ministry: I've found that a lot of people have never opened up about the psychological things they're going through. Sometimes, even a passing comment can be enough to initiate a conversation about someone's mental and spiritual life. You can have a lot of impact without realizing it. (I'm guessing that you're pretty comfortable talking about this stuff. If you aren't yet, then maybe somewhere down the road.)

a Mom

About dietary suggestions, I would highly recommend the work of Abram Hoffer and the Huxley Institute. See www.schizophrenia.org for more on how dietary changes can help many manage their condition.

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