Father S.O.S

Can personal vocation cause depression?

When we see depressed people who are committed to their personal vocation, in marriage or celibacy, they sometimes wonder if this low mood and apathy could be caused by the vocation and should be abandoned as a necessary path to health.

Carlos Chiclana-February 2, 2020-Reading time: 3 minutes

It seems to me that the question "is vocation the cause of depression?" is not posed in an enriching way. That God calls in a certain way and personalizes in you your Christian vocation, so that you may be the happiest on earth, does not seem in its internal logic to include the possibility that it causes you depression. I suggest looking at it from other perspectives:

1.- Is it possible that living a vocation that is not one's personal vocation in an impostured way can cause depression? Yes, because the person would force himself to live in a way that is alien to who he really is. Depression would serve as an alarm to know that, for whatever reasons (immaturity, personal wounds, flight, economic needs, fears, etc.), the person took refuge in this apparent vocation, which is not such, and now, after having matured, the reality advises to build one's vocation by other ways, facing oneself and God, with the help of experts in discernment.

2.- Could it be that living one's vocation in a way that is not adequate generates depression? Yes, when a person has a well-received and well-constructed vocation, but carries it out in a forced, inadequate way, without taking care of himself or understanding it badly, he overloads his body and soul. Depression would warn that the way he lives it is not healthy, neither physically nor spiritually. Something needs to change: more awareness of your spirituality, level of demands, repressions, human relationships, unnecessary self-imposed regulations, self-care, etc. In this way, he will live his vocation in an adequate and healthy way, the dimensions of his life will be coherent and will generate security, serenity and optimism. 

There are those who believe that they have lost the love for their vocation and what they have lost is the taste for "life", because, with all their good intentions, they have restricted "their life" to an extreme dedication to the tasks of others, to the observance of certain occupations and have forgotten to enjoy so many details present every day in the sea of obligations, and have not stopped to take care of themselves, rest and enhance their personal tastes as much as possible.

3.- Can depression cause an existential crisis that makes everything look black? Yes: someone lives a normal and healthy life but, when depressed, begins to see everything black: I am not loved, I have no vocation, my husband is not the one I want, the job is very boring, I don't like this city, etc. Everything is seen through a filter that makes life lose color, interest and attractiveness. It is time to go to the doctor, not to reinterpret life, not to make decisions and wait to recover to readjust lifestyle and prevent future episodes.

4.- Can a normative life crisis cause depression and/or general confusion? Yes, we all go through "normative crises", "normal" crises such as adolescence, maturity, around 30, 40 and 50, birth of children, retirement, job changes, death of family members, etc.

They "demand" that we change in order to adapt to the new situation, but if we are caught unawares, depression or vital maladjustment can be generated, as a way of calling our attention to "force" us to change our skin and adapt to the new situation. This does not imply changing vocation, spouse or abandoning the children; it is usually something more interior, of attitude, of style, of manners, of position before one's own identity and before life. They can be solved with a good spiritual accompaniment, with the help of someone who loves you, or a professional can help.

5.- Could it be that I am not depressed but that I am going through a "dark night of the soul"? Yes, both have in common darkness, suffering, discomfort, meaninglessness, sorrow, passivity, difficulty to enjoy, dryness, emptiness, fear of oneself. They differ in their origin (medical vs. spiritual), previous process of spiritual development, external and internal manifestations, consequences and historical context. One can give rise to the other and they can also be simultaneous.

In the dark night there is a loss of a previous connection with God and of the transcendent sense, with a feeling of emptiness for not finding Him and an absurd sense of what was previously lived with joy. Normally he is able to behave in an orderly way in his life, to relate to others, to carry out his daily activities in spite of the serious spiritual suffering he is going through. However, in depression there are a series of symptoms that are more disabling and with more physical manifestations in sleep, appetite and energy. In case of doubt, a doctor who is familiar with both states should be consulted.

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