Thursday, June 16, 2011

Therese Borchard and Mental Illness

St. Anthony's Messenger is doing a special profile on Therese Borchard, author of Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes. She has openly shared her struggles with mental illness in the hopes of helping others and removing some of the stigma. I especially like the part of the article that talks about the "Four Theresas"

Therese is fueled in her advocacy through devotion to her faith. She and her family are regular parishioners at nearby St. Mary’s, where she serves as a lector and where her children attend elementary school. She prays each morning (“I really do,” she insists) because it centers her. “If you’re not centered on God and peace, and that sense of stillness, then I think you’re getting off to a rough start!” she says, laughing.

But Therese has a special devotion, as she says, to three Theresas. First is Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, with whom Therese spent a volunteer week just out of college. (“I met her!” she exclaims.) Mother Teresa’s letters, which document her own struggles with darkness, are an inspiration to Borchard. She’s quick to add that Mother Teresa’s darkness is not to be confused with clinical depression—Mother Teresa was able to keep on with her life and work; clinically depressed people can’t do that as they turn in on themselves.

St. Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite, is a source of inspiration for Therese’s mystical side—Borchard certainly believes in a very real and present transcendence. And St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Borchard’s patroness, has played an important role in her recovery.

For years our Therese carried around a St. Thérèse medal given to her by her best friend. Through thick and thin she kept that medal close at hand during the year and a half when she felt suicidal. “It was my token of hope,” she says. As her sickness progressed, though, she came dangerously close to taking her life.

These were the days before her Johns Hopkins treatment. After six weeks of outpatient therapy was deemed a failure by her health-care provider, she sat in her driveway, considering taking all of the failed prescription pills in her house. “It was probably my lowest point,” she quietly recalls. “I thought, If I’ve gone through seven doctors and a hospitalization program and six weeks of outpatient and they say that they can’t help me, then there’s obviously nothing I can do, so I’m just going to take my life and get out of here.” She pleaded for—or, more accurately, demanded—a sign from God.

On her way into the house, she reflexively picked up her mail, and noticed a piece from a woman she’d met at a conference. “In the mail there was another medal, like the one that I had been hanging on to, from a woman named Rose, and she said that she had said a novena in my name—talk about a sign!”

So, she concludes, “All of the T(h)eresas are important to me!”

Read the full article here: Therese Borchard: Beyond Blue

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