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The Weekly Word: Anxiety and depression in the midst of faith

By Fr. Tom Heathershaw, Pastor, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church

I grew up with a lot of anxiety in my life, and later in high school and college I developed depression to go along with my anxiety. It is not fun to deal with these issues. I did not ask for them.

I also did not deal with it right away. I remember spending some days in high school and in college very disconnected with people; existence itself almost seemed unbearable and painful. I did not make this known to others at the time. I grew up Catholic, attended Mass with my family every Sunday, and had some faith in God the entire time I dealt with this.

The Weekly Word: Anxiety and depression in the midst of faith
Fr. Tom Heathershaw

It was not until my second year in seminary, the fall of 2014, that I really started to tackle by depression and anxiety head on by seeking counseling, talking to friends about it and seeking medical care, including medication. I started to pray about it more and offer it to Christ. It began to help ease some of it.

I still deal with anxiety and depression to this day, even as a priest. There are some difficult days to see the goodness in life, even during ministry, whether baptizing a baby or celebrating Mass on Sundays.

This is something I am always going to deal with, but I deal with it now in a healthier way. I try to be open about it with my family, friends, staff and parishioners if I am not doing my best.

Depression and anxiety are not something to be ashamed of or something to keep secret. There is help out there and it is something almost all humans have dealt with at one point or another.

Obviously, I have deep faith in Christ and look to him most of all to find consolation and peace.

Some people may ask why does God allow people go through these experiences and emotions? I do not have an answer for that, but I do know that God is always present with us, even during moments of great suffering and pain; that is the whole point of the Incarnation and the Passion; God becoming human and entering into suffering.

We know he always transforms; as evidenced by his resurrection from the dead. His words from the Gospel of St. Matthew gives me comfort, and I hope it does to others who deal with these issues. Know of my prayers for all who deal with depression and anxiety.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:25-34:

“(D)o not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

“Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?…

“So do not worry and say, what are we to eat? or what are we to drink? or what are we to wear? All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. …

“Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

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Please join us for Holy Mass at IC, Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.; Sundays at 8 and 10:30 a.m.

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