My eldest has ADHD. It’s quite an experience, raising a child who can’t filter sensory input or control the way he responds. A few days ago something happened I never expected. Because of a wildly inappropriate sermon given to my son’s 3rd grade class, I thanked God for my son’s condition. Mostly because he was so distracted during the sermon that the only thing I needed to explain to him afterwards was why the priest was talking about a man getting shot in the face.
It’s odd to think of a debilitating condition as a blessing, something to thank God for. I think there are saints who did that, but I am no saint. Yet here I am with a new perspective, because I too have a condition. Until yesterday I never considered my struggle with depression and anxiety disorder was anything but a cross. A big, fat, crushing cross. And it is, because that’s the nature of depression. It suffocates, it drowns, and it does so by using the best weapon it has: your own self.
How is this a blessing, exactly? Because debilitation, of any kind, prepares us to accept the invitation of Christ in Mt 16:24: let him renounce self, and take up his cross, and follow me. Let me explain this using depression and anxiety, because that is what I know. Depression and anxiety isolate a person. It’s difficult to be social, to be successful at work, or even to leave your house. You lock yourself away to save yourself from more pain, but you end up creating a vicious cycle within yourself that eventually makes you implode. It is a most pitiful and horrible form of selfishness. What’s worse, it happens against your will. My implosion happened many years ago. I collapsed in the shower one morning because I was too terrified to leave the bathroom and get dressed for work. As I lay sobbing, a sliver of clarity came to me. I realized that I needed to get help–to renounce what I had become, take up this cross, and do something about it.
The first person I told was my father. He and I are a lot alike, so we drive each other crazy on a regular basis. It took what felt like a Herculean effort to set aside my pride and our history, but I did. I let go of myself. And my cross got lighter. Some days it doesn’t feel light, but I know it is. Because when I came out of myself I found my parents, and my husband, and my children. I found friends, and cousins, and nieces and nephews. Each and every one of them help me carry my cross. Every single day. My joy is in them; by them my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. I understand these words now, because of my debilitation. That’s why it’s a blessing.
Lest you think I forgot the last part of Mt 16:24, my happy ending happened because I accepted Jesus’ invitation and followed him. I did this before anything else. You see, a few months before my infamous shower scene I started attending daily Mass before work. Other than my future husband, Mass was the only thing in my life that made me happy. I was in RCIA at the time; I could not receive the Eucharist, but the spiritual communion I felt each time I went was intense. I followed Christ, and was able to renounce myself and take up my cross. I have days now where I can toss that bad boy in the air, twirl it around, whistle a happy tune. What a blessing.
I pray that I can help my son see the blessings in his ADHD and how he can use it to follow Jesus. I pray that all who suffer from a debilitation, whether it’s a medical condition, emotional trauma, or a prolonged life of sin, will hear Jesus’ invitation, see their hidden blessings, and ease their burdens.