Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ignatius and Desmond Hume

- Desmond and Penny

I saw this post at The Guardian's CIF Belief page - Sorry, but Christianity doesn't cure depression by Emily Band. Here's a little from it ....

[Evangelical Christian Malcolm] Bowden claims that depression and many other mental illnesses are "very deliberately decided" by the person suffering from them and that the former is a "behavioural problem, rooted in pride, self-centredness, and self-pity". The proposed solution? To submit ourselves to the Christian God in total humility, and to find peace with this deity through living our lives for others.

The irony is that many common thought processes associated with depression actually fulfil most of these criteria: the lack of self-esteem or belief in talents are examples of taking humility to extremes, and the near constant concern about what others are thinking can drive us to live our lives according to the will of other people. Advocating these as cures is highly questionable when they are both key symptoms of the illness, each likely to be as much use as trying to extinguish a fire by throwing a box of matches on to the flames.

Arrogance and a need to impress through perfection are not the root causes of the despair of depression, but are instead often generated by a fear of being judged and failing to achieve a sense of normality. Demonising people with depression for failing to satisfy the paradox of shunning perfection while falling short of the divine ideals demanded by Bowden is a hallmark of someone who is setting others up for failure – both aims are impossible to achieve simultaneously and yet both are expected of a patient. The resultant failure is then used to support the idea that the illness is a mark of personal weakness rather than something that often requires extensive medical treatment .....

II did hope that becoming a Christian would solve my depression problem. It didn't, and I still haven't figured out why not, but one thing that gives me hope is that even religious figures like Ignatius of Loyola struggled with depression - at one point he even considered suicide. In his autobiography (in which he speaks of himself in third person) he mentioned how he suffered from what he called "scruples" ....

While tortured by these thoughts, several times he was violently tempted to cast himself out of the large window of his cell. This window was quite near the place where he was praying. But since he knew that it would be a sin to take his own life, he began to pray, "O Lord, I will not so anything to offend Thee." ... - (p. 48)

All this reminded me of the fictional character from Lost, Desmond Hume. I've been using my Netflix to watch the tv series and last night there was an episode that had Desmond sent from the island where he'd been shipwrecked back to his past life in the UK. Desmond seems to me like the depressed persons described in The Guardian post and like the tortured Ignatius. ... he was in love with a woman whose father thought he was worthless because he hadn't gone to university, hadn't served in the military, had no job, and instead of ignoring that man's dismissal of him and marrying Penny, he left her and spent the rest of his time trying to gain respect by joining the Royal Scots Regiment of the British Army (he ends up dishonorably discharged and in military prison) and then by trying to win a sailing contest run by Penny's father (thus the shipwreck).

At one point when he was contemplating suicide, Desmond found a letter Penny left for him in a Dickens book he was saving to read before he died. A line in the letter read ... all we really need to survive is one person who truly loves us. Maybe this is how God fits into the depression equation - maybe he can't make the depression go away, but maybe believing that God loves us is enough to keep us from giving up.


Anonymous Victor said...

The way I see my depression that almost took my life years ago would be like a burning oil well fire which God put out by using spiritual NITRO. In other words, GOD gave me a blast by holding back on the self-pity.

Does that make any sense?


8:44 PM  

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