“The woman’s soul is fashioned as a shelter in which other souls may unfold” (St. Edith Stein)
About 1 in 5 Americans, ages 18 and older, bear the cross of a diagnosable mental illness. I am one of the adults who makes up that statistic. I have experienced first hand the weight of the cross that is anxiety and depression. I have seen how, when I am not managing it well, it impacts my relationship with my family, friends, fiance, and yes, even my prayer life and understanding of God.
But I have also seen grace triumph. This cross that I’ve been assigned has increased my empathy and understanding, it has led me to be an advocate for my students who struggle with their own mental health issues, and it has urged me to challenge some of the stigmas that surround mental health issues in Catholic and Christian circles. (Sorry, but “too blessed to be stressed/depressed” just isn’t a thing.) Not only that, but those who have helped me bear this cross have been to me the face of God, my light in the darkness, my Simon of Cyrenes and my Marys and my Veronicas.
If you’re reading this, odds are that you have either experienced mental illness yourself or know someone who has. The ripple effects of mental illness (particularly untreated or unmanaged mental illness) are profound: it doesn’t just affect those with the illness, but it impacts family members, friends and the community at large. This brings us to St. Dymphna — patron of mental illness and anxiety — whose intercession we frequently should invoke.
This is the latest installment of the series, “The Genius of My Sister.” Read other articles in the series to learn more about Catholic women throughout history and how they can inspire us today.