Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Depression & Suicide

Robin Williams recent death is sad. Especially sad is that it appears to have been a suicide. Matt Walsh wrote a blog on the reaction that people are having to this. I wanted to write this as a comment on his blog, but thought it might be better here.


Thank you for your post. I want so badly to agree with you. I want what you are saying to be the end of the discussion on depression. But I can’t get there.

As far as I’m aware, I have never suffered from clinical depression. I have had periods in which I was sad or down. But I’ve never looked at the world the way that the depressed people in my life describe it. Yes life is hard, but the moments of joy are so much better than the moments of agony that it’s not even close. Yes, there are bad people in the world who attempt to impose themselves on me, but I can walk away.  I am very much one of those people who "just doesn’t get it". I don’t get how people who are depressed can’t see that their attitudes are also a choice. I don’t get how they’re capable of forgetting all the wonderful things in their lives and remembering only the pain. That seems to me like a choice too. So I don’t get it.

But I do know what it’s like to be influenced by brain chemistry that completely changes my decision making process. I consume alcohol. And I have, on occasion, been drunk. Reflecting on my decisions afterwards, it is amazing to me how the presence of that chemical completely changes how I see and value events and people in my life. I am not in complete control of my full faculties when that happens and only afterwards, when my entire brain is available to me, does the stupidity of my decisions suddenly become obvious.

But one need not drink to have this experience. I have learned to forgive the decisions that I make while dreaming. In my dreams I have been a womanizer and a murderer.  I’ve even been a woman trying to seduce my husband. Does these dreams mean that I am a womanizer while awake, or a murder, or attracted to men? I don’t think so. I think these are mostly random roles playing out while a significant portion of my mental faculties are not available. So I give myself permission to ignore the decisions I made in the dream.

And then I think of the movie “A Beautiful Mind”. If I were seeing and hearing people who weren’t actually there, how could I tell the difference? If I really believed that some figment of my mind was an actual person chasing me with a knife, would my running and screaming for help be something I “chose”?

Yes, we are both spiritual and physical beings. But when a critical part of our what allows us to make decisions is unavailable, it’s hard to call what happens a decision. At least not a fully informed and reasoned decision.

I look forward to the time when my depressed family members get their new bodies as promised in 2 Cor 5:1-5. I look forward to a time when that body won’t be corrupted by the fragility of this body, and when that fragility won’t create adverse decision making. But until then it’s really hard for me to accept that depressed decisions are the same thing as rational decisions. I’m not sure that depressed people are any more in control than drunk people are. And apart from heaven, my only hope is that humanity figures out (through medicine) how to resolve the brain chemistry imbalance that seems to be at the heart of this awful disease.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Road Trips With Kids

3 years is a long time. It's the difference between 1st grade and 4th grade. It's the difference between the end of your freshman year of high school and graduation. Those spans of 3 years seem like forever. So it's a bit of shock to me that it's been more than 3 years since I posted a blog. But the posts don't lie and I just have to accept that as I get older, time seems to be passing by more quickly.

The truth of the matter is that I probably wouldn't be writing this post at all and my blog would be sitting dormant for an even longer span of time. Except that, unexpectedly, a complete stranger requested that I blog something. So here it is.

A little context, I am an aspiring poker player. And to get better, I listen to The Thinking Poker podcast. And on a lark I happened to read the blog today where I saw this article. And having made an annual trip to Wisconsin for the last ten years (*), I thought I might share some of the things that make the drive much more survivable, and occasionally, pleasant. Here are the fairly quick thoughts that I had:

1) Break up your trip into 3 hour segments, with scheduled stops for at least 10-15 minutes to let the kids get pent up energy out. Regardless of your dietary requirements, McDonald’s playlands are blessings… except in Indiana where they’re apparently outlawed, since none seem to exist. Plan things like lunch and dinner around these stops.

2) Travel no more than 9 hours per day... meaning 9 hours on the road with kids belted in their seats. Stops will increase the total trip time. But doing this we can usually make about 500 miles a day.

3) At least once per travel day, give the kids some new thing to explore. Puzzle books and books on tape have worked for us. Self contained toys work also. Movies are an option but we try to limit those.

4) Have an ample supply of snacks. But ration them.

5) When you stop for the night, have options for the kids to do something fun. Looking forward to the evening’s activities is a benefit for both adults and kids. Swimming is (by far) our kids favorite.

6) Pack destination bags and overnight bags. The destination bags can remain in the vehicle not to be taken out until you get there. The overnight bags are the only things you should have to unload when you stop overnight. Eases the unpacking & repacking the vehicle when stopping.

The trip that we take is an 18 hour trip, and takes us 2 days each way. I’m not sure if these ideas can scale to a cross-country trip. But if I were going to make such a trip, I would start with this but then be flexible enough to decide if it’s wearing thin by day 4-5.

(*) Holy crap, we've been doing this for 10 years!?