You Don’t Have to Do It Alone
Letter from Susie Oppelt
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“I just don’t think I’ll ever be happy.”
Saying these words out loud to my spiritual director changed my life, and I want to reach out to you with some hope if you’ve ever found yourself in a similar situation.
It was that admission which finally prompted her to ask me, gently, if I’d ever considered going on antidepressants. And it was her question which led me to taking medication for depression I’d been feeling but dismissing for years, years of thinking I should just be able to get over it, years of thinking I could “pray it away” if only my prayer life were better, if I were stronger, if my trust in God were deeper.
If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or anything else in your life, please know, dear sisters, that you are loved, that you are not alone, and that you don’t have to rely on yourself to fix it.
For years I thought, “I’m just sad because my life’s a mess,” or, “I’ll be happy once my prayers are answered,” or, “God just wants me to go through this and feel the heaviness of my crosses right now.” And while there may have been truth in any or all of those statements, to varying degrees, I wish with all my heart that now-me could go back and tell then-me that it doesn’t have to be that way, that God doesn’t want us in perpetual sadness, that he truly desires our good which includes our happiness. But since I can’t do that, I’m telling you.
It took a fairly traumatic event for God to start getting that message through to me. In April 2016 I had surgery to remove a large ovarian cyst which turned out to be part of a pretty extensive case of endometriosis.
This discovery that I had a disease with no real cure and which can cause infertility among other things became a cross too heavy for me to bear on my own. Growing up, the only consistent thing I wanted to do once I was grown was to get married and be a mother. Always with the caveat of “if it’s God’s will,” of course, but I didn’t really think it wouldn’t be part of God’s will for me.
By the time of my surgery, I was 30 and still single, already hearing that clock ticking. Finding out that childbearing might be even harder for me if not impossible - assuming I did get married eventually - was difficult, to say the least. I didn’t understand what God was doing. I didn’t understand why he was laying out my path the way it seemed to be going. None of it made sense to me, and it became too much. I started by finally seeking a counselor, something else I should have done much sooner. It helped to an extent, but then I found myself facing another surgery a year after the first.
All the questions, the wondering why I was so broken, why things I did were such failures, why I couldn’t just be normal and feel happy like other people even in the face of hardships - these questions were still there in my head.
With surgery on the horizon, I sort of stumbled onto a spiritual director, who has been an absolute godsend.
It still took me a number of months, and a complete breakdown into inexplicable sobbing last year on Christmas day, before I said those fateful words about never being happy again to my spiritual director. She wasn’t the first person to ask me about antidepressants, and of course the thought had occurred to me many times before, but I thought that they were only helpful for those who didn’t have a seemingly logical reason for their depression. I assumed that because I could name the circumstances of mine, then when those circumstances changed, I’d feel better, and if they didn’t change, how could medication help? But the fact that my spiritual director knew me pretty well by that point, and was a former nurse, and my awareness that I had to do something different, finally worked together to allow me to listen and seek out medication.
Sisters, I cannot adequately express to you what a change it’s been in my life. My circumstances haven’t changed much, I’m facing yet another surgery, I’m now 33 and still single, and I still have no real idea what God wants me to do with my life beyond loving him, his people, and his creation, and being the best Catholic I can be.
And yet I am undeniably happy in a way I never thought I could be.
I delight in the gifts God gives me every day. I delight in his love for me. My relationships have improved immensely across the board - with God, with others, with myself. I feel like a me that I didn’t know existed, yet the me God’s always wanted me to be. I feel confidence in myself I’ve never known before, allowing me to step out in faith in ways I haven’t before. It is incredible, and if you’re struggling with something similar I want you to know that you can get there too! Your journey might look different from mine, but please know that you don’t have to face this alone. God has given us so many tools, both spiritual and scientific, and he loves when we use them!
I’m praying for you, sisters. God loves you without hesitation, extravagantly, and he desires you and your happiness.
In Christ, Susie
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Get to know Susie
Full name: Susie Oppelt
Occupation: Executive Assistant
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Educational background: University of Notre Dame (BA), John Paul II Institute (MTS)
How does your Catholic faith affect the way you live your day-to-day life?
I wouldn’t be who I am on a daily basis without my Catholic faith. It is what encourages me to try to be a better person every day. My faith challenges me to do a better job loving other people, which doesn’t always come naturally or easily to me. Catholicism gives me everyday examples of living out the faith, both in saints and in people I know, that help guide me on the path God has set for me. The example and love of Jesus helps to get me through particularly tough times, also, because I know that his love for me isn’t determined by how successful I am, and I also know that he has an intimate understanding of whatever suffering I might be going through.
Has there been a particular teaching of the Church that has intimately transformed the way you see yourself and others? If so, please describe.
For me, the thought that Jesus was thinking specifically of me, and specifically of every individual who ever has lived or ever will live, when he was dying on the cross has always been an incredibly transformative thought in understanding my dignity and the dignity of every human life. It is amazing to me to think about the fact that God chose and made each of us exactly as we are, both from the most outwardly successful to the most seemingly unproductive -- God loves each of us the same, cherishes each of us, and desires each of us to be with him. When I know that to be true, how could it not transform the way I see myself and the way I see others?
What aspect of your life right now do you find the most beautiful? The most challenging?
The most challenging aspect right now is feeling called to marriage but not able to fulfill that call until and unless it’s God’s will to be fulfilled. The most beautiful is having the time and opportunity to learn better how to love others, how to show them the love Jesus has for them, and how to trust God more deeply.
What’s your favorite way to spend a Saturday off?
I don’t do this often enough, but my favorite thing to do is go for a hike in the mountains with a friend or two, enjoy the beauty of this world God has given us (especially here in Colorado, though I may be biased), and then spend the rest of the day relaxing with a fun movie and some knitting.
Please fill in the blank.
My morning routine consists of: trying not to hit the snooze too many times, praying while I take my dog for a walk, and making sure I get plenty of coffee.
I’m currently obsessed with: We Banjo 3, an Irish bluegrass band.
I feel most inspired when: I see the beauty of God’s creation in nature.
My favorite part about my life right now is: being able to send random notes of love and encouragement to friends and family.
The advice I would give to the millennial Catholic woman is: everyone is just as self-conscious as you are. Find a group of women -- even if you have to create the group yourself -- with whom you can be vulnerable and self-conscious together and learn more deeply just how incredible God’s love for you is, just as you are, without any limitations or exceptions.