Balancing Life

Blanket Statements about Depression and Suicide

I, like most people on the planet, was shocked and saddened to learn about the passing of Robin Williams.  Even more so after I found out that he took his own life.  But now I’m angry and it doesn’t seem to be going away so I thought I’d process my thoughts here.

Suicide is a very sad and tragic event no matter how you look at it.  But two things about what is being said “out there” on the internet by folks I know have upset me.

DON’T MAKE BLANKET STATEMENTS about DEPRESSION.

Every single person on this planet has felt depressed in their life.  That doesn’t mean that every person has dealt with the debilitating effects of severe depression.  Just because you were sad once and “got over it” doesn’t mean that everyone else is capable of the same pull your boot straps up mentality.  Depression is on a continuum and people who truly suffer from it, and bipolar conditions, truly suffer.  They don’t want to be sick, but they are.

People can be depressed because of a situation, as I was when my husband told me he didn’t love me anymore.  My brain got tweaked.  I was put on medication but I knew in my heart that wouldn’t help me.  For me, my depression needed to be dealt with by working through the issue logically.  I believed I was worthless, that my kids would be better off without me, that the world would be better off without me.  I laid on a couch not able to stop crying for days, weeks, even months.  It wasn’t a pity party.  I didn’t want to be sad.  But no matter what I did, I felt the drain.  I was zapped.  Thoughts came in my mind about ending my life by driving my car off an overpass, or taking all of the tranquilizers I had in a bottle.

When I took one pill I was out.  The pain was gone.  So one day, I took two, and then three.  I just wanted the pain to be over.  Then I got scared and called a suicide hotline.  My kids were downstairs watching TV.  My then husband was in the kitchen.  None of them knew what I was going through.  The person on the other line told me to throw up, call 911, and get rid of the rest of the pills.  I went to the sink, hacked up the pills and threw the rest of them down the toilet and flushed.  I didn’t call 911.  I knew if I did there would be hell to pay.  I chose to keep it private.

I was grateful I made the call.  I didn’t really want to die.  But my brain was not able in that moment to make a RATIONAL decision.  When suicide stems from personal anguish, it is NEVER a RATIONAL CHOICE.  When you look at the bare bones of an action…every action we make is in a sense a choice.  But there are some choices that we make after careful deliberation and some made in the heat of the moment.  They are dealt with differently in the court system as they should be.  They are two different animals.

My case was as simple as me getting that wake up call.  But just because that was my experience, doesn’t mean that it will “work” for everyone.  Some people are clinically depressed because their brain chemistry is off.  Robin Williams did cocaine back in the day.  His biological response to it has been reported to be the opposite of most people.  Similar to how drugs that are prescribed to those who have ADD. Cocaine didn’t rile Robin Williams up, it calmed him down.  His brain chemistry reacted different from a normal brain.  Everyone who knew him said that he was different from anyone else they knew.  My experience watching him ad lib left me feeling emotionally exhausted.  I don’t know if he was diagnosed as bipolar, but his routine could be used as a classic representation of someone in their manic state.

I used to work with a woman who was bipolar.  She was so high when she was manic and SO very low when she was depressed.  It rocked her world and everyone in it.  It was exhausting for me and I only worked with her.  I can’t imagine how her family felt, loving her and not being able to help her.  It led her to abuse of alcohol and drugs because she desperately wanted to “feel normal.”

No, all depression is not the same.  And we should not reduce such a complex issue to a Facebook post, a 140 character tweet, or even try to explain it away in an article.  People who have done that have angered and upset me because it appears shallow, ignorant, and callous.

The other thing that has upset me is that all suicides are not the same.

DON’T MAKE BLANKET STATEMENT about SUICIDE.

The world is full of compassion for the bullied teenager who takes her life after hateful twitter comments.  No one blames the girl who is clearly a victim of someone else’s hate.

O.D-ing is another form of suicide even if it’s sometimes done accidentally.  So many celebrities and regular people end up dying this way.

Some people commit suicide out of anger like the ones who take out their entire family and then kill themselves.

Some do it out of desperation because they suffer from a debilitating medical condition.

Some end their life in anguish over mental issues.

What it boils down to is this.  The human condition is complicated.  All we can do is try to be there with love and compassion for hurting people.  Sometimes we are called to give someone information that is difficult and a hard truth, but it should always be done with the intent on restoring them not condemning them.

I have Christians who are friends on Facebook who have been posting that Robin Williams died because of his personal choice not because of a disease.  They have linked to an article by Matt Walsh who is a Christian and has a very successful blog.  He tweeted the following:

When we talk about depression we shouldn’t pawn the whole thing off on “chemical imbalances.” It’s not just clinical. It’s spiritual.

My response to his tweet is…”Maybe sometimes it is a spiritual issue, but if there ARE chemical imbalances, it doesn’t matter how spiritually strong a person is…they can’t escape the biology of their brain spiritually.”

When confronted with criticism, he decided to write a clarification in a blog post.  I found it equally disturbing because suicide stemming from depression is NEVER a RATIONAL choice. His blog response presumed his experience with depression qualified him to make a blanket statement about all suicide. But, all that should be said is that it is tragic and if you feel that disillusioned you need help.

When I was severely depressed it was a period of time I clung to Jesus tighter than I ever had in my entire life. It was actually the strongest spiritual time in my life. But that didn’t stop the bad thoughts from creeping in and winning from time to time.

And by the way, I have a friend who met Robin Williams up in Oregon at her church, where he attended while in rehab.  She said that he was very kind and gentle and did not smile much while at church.  We cannot presume to know his spiritual state just because he suffered from depression.

Suicide is often acted upon because people are going through private anguish that they are too ashamed to share.  The things I’ve seen from some people do not help.

I’m personally tired of reading posts from people who reduce complex issues such as depression to a sound bite as if that explains it all.  Christians in particular, I’m talking to you.  Be careful with your tweets, posts, and comments.

Check yourself before you throw a blanket statement out there, because you don’t really know the pain someone else is going through.  We should be in the business, ALWAYS, of lifting people up and giving people HOPE not making them feel ashamed and condemned because of what they are going through.

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