Catharine Clarenbach heard voices in her head. Now she helps others to follow their hearts.
Rev. Catharine B. Clarenbach is both a Unitarian Universalist minister and a Wiccan priestess. She spent most of the first thirty years of her life in the grip of mental illness. Almost every day, she heard voices telling her that suicide was the only way out of her pain. At age 31, she was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and her life changed dramatically. Now, over fifteen years later, she is a thriving entrepreneur. She helps people find their best selves, listen to their intuition, and bring more love into the world.
“I spent most of the first thirty years of my life in the grip of bipolar disorder,” Catharine explains. “That is type 1, the kind that comes with mania and hearing voices. Nearly every hour, the voices told me I should kill myself. I was also very bullied as a child, am a survivor of multiple sexual assaults, and am the adult child of an alcoholic.” Catharine loved and admired his father. “I think he was probably self-medicating his own bipolar by using alcohol.”
At the age of 31, she discovered that she could have had bipolar disorder. “I was able to find help, thanks to the assistance of a dear friend. I realized that bipolar disorder had been treated in millions of people. Maybe I could help too. And I did. I got the help that changed my life.
“I could make plans. I could follow through. I could finish my bachelor’s degree. And eventually, I went to divinity school and became an ordained minister.
Now for years, she’s been helping other people around the world through classes and web conferencing. “I’m not the kind of minister who has a bricks-and-mortar congregation. Through my work at The Way of the River, I help people –especially people alienated from traditional religion. This often includes people with their mental health struggles or fellow Rainbow Family members, the LGBTQ communities. I help people find their way back to spirituality and their place as a perfectly imperfect image of the Creator. Every day, I get to bring the fruits of my struggle to bears as I listen and support people from all over the world. I couldn’t be happier.”
Lessons Learned from Her Struggles
“I am no different from a homeless person talking with themselves on the street. When I see those people talking out loud to no one we can see, I know who they’re talking to. I am just like them — I happen to have the privilege of support of family, friends, and a team of helpers who keep me going on the path of mental health.
“There are people who want to help you, who want to find you and help pull you out of your stuck places. We are all in this together, with every other living thing, and with every other suffering human being.”
A Call to Action
Catharine urges people to share their stories with others. “Dare to reach out and be vulnerable with someone. Dare to share your difficulties. I guarantee that someone somewhere desperately needs to hear your story.”