To me like many others, the sudden death of Robin Williams has been hard to understand. How did no one know? Why would he take drastic measures to end his suffering? These are questions that no one can answer. The outpouring of love for him has been incredible but the amount of hate, accusations and name calling have been appalling. Nothing struck a nerve more than reading Matt Walsh’s blog post “Robin Williams didn’t die from a disease, he died from his choice.”
I don’t even want to give his site the traffic honestly, but since I will be quoting it, I have to give it the due credit. Reading this post made me physically sick to my stomach. As someone who has suffered from depression a long time ago, it is incredibly insulting. It is not a topic I really wanted to speak about but I feel like I needed to after seeing all of this. Here is my open letter to Matt.
NOTE ***In NO way am I implying that suicide is ever the answer. Please seek help if you are suffering from depression, no matter how “bad” you think it is. 1-800-273-8255 is a number you can call if you are contemplating suicide***
Today I came across your blog post on the death of Robin Williams. I thought at first, you must be some sort of Medical Doctor…this is not the case. Your bio states that you are a father, blogger, radio personality, and self described “truth sayer” which I find to be downright gut wrenching. My hands are shaking as I even write this post.
You state in your blog that you have dealt with depression. I find this hard to believe as it seems you lack any sort of empathy or the stronghold that this DISEASE can take on a person.
I’m not quite sure what to make of your “spiritual and clinical” connection with depression so I’m not going to even address that except to say that mental illness effects those from all walks of faith, race, socio-economic status and age. I will concentrate on your two points that you wanted to gain consensus on.
Your first “point”:
“First, suicide does not claim anyone against their will. No matter how depressed you are, you never have to make that choice. That choice. Whether you call depression a disease or not, please don’t make the mistake of saying that someone who commits suicide “died from depression.” No, he died from his choice. He died by his own hand. Depression will not appear on the autopsy report, because it can’t kill you on its own. It needs you to pull the trigger, take the pills, or hang the rope. To act like death by suicide is exactly analogous to death by malaria or heart failure is to steal hope from the suicidal person. We think we are comforting him, but in fact we are convincing him that he is powerless. We are giving him a way out, an excuse. Sometimes that’s all he needs — the last straw.” – Matt Walsh
True, he did die “by his own hand” but who is to say that his mind didn’t control his hands at that desperate point in his final moments on this earth.
If you have suffered from depression, I wonder if you have ever been prescribed anti-depressants. I will tell you some truth – one of the most warned about side effects of almost every anti-depressant is the known increase that it can have on suicidal thoughts and tendencies. All pills come with tons of warning labels on this rare, but true possibility. With this said, the very disease that he suffered from very well could have caused his death and been a side effect of the medication he was on.
I am in no way condoning suicide, but I know that the grasp of the disease is very real from my own experience. At one time, I also struggled with this disease. Thankfully, I did not have these horrifying side effects and have been well for many years. Many people, however, do not get help. They often do not think anything will work, do not want to talk about it, or think that it will go away on it’s own. Sometimes the help comes too late.
Your second “point”:
“Second, we can debate medication dosages and psychotherapy treatments, but, in the end, joy is the only thing that defeats depression. No depressed person in the history of the world has ever been in the depths of despair and at the heights of joy at the same time. The two cannot coexist. Joy is light, depression is darkness. When we are depressed, we have trouble seeing joy, or feeling it, or feeling worthy of it. I know that in my worst times, at my lowest points, it’s not that I don’t see the joy in creation, it’s just that I think myself too awful and sinful a man to share in it.” – Matt Walsh
I have a lot of trouble with this one. I believe firsthand that my depression was cured due to medication and psychotherapy. After months of trying to deal with it on my own and finally seeking professional help, I found all the answers. The answer wasn’t looking for “joy” – in fact, I had plenty to be joyous and thankful for during that time. The two very well can coexist and are not mutually exclusive. Depression does not necessarily ruin 24 hours of each day. There are definitely happy and joyous moments that can be felt during this state. That’s not to say that a majority of some days may be darker than others, but there is no clinical findings that state that this is a twenty four hour deal seven days a week and a person cannot have bouts of happiness.
I am in no way saying that I agree with suicide by these statements. I am simply saying my truth from personal experience. I think that the name calling and judgement of suicide and people with this disease is downright appalling and I hope that his death can create a larger awareness to this disease if nothing else. This disease should not be downplayed or taken lightly – it is real and the side effects of the disease are very real. Robin Williams death proves that no matter how much you think someone has it together or has everything that you never know what inner demons someone can be struggling with.
I hope that you can find in your heart a small dose of empathy. Just remember – only God can judge.