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.