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"Blessed to be depressed"?

The preschool Dotter goes to is part of a Baptist church.  She gets a dose of religion daily--they read Bible stories, color Bible pictures, sing little kids' religious songs, say "Hi!" to Pastor Steve, and every summer we get Vacation Bible School.  While it's not my cup of tea, I have to say that it seems that they're getting a good little dose of edukashun, and a lot of contact with loving people.

As a child, I attended high church Episcopalian services with the paternal grandparents on an irregular basis, went to a religious preschool, and attended "Monday Sunday School" for about a year with my best (Jewish) friend, Reggie.  In the end, though, I seem to have turned out fairly okay, so the Baptist preschool is probably not going to chain my child to religion for life.

They have a sign out in the front of the parking lot that changes religious exhortations on a weekly basis.  Sometimes it's cute and funny, sometimes it makes me stop and think, sometimes it's a mysterious John 3:22 which makes me pull out the Good Book to see what the heck they're trying to say (sometimes). 

This week's mini-homily is "We are blessed to be depressed."

Okay, we know where they're going with this one.  Just think, you could be dead, instead!  Which is, when you come down to it, true.

But to those who suffer from depression, it's not exactly a feel-good sentiment.  "Oh, hey, I know you feel like you've got a black hole in the pit of your stomach, and you feel like it's not worth the effort to get out of bed--but, hey, buck up!  You're alive!"

Woohoo!  Yes'm, yessir, that'll just kick that ol' depression silliness in the ass!  I'll just hop out of bed, dash into the shower, and sing a happy tune!

The subtext, surely, is that if you tuuuuuurrrrrn to JESUS!, your life will be filled with JOY!!!!, the clouds will part, the storms will disappear, the sun will shine, the birds will sing, and you'll find unicorns in the woods.  (Okay, maybe not that last one...)

I can't deny that some people do, indeed, find religion and find that it helps them find the strength to claw their way out of depression, misery, loneliness.  But there are also people who have had religion in their lives only to find themselves floundering, helpless, when they encounter some life stressor that sends them into a tailspin, and then they have the added stressor of questioning one of their foundational beliefs.

There's a certain subset of folks who when they encounter other people in the midst of a depressing life situation try to cheer them up with platitudes.  Lost a leg in a car accident?  "Dear, just think--it could have been much worse!"  Had a miscarriage?  "Oh, it was all for the best, I'm sure!"  Waiting for an adoption referral?  "The child who was meant for you just isn't ready yet!"

Yes, it's a good idea to look for the good in these situations, otherwise you'll be mired in the muck for a long, long time.  But telling someone these things just doesn't help.  It's like telling a longtime smoker, "You should quit!  Do you know what that's doing to your lungs?!"  Well, yes.  But until the person dealing with smoking, the lost leg, the miscarriage, waiting for the referral finds within him or herself the ability to hang onto whatever good there is in life (however miniscule it seems at the time), telling that person, in essence, "Buck up!" is kind of poking them in the wound.

"Blessed to be depressed" just doesn't hack it as a psychiatric prescription.

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posted by Kate @ 11/04/2006 08:41:00 AM  
  • At 11/04/2006 09:19:00 AM, Anonymous Theresa said…

    Just wanted to say thank you for this post:)

  • At 11/04/2006 09:45:00 AM, Blogger RichardQuerin said…


    Interesting post. I've been battling (well not *really* battling) with my parents for 5 years now about not baptizing my daughter. I think they think about it more as an insurance policy than anything else (what can it hurt? they say). While I'm not against all organized religion (it is likely what gave me and my forebearers much of their moral fabric), it conflicts with my view of life and logic. However my daughter went to a Catholic preschool for 2 years and I don't have an problem with her attending church with my parents every once in a while. I want her to have an appreciation and understanding of all these things, but I want to let her decide if she wants to be baptized when she's capable of making that decision.

    Anyways, it's coincidental that one of the podcasts I listen to (The Bitterest Pill with Dan Klass) discusses this whole issue of religion and it's effects. I think he treats it with a little humour and a lot of logic and understanding. Might be worth a listen if you're so inclined.

    Enjoying your posts BTW.

  • At 11/04/2006 01:30:00 PM, Blogger new girl said…

    Yeah, sounds a lot like, "Just think of all the personal growth that will come from facing this wonderful challenge!" I'm sure many, if not all, would trade their depression for fewer of life's wonderful lessons. I'm not a believer in everything happens for a reason. I actually find more comfort believing in the randomness of life. I have a whole blog post stewing about that.

  • At 11/04/2006 02:43:00 PM, Blogger Belinda said…

    Yeah, that is an, um...outdated platitude, to say the least. And while its defenders would surely insist that it does not refer to clinical depression, I'm still thankful that the leadership of my own church is more current on mental health than to put up something like that! (My pastor has even approached us about the possibility of forming some sort of bipolar disorder support group within the church, because he knows of so many members who are affected.)

    My daughter ALSO goes to a private preschool that is "Baptist" affiliated. I've posted about it before, but when we were signing her up, I was all, "Hey, it's a Baptist-affiliated school, we're Baptists, it's all good, right?" HA!!! It was my (conservative) mother who warned me, "Belinda, the only thing that church has in common with yours is the word 'Baptist.' Expect it to be VERY strict and EXTREMELY conservative."

    Boy, was she right. It's still the best preschool for miles, and we're happy with how great it's been for Bella, but boy, howdy, conservative? You know your child attends a conservative preschool when the dress-code is SO restrictive you find yourself telling her, "I'm sorry, Sweetie, you can't wear that dress to school...but you can wear it to CHURCH Sunday!" I'm not even kidding. Apparently, in some circles, good little girls do not wear pants or have visible knees. Whatever. I figure what we put in her at home carries more weight.

    Anyway, I'm so glad you commented on my site so I could follow you here. As I responded on my site, you and I may have possibly married related men. And mine is adopted, so you never know....;-)

  • At 11/05/2006 07:10:00 PM, Blogger Kate said…


    Richard--I like the idea of giving children a background in religion, then leaving it up to them--when they become older--to make up their minds.

    Anne Marie--I do tend to think that thing balance out, somehow. It may be on the other side of the universe, though! ;-) And, yes, there are times when you just don't want to have to deal with the "personal growth" offered by these "wonderful challenges"...

    Belinda--Hi & welcome! Okay, your Baptist preschool is much more conservative! The dotter gets to wear blue jeans all the time (thank heavens). But they do insist on manners, they do try to teach right from wrong, and they are mostly a bunch of nice people. About the husbands-as-twins theory: If yours leaves wrappers on the kitchen counter when the garbage can is three feet away, and leaves the light on in the garage all the time...hmmm....

  • At 11/07/2006 10:58:00 AM, Blogger Space Mom said…

    What a great post. Thanks from one depressive mom!

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About Me
Name: OmegaMom
Home: Southwest
About Me: Middle-aged mom of a 4-year-old adopted from China. Love science, debate, good SF and fantasy, hiking, music of almost every style. Lousy housekeeper. "Good enough" mom.
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