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Jim’s Story

“I have not overcome it.”

Share your stigma experience.

I am a Catholic priest. I hate even saying that because of the effect it has on people as they find out. I hate the way people treat me as a priest, and I hate the way I feel as a priest. Hearing someone say, “Father…” in a restaurant or bar, when I am simply trying to relax and be myself, is revolting and depressing.

The expectations of a priest are high, after all, you are the one who is suppose to calm, sooth and lead others toward God and peace. A priest is expected to have all the answers, or at least appear confident in conveying the feeling, “We are in God’s hands and it will be alright.” Christians have a way of taking every pain and act of suffering and project into the rewards of heaven. It is a convenient way of dealing with everything.

Bristling with the title Father and nauseated by the priest assumed lifestyle, I tend to try and be social in places and situations where I am not known as a priest, so I can be myself. I would hate the dreary and boring conversations people tend to engage in with me, as a priest. I avoid old friends and bars because everyone wants to act and treat me differently. I hate it when friends announce, “Oh no, the priest is here, we better straighten up.” I hate it when they apologize to me for using a swear word in my presences. I know they mean well and are offering the respect they think I deserve, but in those moments, being myself is off the table. Generally, people who know me as a priest, won’t let me be myself. I suppose they feel it is better for them and me to respect the holy clergy.

Because of this, when I want to be myself and relax, I avoid public places or places where I will run into people who know me as a priest. I am running out of those places. It is a lonely way to be, since there tends to be no place to go and no one who I feel comfortable being myself around.

Given all of that, and adding my depression to what people know about me, would be unbearable. I would hate the added sympathy and concern. Even though depression is being talked about more and more for the benefit of many…the depressed priest is something I could not assume or accept. I could not function. It disgusts me to imagine looking out over the congregation giving a homily and seeing the sympathetic eyes coupled with those of whom someone idolize me and see me as this holy man of God.

The stigma is real and this with the ridiculous identity of a priest is something I cannot deal with.

How did you overcome this experience?

I have not overcome it.

Help others by sharing a brief, positive message.

Sadly, I do not have a positive message today. Thanks for listening

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