The following are excerpts from Rev. Sharon Wylie’s sermon “Lessons from My Depression” offered on October 22, 2023. You can watch the full sermon on Chalice’s YouTube channel.
As many of you have heard me speak about many times, I worked as a hospital chaplain during the year before I came to Chalice to serve as your minister. In the hospital, I was assigned to work with patients struggling with crises of mental illness, patients so ill they needed to be hospitalized. It was meaningful work, and I was fascinated by mental illness; I read a lot and learned a lot.
When I came to Chalice, I brought with me a continued interest in mental health and wellbeing. It has been my practice to preach at least once a year on a topic related to mental health, and over the years I have talked with you about depression, schizophrenia, paranoia, suicide prevention, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder, as well as general advice for cultivating mental health and coping with the many challenges of these times.
It is my great privilege to walk with some of you through your own struggles with mental health. I hope that at Chalice we are co-creating a spiritual community where there is no shame in facing a mental illness. And I have learned a lot from you all as you have faced your own challenges with mental health.
So I had, I think, an unusual amount of knowledge about mental illness when I came to be diagnosed with depression back in 2018. And in hindsight, that knowledge helped me in lots of ways.
Here’s how knowing about depression ahead of time helped me:
I was getting help before my symptoms were their worst.
I never doubted that exercise would be helpful, and I kept up with it even as my symptoms worsened.
I never doubted—in five months of trying different medications, five months of sleeping terribly—I never doubted that we would find a medication to help me.
I never doubted that I would come to feel better.
I’ve made this a sermon about depression, but I could tell the whole story over again and make it a sermon about perimenopause. If it’s taboo to stand up here and talk about my depression, it’s super duper taboo to say that in hindsight, my depression was the first symptom of perimenopause. Perimenopause, if you don’t know, is the time before menopause, and it can last up to ten years. Perimenopause is sometimes called the “second puberty” because your body is changing, and your hormones are changing, and because of patriarchy, this thing that happens to half the population isn’t studied or understood very well AT ALL.
I am still in perimenopause. My hormones are still changing.
So one of the other things I know about depression is that even though I have a medication that’s been working great, the day may come that it stops working. And then I’ll have to figure out how I’m feeling and what to do then.