Rather than use a particular individual's story to focus our reflection, we have chosen to present a fictional account of a clergy woman living with depression. Although this narrative does not represent an actual person, it incorporates the experiences of many women and men who live with depression. To read real-life narratives of individuals we have encountered in person or through printed material, please visit our Narratives page.
ďMelissaĒ is a solo pastor serving a mid-sized United Church of Christ congregation. She is in her late thirties, married, with two children. She summarizes many of the themes depressed women describe, from the burden of too many responsibilities to the fear of revealing her depression to her community.
Advent is always the busiest time of the season at our church. Every group is having Christmas teas and cookie sales, and alternative gift-giving opportunities, and the congregation is holding pot lucksóeverything social seems to happen at once. Then thereís the servicesóthe ďBlue ChristmasĒ service, the ecumenical community holiday service, the childrenís pageant, the commissioning of the youth for their damn ski trip, then, of course, thereís Christmas Eveís three services, and thereís next Sundayís services as well. In addition to this bustle, the church year starts, so I have meetings with the Deacons and the Associate Pastors to outline goals for the New Year. And, of course, there are my pastoral visits and sermons to write, a newsletter to put out and my own family to deal with. I would love to have time to take my kids to the Mall to have their picture taken with Santa Claus, but I just donít have the hour to spare. My husband had to take them this year. When he came home and told me about the great time they had getting their pictures done, and how my youngest kept asking for me, I just lost it. I started crying uncontrollably, and realized how miserable Iíve become. Iíve been trying to be so strong and fulfill all my responsibilities, but I just canít shake this sense of guilt that Iím not doing my ďbest.Ē The ďbestĒ pastor would be able to go to most all the social events AND preach an inspiring sermon on Sunday morning. The ďbestĒ mom would be able to make Christmas special for her kids by spending time with her family. And itís not just a JOB for me. Iím called by God to be a pastor, and a wife, and a mother. And, Iím exhausted! Even if I have a moment to spare, all I want to do is lay down on the couch in my office, lock the door to shut out the world, and go to sleep. But then I canít sleep at night because Iím thinking about all the things left undone from the day. Iíve mentioned my guilt to my husband, whoís doing his best to help me with the family. He said for me to go to therapyóthat maybe I needed to talk to someone about how emotional Iíve been lately. You know, I appreciate his concern, but I have no interest in going. First of all, I have no time for therapy. If I canít spare an hour for my kids, Iím not going to spare it for some therapist at $100 a pop. Plus, I was trained in family therapy. I know that Iím a ďworkaholic,Ē and that Iím depressed because of stress. A therapist is only going to confirm what I already know . . . and I canít see how thatís worth the waste of time and money. Not to mention the fact that if anyone at church found out, I might be in jeopardy of losing my job. Iím the one that counsels folks who are falling apart. I canít fall apart. Iím not allowed. The congregation needs to think of me as capable and put-together. Thatís what true leadership is about. In the meantime, I feel like Iím spiraling out of control. More and more things are left undone at the end of the day. Iím spending more and more time locked in my office, and my family is getting less and less quality time with me. Through all this I send out empty prayers that God will heal me, and help me bring back my joy, but Iím not hearing any answers. I feel like Iím too tired to listen. Pretty soon itís going to be too hard to pray.
[Proceed to the Situation]