Father Eugene Hemrick

I sat staring out the window all day paralyzed. At night, panic attacks hit and in the morning, I wanted to go back to sleep hoping to wake feeling better. Nothing in life held meaning and medicine was useless. The depression stopped me dead in my tracks and dreading meeting the day.

What causes depression?

For me, it was a sudden lifestyle change. I had worked the same job for 20 years. During that time, I traveled the country conducting research, wrote a national syndicated column, authored articles, lectured and worked with esteemed social scientists.

I lived with a wonderful group of gifted priests who were filled with fun and laughter. Our house was like living in an embassy in which dignitaries from around the world dined with us and expanded our knowledge of church life and various cultures.


With time, turnovers in personnel occurred. Fun times, camaraderie, intellectual stimulus and interest in research diminished. The moment arrived for moving on. The problem was not being prepared for change. I was 20 years older, less flexible and now needed to live alone.

My next job with the president of The Catholic University of America and new friends was wonderful: lots of creativity and travel. Work in Argentina was my first assignment. Then depression hit me out of nowhere. Even though I knew everyone experiences some degree of it, knowing this was no help.

My depression, however, was short-lived thanks to an old Benedictine teacher who would tell his students, “You have enough under your skull cap, get out and get dirt under your fingernails.” Why this experience crossed my mind, I don’t know. I do know within a week I was back to normal.

I stopped all business, put on old clothes and returned to my trade of gardener, pulling weeds, planting, and pruning trees and bushes from 8 a.m. until sundown. Mother Nature saved the day by getting me outdoors and communing with her gifts.

And it was invigorating to step back and take pride once again in my garden work at day’s end. Going home, taking a shower and thanking God for accomplishing the day’s work were absolutely refreshing. I also practiced getting out of bed immediately and doing something constructive with my hands.

For those overwhelmed by depression, try getting out and communing with nature; she’s a terrific girlfriend!