Thursday, August 14, 2014

Robin Williams Suicide

Robin Williams has died.

The very first movie my husband took me to back when we were just teenagers was Mrs. Doubtfire. First date. I remember reruns of Mork and Mindy and so many other great movies he made like Aladdin and Dead Poet's Society.

He committed suicide.

He was 63.

And the social media world is spinning with opinions and thoughts and clamor about why he let himself get to that point. They are spreading the word about depression and encouraging people to find help and not be alone. They are also talking about his death being a choice and that he didn't have to die.

Of course he didn't.

But he did.

He died because his illness was so bad he saw no other way out of the pain.

If someone has cancer and they die, we don't blame them.

If someone dies in a car accident, we don't blame them.

But if someone commits suicide, we blame them.

I get that. Suicide is obviously different from other ways that people die.

But here's the thing. If Robin Williams, who had three beautiful children and a wife and friends and fans couldn't embrace the good in his life because the pain was that bad, you have to think that he really feels that he has no choice.

Robin Williams' adult daughter Zelda wrote following his death:

While I'll never, ever understand how he could be loved so deeply and not find it in his heart to stay, there's minor comfort in knowing our grief and loss, in some way, is shared with millions. It doesn't help the pain, but at least it's a burden countless others know we carry. 

He had to know of the pain he would be causing those in his life and yet he still couldn't help himself. His own pain was that bad.

Honestly, do you think that if a person preparing to commit suicide, pre-mediated suicide was able to choose, he would choose pain for those he love?

I recently read an article entitled: The depressed Christian: why the dark night is no measure of your soul.  The author writes of her own 18 month battle with depression by reflecting on the depression she watched both her parents trudge through. She had been quick to brush aside their struggles and tell them just to get back to church ... just to get back into the Bible ... just to practice spiritual warfare.

All good suggestions, but not necessarily a perfect fix for a terrible disease.

And then she found herself in the same pit she had watched her parents furiously try to climb out of. That experience was a gift.

"It is a gift because never again will I suggest to someone that the solution is so easy," she writes. "It is a gift because I can now speak to other Christians about the struggle, offering to them dignity instead of shame. It is a gift because when I read of suicide or other depression-drive acts, my first response is to sob rather than preach. And it is a gift because I can say with certainty that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted even if He feels far, far away."

I have been depressed.

Three times now in my life I have found myself in a very deep and dark pit. It felt like I was walking through mud. Each minute felt like an eternity as I fought incredible sadness every single minute of every single day.

I vividly remember one of my boys asking me for an orange and that I had to will myself to get up and peel that orange. I was standing by the microwave in our home in Turkey saying, "Peel the orange. Peel the orange."

I have memories of sitting on the floor of my friend Stebbins' house with my head on her lap. I was a few weeks post-partum but had just been told the medication could take weeks before I started seeing a difference. "I can't make it a day," I remember saying. "How can I make it weeks?"

During my pregnancy with Hannah I cried myself to sleep every single night. Thank the Lord I had a husband who understood depression and could remind me, repeatedly, that this was a season that would come to an end when Hannah was born. (And if it didn't, at that point, I could consider pharmaceutical therapy -- something I didn't want to do while pregnant.)

Not only was I incredibly depressed, but I was incredibly sick -- for the entire pregnancy. I also lived on a tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic that was facing five straight months of rain. I just felt like I couldn't do another day.

It was during Hannah's pregnancy that I remember thinking how much better it would feel to not be alive anymore. I wouldn't say that I actually got suicidal, but I was very close. I had started contemplating ways that I could end it when I decided to share this with my husband, knowing I couldn't keep it inside. He talked me down off a ledge nearly every single evening.

I wanted to get better SO bad.

I did everything I could think of to get better.

Reading made me more nauseous but I still read anything that promised relief.

I had praise music on all day long.

I got off the computer and wasn't watching TV and was surrounding myself with only positive.

And yet I still felt that I might suffocate at any moment. I could not believe that I wouldn't always feel the way I felt at that moment.

I pray that in the wake of Robin William's death, we all remember that depression is not something anyone who has not felt can understand. If you have never felt like dying, do NOT try to counsel someone who does. Get them to the right people but don't offer advice that is not founded on experience.

Yes he chose this. Technically speaking. But the question is actually: why did he choose this?

A christian blog writer wrote of her own depression and the choice surrounding her thoughts of suicide like this: "But, there are so many people, like the brilliant Robin Williams this week, who aren't granted that little sliver of light. The darkness enveloped them so tightly, the only way out was death. The only release was the loss of life altogether. The pain was too much, too unrelenting, too dark. When all you can see is complete and utter despair, there is no choosing. There's only one choice: Make it stop by whatever means necessary. And, like so many have seen, heard, witnessed and testified, when you've been swallowed into the vortex of depression for years and there's never been a relenting, there's never been a letting up of the pain? There's only one option."

And an even more important question is: how can we prevent another person from choosing it?

But the biggest point I want to make is that people keep saying Rest in Peace Robin and the truth is, that without Jesus, there is no resting in peace. I have no idea of Robin William's faith. I can make guesses but guesses are not what God is making.

Instead, I can make it my goal to make sure people -- hurting and healthy -- know Jesus because truly HE is the only person who can provide peace for eternity.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this. My best friend died from depression in February. She was a devout Christian, incredible mom, daughter, teacher, and friend who died from a horrible awful disease. I'm so tired of comments regarding her lack of hope and if she'd only relied on God. I can't really bring myself to read much of the commentary regarding Robin Williams, but I pray that somehow the stigma regarding mental health is reduced.

Your words today brought me comfort, thank you for sharing.

MarBerry said...

Thank you for sharing this, Wendi. I've only been able to read a few articles about opinions on Robin's suicide all the way through. Your writing is self-revealing, educating in a calm way.

constance said...

Thank you. For many, many reasons, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you - a million times THANK YOU. I have a daughter who goes through this and it absolutely breaks my heart how little she is understood, supported and helped and how many think its because of sin or not thinking right in the Christian world especially. My fervent prayer is that more will tune in to the truth and stop causing more pain with their lack of knowledge about this painful issue.

Anonymous said...

You said this so well and it helps to hear from someone who has been there with depression. I had a dear friend that was a lovely Christian man and had bipolar. In the grips of a depressive episode he took his own life. I know he was a Christian and I cannot imagine that God does not have mercy on his flock if they make a big mistake why grappling with such an illness. Thank you so much for being so open about your own struggle. I know it helps more people than you know and thank you for this beautifully written post.

Debbie said...

Very well said.