Life is not easy. Prayer can help.
When she was 21, Sister Kathryn James Hermes had a stroke that left her paralyzed. She recovered her speech and mobility but developed a bipolar disorder.
Her mood disorder left her furious at God. She kept going to daily Mass and prayed regularly, but, she says, "I would sit in the back of the church and glare at the cross. I couldn't believe that God existed."
The only way she could pray was to read the second half of the Book of Isaiah, the Book of Consolation. “I read those promises of God but I didn't believe it, and I couldn't find any joy in it."
Her turning point came when she asked her spiritual adviser, Why me?
His response: Why not you?
People tend to believe that God is punishing them and struggle with why they were singled out for this illness.
"I've told them that this experience can be a grace experience," she says.
"Our childhood relationship with God crumbles, but we can find him anew as an adult on a much deeper level, in a much more profound way."
Unlike many people, those with mental illness can see "the depths and heights of humanity, the soaring glory of the possible and the deep melancholy of life. And that is a gift," she says.
This article appeared in the February 2010 issue of U.S. Catholic.