Is Saint Patrick's Day Turning you Blue?

By Susan Kimball
Photo by: John Kimball

Is there a connection between St. Patty's Day and depression?

St Patty's Day is a day of celebration. We dress in green, eat and drink stuff with green in it, and of course-display shamrocks.

What could that possibly have to do with depression?

Not sure if you're feeling depressed? Here are some signs:

  • Loss of energy
  • Over-sleeping
  • Weight gain
  • Food cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tension and anxiety
  • Lack interest in daily activities
  • Social withdraw
  • fatigue (a consequence of dull diet and lack of vitamins)
  • Quick-tempered
  • Hard to focus; lack of concentration

So, what's the connection with depression and St Patty's Day?

Some call it Seasonal Affective Disorder. It happens around the time when we change our clocks; St Patrick's Day, and the first day of Spring. It's not clear why and there are many theories, but it has been known in the counseling community that there is always an escalation of depression, anxiety and even suicides at this time of year.

St Patrick

I found his story to be deep in meaning and metaphor which can help us with understanding and healing at this time of year.

Did you know that he was kidnapped at the age of 16, and taken away by Irish raiders from his home in Britain? Then he was enslaved to be a shepherd for six years in Northern Ireland. He found himself alone and afraid.

Who wouldn't be, right?

Well, anyway during this time, he became a devout Christian which was something considering that he was born in 390 AD. Not a heck of a lot of Christians back then and he was plunked down in the midst of a bunch of pagans in Ireland. He also started to have visions from long dead Irish ancestors and in his dreams God spoke to him giving him a plan on how to escape. And it worked. He trusted in this guidance and was told about a boat that would be waiting for him which would return him to Britain. And his voice told him when it was time to escape.

And that's just what happened.

At some point, he was ordained as a priest and felt called to return to Ireland to help Christians and convert those pesky pagans. Can you imagine going back to the country where you were a slave and try to help those people? It didn't go easy for him. As a foreigner, he was repeatedly beaten, robbed and put in chains. All because he didn't accept bribes or protection from the Kings which ticked them off. They refused to help poor St Patrick as the result.

But somehow, he became the Patron Saint of Ireland because of the miracles that he performed. He stuck his walking stick into the ground and it grew into a beautiful tree. He banished all snakes from Ireland. He had visions. And he used the famous shamrock to teach the Holy Trinity to the Irish by illustrating it with the shamrock's three leaves. We now celebrate St Patrick's Day on the day he died, and hopefully to remember what his real message was for all of us.

"Nevertheless, the shamrock was also seen as sacred in the pre-Christian days in Ireland. Due to its green color and overall shape, many viewed it as representing rebirth and eternal life. Three was a sacred number in the pagan religion and there were a number of "Triple Goddesses" in ancient Ireland, including Brigid, Ériu, and the Morrigan." Wikipedia

How can we be helped by St. Patrick's story?

We have the opportunity to use St Patrick's many metaphors to free ourselves from our own self-imposed prisons.  Have we ignored our dreams or that still inner voice of guidance?  Or maybe we've lost faith in our own ability to try something new or different. Or just lost faith in something larger than ourselves.

I once heard that following a spiritual path isn't meant to be comfortable and that we can expect to suffer somewhat in some form of being robbed or put in chains. And what I mean by that is perhaps, we're being robbed of our true essence; chained to what we construe as our reality.

Using the shamrock as a symbol of rebirth and the wonderful triple goddesses, we can try different creative things to nudge ourselves into feeling better.

Some ways to cope with seasonal depression:

  • Get professional help
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin B
  • Healthy diet and regular exercise
  • Socialize
  • Avoid alcohol-there is a strong relationship between alcohol and depression.
  • Move to the music.
  • Read a motivational book
  • Gratitude List
  • Meditation and prayer
  • Self-help groups
  • Volunteer to help someone in need
  • Journal
  • Create art or anything...find the flow

So, grab a friend, write some poetry, dance a jig, ask for help...anything new and listen to your heart!

Happy St Paddy's Day!

Susan P Kimball, LCSW, CASAC

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