Black Dog Days: How to Deal with Depression

My latest piece is over at The Catholic Gentleman, wherein I offer some practical advice on how to struggle with a particular issue I have and that I note is widespread. While my condition is as much chemical as it is psychological, I hope I can give a hand to my brothers in Christ and help raise awareness. Find it here:

Michael J. Lichens
Michael J. Lichens is the Editor of Catholic Exchange, book editor of Sophia Institute Press, and blog editor of St. Austin Review. When he's not revising and editing, he is often found studying and writing about GK Chesterton, Religion and Literature, or random points of local history. He holds an A.M. from the University of Chicago Divinity School and a BA from The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts. You can find him blogging at Catholic Coffee Drinkers or find him on Twitter @mjordanlichens or facebook.

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  1. Dear Michael,

    1. This explains a lot.

    2. I have some experience here. At its height, or maybe I should say, its depth, I was helped by drugs combined with psychoanalysis. In retrospect, I’m convinced it was the latter that helped more. And what helped the most about it was simply talking. As trite as that sounds, it was life-saving.

    Your essay mentioned the wisdom of the nuns in the Middle Ages, who may well have been learned in the four temperaments, and therefore knew how to treat the patients. Melancholia is better understood as a temperament than as a disease. The latter suggests medical/chemical treatment; the former is more accurate since it suggests predisposition. I learned much more by reading about melancholia in medieval medicine than I learned from modern, more clinical, sources. One medieval therapy–no surprise–talking. (writing?)

    Silent contemplation, preferably in the Real Presence, is the best “medication.” And acceptance of one’s cross, even eventually understanding its necessity in God’s design, brings peace, something much greater than a mere “cure.”


  2. Thanks for a beautiful, creative, insightful and honest description of depression from a faith perspective. I especially appreciated your mention of the evangelical Christians who simply advise the afflicted, suffering person to “pray” and “ask for healing,” and that’s it.

    Too often, the underlying assumption is that the victim of depression isn’t praying right or doesn’t have strong enough faith. And this, of course, makes matters worse.

    Thank you for pointing out the important option that our Catholic faith suggests, which is to offer up a really bad day to help others. But as you point out, this doesn’t preclude seeking medical help when things get too painful to handle. May God bless you always!

  3. Thanks, Lorraine! I appreciate your kind words.

    I do believe in prayer and know that it’s helped me, but I often get frustrated by folks who think it should be enough. They certainly wouldn’t tell a bleeding man on the side of the road that they can offer up prayer. Or they may, but it’s while dialing 911.

    God bless you in your work as well!

  4. I’d like to add that I once suffered horribly from depression myself. In fact, I was very depressed as a child, although in “those days” no one knew the signs and symptoms in children, so there was no treatment for me. In college it got worse, and in my twenties and thirties I went from therapist to therapist for literally years without any help. Talking got me nowhere.

    Without going into a long story here, let me say that the depression at some point morphed into extreme anxiety, and when I would mention this to well-meaning family members, they would immediately tell me to trust in God and not to fear anything, etc.

    Many people fail to “get” the fact that anxiety, like depression, has a physical component, which is out of one’s control. Long story short, I am now taking a low dose of a drug that has helped tremendously. It has taken away the constant edginess, the sense of impending doom and the gnawing fear. I don’t know if it will work forever, but I’ll take it for now. I see it as a true answer to prayers.