Fear of happiness = sin of despair?

I’m about to give a very condensed summary of a very complex situation, so bear with me.

Right now, I’m caught in the middle of a 3-year battle I’ve been having with depression (with psychotic underpinnings). While I very much want to see the day when I recover and return to my formerly fruitful life, I’ve managed to develop a fear of happiness (or rather, excessive happiness) stemming from past experience, such that when excessively happy or comfortable, my morals and dedication to God go out the window, which is not only frustrating but also frightening because I’m fighting violent thoughts. I’m also afraid that in letting go of depression, I’ll lose something very important internally (although I’ve yet to figure out what it is). So I’ve been shooting myself in the foot (figuratively) whenever I feel a little happiness poking through, until I could somehow reconcile these things. Granted, the depression still is very real and very much there, but I suspect that I might be a little closer to recovery if I wasn’t doing this.

Then a few days ago it hit me. I should be giving my all towards recovery and trusting that God will take care of the happiness issues along the way, anything less is a sin of despair. So, at this point, I’m trying to stop attacking happiness, but at the same time, I’m making an effort to not seek any either so that I’m giving myself time to sort things out. However, this still seems like I’m not fully putting my trust in God.

What’s your take on this? What should I be doing?

Edit: Just to clarify, I am currently seeking professional help in the form of a counseling program.

First off, glad you’re doing what you need to do to combat the depression. It’s a tough fight and not easily won.

Second, despair is the sin of believing that you are completely and utterly unforgivable and that God couldn’t possibly forgive someone like. From your post, this isn’t what you dealing with. Despair is a choice (one chooses to believe that they are unforgivable) though the more I read (I read a lot of psychology books), despair gets mistaken for a feeling which it really isn’t. It would be more correct to call it a feeling of helplessness and being stuck.

From my reading and own experiences, strong emotions like happiness are hard for people with depression because they are associated with pain as you’ve mentioned that for you you’ve had to deal with serious sin when you are “happy.” Depressed people, people who grew up in abusive households, and people (especially women) who are taught to suppress their emotions have a hard time feeling and expressing their emotions. This is learned behavior and it isn’t easy to unlearn or change. Especially when you learned that if you suppressed your emotions you were rewarded and if you expressed them you were punished. This is part of what I have to deal with.

Taking it slow seems like a good idea. Deciding to trust God is a choice not a feeling (though wouldn’t it be nice if it was a feeling). Keep working with your professional and tell them about this (though you probably already have).

Have you thought of rewarding yourself when you feel happy? Nothing complicated but maybe giving yourself a sticker (I know, sounds so elementary school) when you feel happy and understand that your happiness is a good thing. Also, maybe write why you feel happy. Is it because you had your favorite flavor of ice cream or you saw a cute kitten or you aced the next level in your favorite computer game? If you look at why you are happy and acknowledge that it is OKAY to be happy and that even little things can make you happy, it may help in the process.

Without knowing a great deal more it’s really impossible to give much help, but let’s see what we can gather.
First of all, as noted above, “Fear of Happiness” most definitely does NOT equal the sin of dispair. In fact, I would say that while you are in this battle, your fear is somewhat justified. While you do not mention bi-polar in your post, I have been aquainted with persons with bi-polar disorders and the mood swings can be horrific. So what I see in your post is a desire not to let “mood swings” get out of control. To be able to accept happiness (and sorrow) within proper parameters so that the emotions don’t “run amok”. Correct me if I’m wrong but that is what I get from what you have written.
(note: I’m not suggesting that you are bi-polar, just conveying my own experience.)

If I am correct then I think you are on a good track. First by getting good professional help. In this, I suggest you try to make sure that the person is open and supportive of your faith journey.
Second I think you are doing well by asking questions about trusting God. In fact I think that you already trust God more than you know and, more importantly, that you Love God in the best possible way. What do I mean? Just this. While you desire to be happy, you are willing to question yourself, and proceed cautiously, so as to stay True to Him who you Love. You are willing to suffer a bit longer for the Love of God ratther than offend Him or be seperated from Him. You seek not get sidetracked by emotions or “spirits” that might cause you to do things contrary to that Love. In other words you are employing the biblical instruction to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1).
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God…
You are most wise to do this.
So - mainly what I wish to convey is this. You have not fallen into sin. That which suggests this to you is not of God. Actually it is God who is telling you to proceed carefuly and seek balance.

I sincerely hope this helps you.

}eace
James

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.