It was quiet. I was exhausted, damaged, and confused. I laid my body down in the small space between two rows of chairs, my face directly to the ground, hidden in the nest I had made with my arms. Anyone who walked in would assume I was sleeping, if they saw me at all. I had done this many times, accidentally scaring patrons who came in while I was laying this way, patrons not expecting to see me pop up from behind the chairs in this tiny chapel. This chapel was my refuge. It was calming, with dim lights and white noise in the background. Of course, the real reason I found it so calming was the Presence. Jesus, embodied in the Eucharist, was there 24/7, and on that day I was desperate to see Him. I said the prayer I had often said before: “Lord, send me flowers. Send me flowers when I need to know I’m loved.”
It was the summer before my senior year in college. I had just been officially diagnosed with depression and was trying to balance a full-time internship, preparing for my last year of college, and fighting a battle against my body and my mind. Sleep came on full-force, knocking me out for 10-12 hours each night. I was exercising, eating fairly healthily, but felt heavy-headed and exhausted the few hours I was conscious. I cried constantly for no reason, which is a very unusual thing for me. Already introverted, I wanted to see people even less and would often hide away in my apartment for days without talking to anyone. I went to counseling for a while, and after a month or so, started taking medicine. It took a few tries before I found a prescription without any unendurable side effects. I went into my senior year terrified that I wouldn’t be able to make it to graduation.
There was only one place I could go where I felt freedom from friends’ concerned glances and expectations: the Chapel of Peace at St. John’s Hospital. They have adoration available 24/7, a blessing I took advantage of often. The most comforting thing about going to adoration is that there is no wrong way to pray, and, as anyone who has experienced depression before will know, I often didn’t know how to talk to my friends, let alone God. Fortunately, He is all loving and doesn’t require anything from us besides our presence. I knew I could go to Him to escape, lay down, and just rest for a while. On my better days, I might get a rosary in or do some spiritual reading. Even on my bad days, I tried to do some journaling. An excerpt below is from the beginning of the symptoms, before I was officially diagnosed:
“Adoration, St. John’s. May 27, 2014
I know that I’m so weak and weary. Aid me, give me your strength.
I can not help myself and I can not do this on my own.
Send me flowers, Lord. I grow sad and tired. Replenish me.
I feel weak and helpless. Shelter me. Amen.”
On the very worst of days, if I could get a prayer out at all, it would only be a few words, a sort of mantra for me to grasp onto as I reeled in the despair that seemed to always surround me. “Send me flowers. Send me flowers. Send me flowers.” I spent hours laying on that floor, repeating those few words. It was the only plea I could think of, a plea to know that somebody, anybody, loved me. I went through the motions of everyday life; I went to work, I studied, I went to class, I went to sleep, I repeated. “Send me flowers.”
My depression got worse, I started having suicidal thoughts, my meds were slightly increased, and I found myself skipping my counseling sessions. My friends grew more worried and I refused to acknowledge that I was getting any worse. I spent Christmas break at my parents’ house, avoiding people in a ‘blanket fort’ my little sister had made out of her bunk bed, only coming out for meals, Mass, and presents.
It was during adoration, at a conference in early January surrounded by thousands of people, that I realized that I had a choice. I could either go upstairs and down that bottle of sleeping pills I had brought with me, or I could reach out and seek help. I made the journal entry below:
“Adoration, SEEK Conference. January 3, 2015
I want my life to end. I’m afraid for myself. Fuck.
Lord, I can’t. You can. And you promised. Help me.”
I went to the first friend I could find in the crowd, Mary, and, sobbing, I told her that I wanted to kill myself, that I was afraid I would kill myself. She was among the handful of friends who knew about my depression. She stayed with me as we searched for two of my other very close friends. Together, Mary, Bridget, and Katie sat with me through the rest of adoration. Afterwards, they asked me if they could pray with me. I usually felt uncomfortable about praying with other people, but I was desperately scared and welcomed it. Afterwards, I thanked them, and Katie, a bit hesitant, asked me if she could share something. I nodded and she said “Well, it may not be anything, but as we were praying the image of a rose popped up in my head. It’s probably nothing, but I felt like I should share it anyways.” Astounded, I told her about my prayer, my prayer to God to send me flowers to let me know that I am loved. Her eyes filled up with tears, and she gave me a hug and said “Kaitlyn, that rose is for you. You ARE loved.”
My depression wasn’t miraculously healed that night; I had a few more months of struggling before I would feel normal again. However, that night scared me into facing my situation with a stronger intent to fight and a stronger reliance on God rather than just trying to ride out the storm. The next day was the hardest, most emotional day I’ve ever experienced: I had to call my parents, tell my priest, and inform a few more friends who were at the conference with me about the close call of the previous night. With their constant help and prodding and by the grace of God, I made it through.
Though I owe much gratitude to friends and family, the thing I held onto the most was Jesus. While struggling throughout my depression, I didn’t go to Adoration to be miraculously healed or to feel better (that would have been nice, wouldn’t it?). If anything, I felt my lowest and most unworthy when faced with the unapologetic love of our Lord. Sometimes I slept, sometimes I cried, sometimes I sat and stared at the wall, hating my existence and asking Him to end it. For some unfathomable reason He loved me through that; despite my depression’s arguments otherwise, I knew His love was (and still is) true. He never asked more than for me to be present, to show up, to be real. He was my lighthouse, my rock, my stronghold. I found peace in His Presence, courage in His Sacrifice, and hope in His Church. So in times of trouble, I went to Adoration.
The transition from depression to normality was strange and oddly challenging. Part of me is always waiting for a relapse, afraid of its return. Part of me dismisses its existence and my experience entirely, writing it off as me simply being dramatic and emotional for a few months. Another part of me rejoices every day that I can get out of bed with ease, that I can laugh easily with friends and strangers, that I can go through my normal routine without contemplating how the world would be better off without me. That I no longer apologize for my existence.
“Jesus to the longing and harassed soul! He is instant peace and balm to every wound.”
– St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Despite my gratitude for normality, issues still arise every day. Adoration went from being my life support to being a privilege. I still have insecurities, fear of change, hard decisions to make, frustrations and complaints. It was one complaint I made in particular that reminded me of the great gift adoration provides: quality time with Jesus.
My (prayerful) complaint had to do with two things I am particularly grateful for: that I am blessed with many friends who I can rely on and who can rely on me and that I have the gift of counsel. However, those two combined with long distance usually mean that my friends only reach out to me when they have problems in their life. One particular night, after three subsequent phone calls from friends in distress, I was saying my nightly prayers. I began with “Lord, you know I love my friends and I love being able to help them (especially since they have helped me through SO MUCH) but I’m tired of only being wanted when I’m needed. Doesn’t anyone want to be around me for fun or even just company?” Not a moment after I completed that complaint/prayer I realized. “This is what You must feel about us, huh? I should go to Adoration.”
Adoration is a gift and a beautiful opportunity to build our relationship with Christ. He is always there when we need Him, but He also wants to just chill with us, catch up on life, share our joys and sorrows. Adoration is the heavenly equivalent of grabbing a cup of coffee with God.
Now when I have the privilege of going to adoration, I follow the ‘ACTS’ formula for prayer:
Adoration: Lord, I love you!
Contrition: Lord, I’m sorry for my sins/mistakes/big boo-boos.
Thanksgiving: Thank you for all my blessings! Thank you for my friends and family and their well being. Thank you for the little kid in the market today that made me laugh.
Supplication: Lord, please help me/send me strength/give me a job/etc.
Adoration helped me get through my depression, one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced in my life. But it’s also helped me get through everyday life. If I can get through a struggle as great as depression, how can I not rely on the Lord as I search for a job, fight with friends and family, or prepare a retreat? And even more than that, how can I refuse to share my joys and love and gratitude with Him? Jesus is always waiting, 24/7, to spend time with us, just to be part of our lives. I love Him and I truly want Him to come before anything else; therefore I need to spend more quality time with Him than with friends, family, and work.
I believe Adoration goes both ways. We go to adore Christ and to praise Him, but I’m absolutely certain that Jesus is looking right back at us, adoring and praising us more than we could imagine.
I haven’t felt any symptoms of depression for at least 9 months now and, looking back, it almost seems like a dream. I still go to Adoration and I still ask for flowers; I ask for future moments when I will need to know I’m loved and I ask Him to send flowers to my friends and family in moments when they need them. When you have a God as loving as ours, you get showered with flowers.
Photo courtesy of Percy Sledge Agbunag Carballo.