What does a person do when they are in the depths of despair? When depression hits? I think it is different for everyone, but one thing I have found really helpful is
Often it feels like I just don’t have time to pray. Truthfully it is probably an excuse. It takes time and energy and introspection. All of which are lacking in life right now. It seemed like I can’t gather my thoughts enough to express myself in daily life, never mind prayer. Then I emailed a dear friend who suggested Saint Ignatius’ Prayer of Examen. This isn’t something new. It’s actually really quite old ~ 400 years old. Truth be told, I am not Catholic and I don’t have a Catholic background, yet at times I find the ritualistic ways of Catholicism comforting and helpful. Especially when I can’t seem to gather my thoughts and need something step by step.
St. Ignatius Loyola encouraged prayer-filled mindfulness by proposing what has been called the Daily Examen. The Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and to discern his direction for us. (from: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com)
I purchased a journal and followed the steps of the Prayer of Examen as outlined here or here. This book was suggested to me, but I haven’t taken the time to order it yet. The title: Sleeping With Bread: Holding What Gives You Life intrigues me.
It has been so incredibly helpful to take some time at the end of my day to think about all the things that make me feel grateful when reflecting on my day. It has helped to acknowledge the things that left me feeling ungrateful, stressed, disconnected from God, myself and those around me. It has been good to acknowledge the negative and leave it behind. Most of all it has been a amazing to look for the things that make me grateful and are life-giving. When in a state of depression it is so easy to wallow in the little things that went wrong in the day when really there are many things that are wonderful, whether it be as simple as the sun shining, the beautiful snow, finding a parking spot near a door so I don’t have to lugg my two children across a cold parking lot in the frigid temperatures. Or something much bigger. No matter how big or small, these are all things to be grateful for and it is so important to find those in my day.
I have found that in journaling these Prayers of Examen, I am now purposefully looking for the positive in life as my day is unfolding. I am finding that it is more and more difficult to find the negative or life-taking moments in my day. I can quickly list them, acknowledge them and let them go.
This time of prayer has been the most important key in my ‘getting better’ journey.
thanks Iris. I've appreciated your writings on depression as that is a journey I too have walked. And I have enjoyed some of the traditions from our Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ so look forward to trying this way of praying. Todd & I have found some of the daily office from the Mission of st. clare http://www.missionstclare.com to be helpful for focusing when we want some prayers and Scripture readings laid out for us.Keep on sharing – it encourages me and others I'm sure. My thoughts and prayers are with you as you miss your parents and have family over for an extended time.Ruth