A Different Kind of Strength

There is what I call the traditional, Dwayne-Johnson-ish kind of strength – the “I got this,” “pain can’t stop me,” “just keep going” kind of resolve.

I tapped into my reserve of this kind of strength in Spain.

I constantly redirected negative intrusive thoughts, telling myself that they were just stories in my head. I ordered myself over and over again to concentrate on the ground beneath me, the beautiful landscape in front of me, to get back to the moment. The louder and more pervasive the thoughts, the more miles I walked, some days trekking 35 miles with a 15-pound pack. I was determined to prove to myself that I was made of titanium and nothing, absolutely nothing, could get in my way – the least of which being some bad thoughts.

Some of my Dwayne-Johnson-ish strength on the trail has served me well. The recollection of my sheer tenacity on the path, the memory of relentlessly redirecting painful thoughts on the Spanish roads has provided me a sense of resilience that has helped me meet the challenges of the last few days.

But much of it was pride, one of the seven deadly sins which can be dangerous, and even life-threatening.

Strength is attending to pain, nursing it so as to not make it worse.

Pride is blasting through it, telling yourself you’re too big to feel pain.

My ruminations only intensified when I arrived home. I imagined myself on the trails again, redirecting them as I trekked the path. Three days after I returned, I was trying to walk the perimeter of the campus of the United States Naval Academy, as I do so often. However, I found it impossible to walk 50 feet without keeling over in pain, letting out a deep wail from my gut. I tried to swim, but the same thing happened. I’d have to stop in the middle of the lane, gasping for air because I was crying so hard. I tried to sit in a chair and write, but instead I fell to the floor in child’s pose, begging God for the strength to get me through the hour.

I knew this wasn’t about being strong and pushing through.

Dwayne Johnson could only get me so far.

The kind of strength I needed was the humility to ask for help, to recognize that as much as I try to manage my mood disorder through diet, exercise, therapy, redirecting thoughts, self-compassion exercises, meditation, that sometimes my efforts alone are not enough. I had to swallow the hard reality that I am living with a life-threatening illness that can wreak havoc if I’m not paying attention, getting the proper care, and being gentle to myself.

What’s even more difficult than redirecting 50 ruminations a minute while climbing a mountain, it turns out, is stopping to attend to the pain. The most courageous act, I learned, doesn’t look like strength at all. It’s surrendering your control and putting your trust in the hands of professionals, even when doing so scares the living bejeezus out of you.

Last Friday I admitted myself into Johns Hopkins inpatient psychiatric unit, where I got well 13 years ago. Tomorrow I start electroconvulsive therapy. I have researched ECT enough to know that it’s the single most effective treatment for severe depression, and also the quickest. I’m aware of the risks associated with it, and it wasn’t without careful deliberation that I decided to try it. However, I have not been fully well for several years now. I have struggled much in that time, especially in the last year. I want to give myself and my family a chance for a full remission.

Therefore I decided to relinquish my Dwayne-Johnson-ish attitude and give some of the best psychiatrists in the world a chance to treat me with the most effective treatments available.

It was time to tap a different kind of strength.

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82 thoughts on “A Different Kind of Strength

  1. Sending you very special prayers and love.
    May St. James, St. Dymphna, St. Job, St. Louis Martin (Father of your patron saint), St. Christina the Astonishing, St. Raphael the Archangel, St. Margaret of Cortona, and St. Benedict Joseph Labre all add their prayers to your hospital stay and ECT treatment.
    You are loved.
    I am sorry for your struggles.
    I send you blessings and hugs.

  2. Thinking of you Therese – I’m sure this was a very difficult decision. I hope things go well and you can relax into letting the docs help you get better! The world is a much better place because you’re in it! Look forward to you feeling better and shining your light to all the rest of us! Take good care!

  3. Therese– I am sending you strength and love. My thoughts and prayers are with you as you undertake this incredibly courageous next step. And I offer my thanks to you for always being so transparent with your struggles. You help more people than you could ever imagine, just by letting them know that they are not alone. Much love to you–Yvonne

  4. Dear Therese,

    I last wrote you on September 6, 2013 to tell you how much your columns have helped me. At that time I was on the medication merry go round searching for something to help me feel better. I am fortunate that about a year later my psychiatrist prescribed Nardil, an MAOI, for me to try. There are many doctors who will not prescribe it, but it has actually worked for me and I have been in remission since about the summer of 2015. There are some unpleasant side effects (dizziness, early waking insomnia), but life is enjoyable again.

    I have often thought about what I would do if the Nardil stopped working. I would have no qualms about trying ECT. Virtually everything I’ve read has said how effective it is. I’m sure you have read books like Shock by Kitty Dukakis, so you know how it can help people reclaim their lives.

    I just wanted to wish you well and tell you I’m rooting for you. You have helped me and so many others, and I am grateful.

    Best wishes,
    Dave Easley
    Staunton, VA

  5. O dear and precious Therese– sending you a verse– “…God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” Heb 13:5

    I’m thinking of you and praying for you.
    I’ve read a lot of your writing and you’ve helped me and I care about you very much.
    Reach out and grab Jesus’ outstretched hand. He offers the gifts of being our Savior, Lord, friend, and brother. He will remain with you as you attend to and process your painful (as well as pleasant) feelings, thoughts, memories, experiences. I’m struggling with some things too, and trying to learn and grow and serve and live and hold onto God and hope as well. May God Bless and help you, me, and us all. Amen, help us Lord Jesus– we need You desperately. Help us to find some peace and rest in fellowship with the Holy Spirit. John 16:7. Please continually help us to allocate our attention well. Thank You for what You will do.

  6. Dear Therese
    I admire you for the strength you have shown in your battles so far with this dreadful black dog. I too have battled with it all my life and I will be praying that the ECT gives you the relief and healing from it that you are hoping for.

  7. Commending you to God’s love and care. I will pray and I’m sending my love. Remember that you are amazing. And holy. And loved.

  8. Sending prayers for healing, Therese. You have a unique strength, in that even in the midst of your own pain, you are a beacon of hope to so many. Thank you for sharing your journey. It has helped me along mine.

  9. Lots of love to you Therese! So sorry you are going through this but I am grateful that ECT is an available option! Thanks so much for sharing this and for everything else you do. Again, lots of love to you!

  10. All of God’s rich blessings to you and your family! I hope the treatments prove to be helpful to your satisfaction. With love, Vonnie

  11. Dear Therese,

    Thinking of you and praying for you. Please keep us updated. I thought about you while you were gone and remembered that we wouldn’t hear from you until June. You have been missed and you are loved.

    Shelley

  12. So relieved you’ve made this decision for yourself and your family Therese. It looks like what you found along the El Camino really was acceptance. And that’s the best starting point. Go now and care for yourself. I’ll be praying.

  13. Sending thoughts and prayers as you undergo ECT. Sharing your story has helped so many people and we are in your corner.

  14. My Dear Therese,
    You are loved, dear one. Your writing about what is going on inside you
    (I really CAN understand, I’ve known those feelings) is one of the most
    honest and courageous articles I’ve every read.
    Many times in my journey I’ve thought of ECT. I”ve been hospitalized as well.
    Please know you are not alone and you are loved very much.
    Don’t understand why we suffer, but you reach out to others and help them
    in their suffering. You will be in my prayers every day, dear one.
    With love, Heidi

  15. Therese,
    All the best to you and your family! You are strong and brave and I thank you for sharing your journey
    Amy

  16. Therese, I send you my prayers for this part of your journey. Your honesty and warmth is appreciated more than you imagine. God bless you.

  17. Dear Therese,
    You are in my heart and prayers. I love to read your blog as you so “get it.” You are a courageous woman of God. I would love to meet you someday. Your patron saint is my favorite Saint and dearest friend in Heaven. I believe she is with us in the daily struggle and guiding us along the Way. Truly depression and anxiety are challenging illnesses. My motto this past year has been: “This too shall pass. God is in control.” May the Lord be your Strength and your family be God’s instrument of love and healing for you! Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with all of us who read your blog. You are doing much good for all of us—we are all striving in our own way to find meaning in suffering and find God as we travel towards His Kingdom. God bless you and keep you in His Most Sacred Heart.
    In His Love,
    Sister Mary Kathleen

  18. Thank you for sharing your pain and bravery in facing it. You are in my prayers and hope to hear soon from a more joyful you. God bless!

  19. On this feast of the Holy Spirit allow yourself to be held up on His wings and blessed with His grace to carry you forward on your journey towards wholeness.
    I pray for your peace of body, mind and soul,
    Cathy

  20. My dearest friend, I had forwarded your email while you were on your historic spiritual journey to my youngest son, Timothy, and told him that but for you and Group Beyond Blue, that I might not be here. I fell into a suicidal despondency when our beautiful 12year old grandson was tragically killed in a boating accident. I reached my very soul and spirit to the group you started. You, my friend, are in my prayers as I am now my old self. I love you, Susan Bachmann, Jacksonville, Florida.

  21. Got you in my prayers, Therese. If there was a way to help you, like you’ve helped me I’d do it in a heartbeat.

  22. Your writing is extraordinarily honest, insightful and deeply moving. Prayers for you as you receive this treatment. May it bring more light and peace into your life.

  23. Therese, I am so sorry you have to go through so much suffering. You will always be strong and inspiring in my book . Please take care of yourself and thank you so much for keeping us posted on your life. You are important to so very many. Will be praying to St Anne for you. God bless.

  24. Therese, I wish you the very best in your ECT treatments. My husband has considered them at various times to combat his bipolar, too, but has not yet tried them. His current regime of medications is working for him at the moment, so until it doesn’t again, we will hold off. I join the many others above who will be praying for you! I also echo their sentiments on your selflessness in sharing your battle with others and on the enormity of how much you have helped others with mental illness! May God bless you and hold you while you go through this new treatment, and I pray it is successful for the benefit of you and your family. Best wishes, Maggie

  25. Dear Therese, you will be in my prayers and thoughts as you undergo treatment. God is with you. May you be healed and get the relief so many of us long for. Thank you for all you do for us out here, even during your struggle. May you feel peace.

  26. Therese,

    Your writing has been my beacon of light. I am praying for your strength and comfort in the following days and I know you are in excellent
    hands at JH because that’s where I went and would go again in a heartbeat. I hope your treatment is successful and I will be praying for your full recovery. xo 😘
    Jane

  27. Dear Therese,
    I had ECT 25 years ago, it was amazing, it worked when all the medication I tried had failed.
    Sending love,
    Wendy 💕

  28. Thinking of you and your family. This affliction affects us sufferers and those who love us too.
    Rest, surrender. Others are in control now. God will be calling upon you to rest. His message is a radical one that is a contradiction to a world that prizes and rewards ego, strength, power, and success. God bless you x

  29. You are infinitely loved and beyond brave. I am already looking forward to your healthy return. Praying with and for you.

  30. Wishing you the best dear brave Therese. I know a few people whose lives were saved by ECT.
    Please let us know how you are doing. We will all be holding our breath waiting to hear from you!

  31. Dear Theresa,
    I have some idea of the pain you are in and I am so sorry! I had ECT performed on me in 2002 and yes, that was many years ago. Please don’t have ECT!!! I lost many memories and since then learning anything new is with great difficulty. In spite of the ECT, my depression became even worse. It doesn’t help and many doctors will not inform you of all the side effects of the treatment. Many people with treatment resistant depression, this is not not a good fit for the ECT to be effective. I have had much more relief from TMS protocols!
    Please reconsider following through with the ECT!! It is not worth losing your memories and soul with this treatment.
    Sincerely,
    Barbara MacIndoe

  32. Your role in our lives is never forgotten, Therese. Ana and I have a prayer chain going among people who don’t even know you!

    Asking God humbly for your recovery on the road ahead.

  33. Oh, Therese, love and prayers to you. My heart breaks for your suffering. Please know you have the love and support of so many people. I will keep you in my prayers and always remember, you are the precious daughter of the King, precious, precious, precious…

  34. Best Wishes & prayers for your healing Therese🙂
    You are a fighter and strong and will find a way back to better. 🙏😘

  35. Dearest Therese,
    I recently met an 84 year old nun, she said “Surrender and trust God”. I have followed you since reading your book Beyond Blue, you are a fighter and you continue to inspire and enlighten so many who suffer.
    I will pray for you daily. Please know how much you are loved.
    Mary

  36. I’m so sorry to hear that you are not doing well. You have been a huge inspiration to me especially with how honest and truthful you are about your life. I’m sending you much love and hugs. I will be praying for you❤️

  37. Dear Therese,
    You, your family and treatment team are in my thoughts and prayers. I have followed your posts for years now after reading your books. You have been such an inspiration and encouragement to me. Thank you for being such a gracious voice for all of us that suffer with depression and other disorders.

  38. Therese,
    All of us who care so much about you long for your healing, long for your well-being and peace of mind. I don’t know any new way to say that so I’m posting here because sometimes just the sheer number of people standing by, paying attention, may be more important than what they say. So I have no profundity to add, no Bible verses, no spiritual quote to share. I just want you to know that you can count me among those who are holding you up, envisioning you walking out of JH smiling, healed and free.

  39. Dear Therese–

    I have read and followed many blogs. The day I came across yours was the day I abandoned all the rest. I am angry at God for what he is putting you through. Your contribution to my life–and that of many others, judging from your fan base–has been immense. I wish that all of us here in this community could each take one tiny block of the pain you feel and make it our own, that you could be relieved of it as you deserve to be. Today, after reading this heartbreaking post: F*** God.

    I am so sad for you. May you live long and may your children see the best of you, as we all have.

    -Avi

  40. Dear Theresa, we are so special! You are a blessing in my life. I love reading your articles!! You are so brave and so smart.
    I have done TMS and got me 50% better at the time and I am now in remission for 6 years from anxiety disorder. Your story and posta helped me immensely. I am praying for you and God is with you. You are definitely fulfilling your purpose in helping millions of people around the world.
    With love, Silvia

  41. Thinking of you Therese. Wishing you bright blessings and hope you are feeling much better. Sounds like you’re in very good hands but your inner strength and courage is enormous & contagious even though you may not know it. Feel like I’ve been in hell with depression that hospital is looking like an option though is horrendous mental health care in the UK, I don’t want to die of this son of a biatch illness. I know I am able to fight as I have fought this time & time again. Even in the depths of darkness I can take a little step then another then another just one step at a time. Have hardly left the house in days which I know is the worst thing for me, but I’m out now sitting outside a cafe drinking fresh fruit juice. Reading a few of your brilliant blogs just now has changed my whole brain chemistry for the better. Thank you so much. Sending you a virtual hug Therese. Take good care 😊

  42. Thank you for your transparency Therese. Brava for taking care of yourself in a way that makes sense to you. I’m sending you buckets of love and surrounding you, your family and your entire medical team with light. You’re in good hands my friend.

  43. My heart aches for you. Words cannot express how much your writings mean to me. I pray you will overcome. May God be with you every step of the way.

  44. Therese,
    Lifting you up in prayer today. Praying for effective therapy and healing; for peace and strength in your soul and comfort for you and your family.

  45. Dear dear Therese –
    You are a bright, shining, extraordinary star to so many of us who love you.
    Please take good care of yourself.
    Even in the midst of your own pain, you’re a remarkable teacher.
    I’m sending so much love and light your way, my wise friend.
    Priscilla

  46. Therese, your writing has meant so much to me. You’ve helped me through some heart breaking, soul crushing times as I cared for my parents. I felt our lives slipping away a little more each day, and cared less about mine than my parents. Your writing gave me the strength to keep going for my parents. Now that they are gone, I read your work to stay alive for myself.
    I hope and pray that your treatment is successful and you can soon return to your family. My prayers will be with them as well.

  47. I love you Therese. Your strength even in pain is miraculous. And it does take such strength to do what you are doing; to go to the hospital; to try yet again another treatment. I will be anxiously waiting what you share with us. You are in my heart.

  48. Teresa I have read your books and follow your articles whenever I see them . You are one of the most amazing and talented women on the planet . You have an incredible insight that was forged from the illness that you live with . I pray that you are already feeling the effects of recovery by now . Please keep us posted when you are able to .

  49. Therese,
    Wonderful blog post. I love how you bring us into your point of view and allow us to see what you are going through. Best of luck. I myself have struggled with mental illnesss. Asking for help is hard, but a big step. Great blog post.

  50. “No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.”
    Take your time. You are loved. You are appreciated.

  51. Thank you for your post Therese and for your honesty. I am praying for you. I pray that the love and caring in people’s replies and comments here may be a balm to your soul and a part of the elements of what make up mental and emotional wellness for you. Lots of love, Marney

  52. Hey Kiddo! I hope you and yours are doing well… You’ve been a bit quiet lately. Like, we notice when you’re not around, but only because we care about you.

    Yo! Don’t make us do an intervention! And what was that look you just gave me, Miss Missy?! There’s an extraction team on stand-by, ya’ know! 😉

  53. Therese,

    I pray the treatment helped you. I miss your posts, but know with all you just went through, I realize and understand it may be a while before you post again. Please know I think about you daily and I pray you are ok.

  54. It’s so great when you can admit you need help. So many people need to follow in your footsteps. They just can’t admit it to themselves and it truly breaks them. I hope you are doing well

  55. Teresa I have perused your books and pursue your articles at whatever point I see them . You are one of the most astonishing and skilled ladies on the planet . You have an amazing knowledge that was produced from the ailment that you live with . I ask that you are now feeling the impacts of recuperation at this point . If it’s not too much trouble update us as often as possible when you can .

  56. Teresa I have perused your books and pursue your articles at whatever point I see them You are one of the most astonishing and skilled ladies on the planet . You have an amazing knowledge that was produced from the ailment that you live with . I ask that you are now feeling the impacts of recuperation at this point . If it’s not too much trouble update us as often as possible when you can .

  57. It’s so incredible when you can concede you need assistance. Such huge numbers of individuals need to emulate your example. They can’t let it be known to themselves and it genuinely breaks them. I trust you are progressing admirably

  58. Sending positive thoughts and prayers during your treatment. Reading your pieces has been a great help in my life. Please know you have been so helpful to so many with your candid writing and the sharing of your struggles. <3

  59. Longtime reader, first time commenter.
    I continue to send you my best thoughts. Your words have helped me through some dark times and I want you to know how grateful I am to you. You’ve made a difference in my life.
    Peace and love to you, Therese.

  60. I hope you are doing well. You have helped me so many times get through the rough patches. Sometimes just knowing you are not alone is enough. You are such inspiration Therese. Sending you lots of love

  61. Therese,
    Thank you for sharing your journey with us; you continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. I am so grateful for you, your transparency and ministry. You are such an encouragement to me and I look forward to hearing from you again when you are ready. XOX

  62. Dear Therese,
    I have been reading your blogs regularly ever since I started having serious and debilitating bouts of depression eight years ago. I searched the internet for someone who understood and wrote articles that really touched the depth of such a profoundly difficult and life-threatening illness.
    Ever since seeing your last post, I have been checking back regularly to see if you are ok. I am praying for you often. You are such a brave person. I too have contemplated and would try ECT if my other options and efforts were not helping.
    Please take good care of yourself. I honor your courage for asking for help. My heart goes out to you and I am sending you all the world of hope for your recovery. Someday, when you are ready, we long to hear how you are doing. You have inspired so many of us to never give up. We are very concerned about you and pray for your recovery and health.
    Sending you so much love

  63. Words cannot express how much your blogs have helped me throughout the years. I see your strength in all choices that you make and have made. You’ll be in my thoughts, you’re a reminder of what strength is to me.

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