Tuesday, August 12, 2014

depression and suicide: joy is not the antidote

Unless you've sworn off all media, you know that the beloved comedian Robin Williams died on Monday by apparent suicide. Social media has exploded with sadness and support. 

I took the news very hard, not just because Williams' films were a part of my childhood, but because the topic of deep depression hits painfully close to home. I immediately decided I would post nothing on social media or the blog on the topic and processed my thoughts privately with my husband. 

And then this morning, I read this bizarre post by a widely circulated and polarizing Christian blogger. MW, if you know to whom I'm referring. I don't want to link and send any more traffic to this post, but I feel a deep need to respond to someone who misspeaks with self-given authority on such weighty issues. 

Reading his entire piece on suicide and depression, I kept getting the feeling that I get with all of his posts: a sense of half rightness. I often find myself nodding to his writing right before my stomach starts churning, a sign I've identified as my conscience in my brain sending a visceral message to my stomach that all is not right with these words.

MW's posts are usually centered around responding to the often extreme views of the person-less "they", but he responds with such equal extremeness that he often misses the mark of truth that lies somewhere in between.

I found myself writing a book in response, but plenty of bloggers have written heartfelt counterpoints, posted their outrage on social media, and explained very well the Church's teaching on suicide.

His proposed treatment - joy - is confusing. When you are depressed, joy is out of reach. Off the table. The one thing you can't attain is the antidote?

The problem is that joy is not the opposite of depression. Sadness, sorrow - these are opposites of joy. 

What's the opposite of depression? Is there a word for "no longer having the crushing mental anguish of having a thousand boulders weighing on your being"? The closest I can come is "vitality", but that still doesn't seem to be accurate.

Then there's the line, that I thought was meant to be inflammatory and draw the reader in, but seems to be the actually "absolute truth" behind MW's post: "Robins Williams didn't die from a disease, he died from his choice." 


A family publicly grieving, and someone writes junk like this before the man is even buried.

I have edited this post about 40 times. Not to correct grammar mistakes, though there may be many, but to constantly delete the sentences I have written that have attacked the character of this blogger instead of addressing the fallacy of his words. 

It's been a lesson in intense self control.

Yes, a depressed person who takes his own life technically chooses suicide, but not in the same way that I, with all of my faculties intact and balanced, choose to buy a car or move to Switzerland. 

Suicide at the end of depression is seen as the last choice, the only choice. It's no longer seen by the person with the disease of mental illness as a choice, it's the inevitable end. It's like you've been treading water in a vast, dark sea, for weeks, months, years and after never seeing a life boat, gave into the oppressive ocean. This doesn't justify it. But it does put in perspective that this "choice" involves a compromised sense of free will. 

Depression, severe clinical depression, is not something that can prayed away or shaken off. Of course, unpack in prayer any trauma in your life that may be intensifying depression. But God also made psychiatrists and Paxil and using these things isn't a sign of weakness or less spirituality. 

If you need help, please call  1-800-273-8255.

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