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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Depression, Understanding, and Walsh

Matt Walsh wrote something today. 

To many of the people in my news feed, that alone is enough to rev up some animosity. And yes, I'm going to talk a bit about Matt Walsh - but bear with me.

Because today, Matt Walsh wrote something that I myself could have penned just a few short years ago.

He wrote about Robin Williams, who tragically took his own life yesterday. He said that suicide, when you really strip it down, is a choice, not a disease. It is always selfish, it is never freeing, and it damages loved ones as well.

(He said those things in many more words, but that's the gist of it.)

And as I said before, just a few years ago I could easily have written something similar. I have had bad days in my life, as everyone has. I have had bad weeks, bad months. I have gone through seasons during which I may have even said that I was depressed.

But I have never awakened to the feeling that in order to get to the breakfast table I would first have to claw myself out from the depths of an endless abyss. I have never looked at my children and imagined how much better their lives would be if they didn't have a screw-up like me as a parent. I don't know the helplessness of believing that someone's life might be improved if I were dead. I can't fathom the depths to which one must sink to feel these things.

In the past few years, however, I have spent time with and grown to love very deeply several people who have felt those things. I have come to understand that the way one sees reality under the influence of depression is akin to the way one might see when under the influence of alcohol or anything else - the difference being that an alcoholic chooses to drink, and a junkie chooses to score. 

Someone who is truly depressed cannot be expected to accurately remember good times, because even if there were truly good times, everything they now see is colored by the depression. 
Telling them they must choose to wait because good times will come again means nothing. All they see is the torture they are currently enduring and perhaps something slightly less torturous that may (but probably won't) come in some distant eventuality. 
Telling them they must make an effort to be happy is like asking a blind man to drive a car. 
"But I can't drive a car. I can't see the road." 
"Are you INSANE?"

To quote a friend (@Lembas_n_coffee):

Suicide is a choice. Of course it is. Everything we do is a choice. The thing about suicide and depression is that it's a choice we make with faulty information. Because depression says there's no help, no one cares, you're just a burden. Depression lies. So choosing suicide with depression is like choosing which groceries to buy when you're starving. You'll make choices, they'll just be bad ones. 
 Say what you want about suicide being selfish and damaging to loved ones. Most people would agree with those things. But to someone who cannot see clearly anything beyond the borders of the abyss in which he resides, those things become secondary to the Herculean effort required simply to continue breathing. 

Although I honestly wish that I did not know people who have lived in that abyss, I am grateful for their patience in helping me to better understand it from the outside. For that reason, although I think at least in this case Matt Walsh has it wrong, I can understand the difficulty he may have in writing about this subject if he himself has never faced it in person.