The True Strength of Depression – An Open Letter to Matt Walsh

naturalremediesfordepression
photo courtesy of: http://blogs.psychcentral.com

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***

Matt,

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.

Brittney

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21 thoughts on “The True Strength of Depression – An Open Letter to Matt Walsh

  1. Sienne

    I think the biggest point you should actually agree with in Matt’s post is that we should not hail the suicide by saying “They are at peace now, in a better place” because indeed, how can someone contemplating suicide find hope if everyone around them repeats nonsense like that. You are not in a better place after suicide. you are in NO place. And hearing someone say a victim of suicide is in a better place- wouldn’t I like to be there too.

    My best friend was Alchoholic, suicidal, (tried multiple times to kill herself by overdosing on ativan and alcohol) anorexic, and bulemic.

    She is better now- not 100% happy all the time but who is?

    It took over 8 years of a downward spiral before she had an upswing.

    I truly believe she is healthy now only because of her choice. She chose to stop being the victim in her life, and instead, the hero. She chose to surround herself with uplifting souls that gave her wings to fly, rather than those who would push her down.

    It wasn’t easy. I cried every time she would hang out with one of those who would only hinder her progress- but I never told her what to do, nor did I suggest. I only gave her an example.

    See, I was also suicidal and depressed- but we made our choices. We both chose to forgive. And with the forgiveness came freedom from mental cell and freedom from inner torment.

    You must forgive yourself, forgive those who hurt you, and choose love.

    No judgement to Robin. I am sorry for his loss. He is not at peace. He is not suffering. He is no where. because he is dead. He chose to end the struggle, and I cannot say why, other than that he was unbearably sad. and therefore I am sad

    I just hope that people realize the method/cure is actually forgiveness. and inner peace. and choosing your friends/crowd.

    1. I am sorry to hear about your friends struggle as well as yours. I’m glad you commented and completely agree! Thanks for reading and also being non-judgemental!

    2. jimbaux

      ” how can someone contemplating suicide find hope if everyone around them repeats nonsense like that. ”
      — Who said anything about anyone “repeating” the suicide?

    3. Well, the ironic thing is that ONLY Robin Williams knows if he’s in a better place now. None of us know, or will know until we pass away. Meanwhile, I believe that we could use more empathy toward those in dark places.

  2. Yeah, suicide is a “choice” . . . . made by someone who probably felt like he or she had no more choices, no more options. So, to criticize someone for making this “choice” – and to even feel the need to point out to others that it was a choice – is pedantic, superfluous, and worse than useless. How cruel does one have to be to criticize one for acting upon a feeling that he or she could not continue to live?

    So that his “followers” now see him for what he is and what he says as the drivel that it is, I’m glad that Matt Walsh finally got caught in his own petard, and me saying that is not schadenfreude, because it is based on a concern for the influence he has over others and not out of any desire to see him suffer.

    1. I too, am afraid of his influence which is why I wrote this. Depression is so misunderstood and it is so sad that he as a “sufferer of depression” would judge like this. It is unreal.

      1. Brittney, I would ask that you would consider the following. If someone is depressed and/or suicidal, what offers them more hope: being told that they have no control or power over their sadness? Or being told you do have the power to change things? More to Matt’s point, society has been shifting away from the realm of personal responsibility where everyone is a “victim” of some kind. I, along with Matt, believe that we are on a slippery slope by continuing the message that there is nothing we can do about our feelings and emotions. Matt made the point that there are elements of mental health that lend themselves to the medical side. But I strongly agree with him that there are two sides to this coin. Things like attitudes, behaviors, and actions must be examined as much as any chemical imbalance. I believe there are times when people need help. But too often the help given is only in the form of a pill. Could it be, possibly at times, that someone with an unforgiving attitude who makes many selfish choices might find themselves depressed because they’re behavior separates them from the love of God? If so, it might be time we asked some hard questions as a society. I feel like Matt is trying to get us to ask those questions. Just something to consider.
        P.S.- It’s “TRUTH SAYER”, not SLAYER.

      2. Depression has nothing to do with a separation from God. It can hit anyone at anytime from any background. Comparing it to faith is absolutely absurd. It’s a MENTAL ILLNESS which requires medical attention.

      3. racheltoalson

        Josh,

        “Could it be, possibly at times, that someone with an unforgiving attitude who makes many selfish choices might find themselves depressed because they’re behavior separates them from the love of God?”

        I don’t believe that’s for us to know or judge. Our job is to love those who feel they have no other option but suicide. It’s not to remind them of their choice, their responsibility, their need to forgive or be forgiven or find joy in the hard places. Our job is to understand them, not talk about their string of “selfish choices” (whether or not it’s true). If you’ve never been in the depths of clinical depression, and if you’ve never been to that place where you think you’re doing all your family and friends and loved ones a favor by pulling the trigger or taking the pills or stepping off the ledge, you can’t possibly know what is in the heart and mind and soul of another person. I don’t deny that thoughts and attitudes and beliefs play a part in clinical depression, but there is also a scientific brain-chemical reason for clinical depression, real diseases like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Drawing awareness to the fact that depression is a mind-altering disease and that suicide isn’t always a choice doesn’t, to me, broadcast to the people suffering from suicidal thoughts that they have “no control or power over their sadness.” If we are loving and understanding and truly focused on helping, I believe we can help them come down from the ledge. But we don’t do it the way Matt did it, by pointing fingers and reminding them that it’s always a choice. In that moment before a knife slices across skin, we are not thinking clearly of choices. We are only thinking of how badly the fire of depression hurts, how we’re dying from all the smoke (and so is everyone else around us), how this is the only way out. What we need, least of all, is judgment and misunderstanding and stigmatization, which is the damage I think Matt did with his blog. I hope he realizes his error and retracts it. I really do.

  3. Holly

    I think Matt touched a nerve and that upset you. But his real points were important. Glossing over what he did and saying Robin Williams is in a better place may not be a good thing to do, as it helps a suicidal person believe suicide might be the best and only way out after all. It does permanently devastate family members, which should give someone pause before actually going through with it. And knowing the fact that committing suicide is a choice is especially important, as this may be the only thing that stops a person from that option. Sometimes when people are following an impulse they believe they have no control. They may be desperate but even so, there is a moment when a decision, a choice, is made. Knowing this may be enough to cause the person to pause long enough to choose to seek help instead. If that knowledge is enough to save even one person by causing him or her to call a helpline at a critical moment or to go seek out a friend in order to stop the momentum toward self-harm, that is a great thing.

    I am sure that Matt’s goal was to simply help those depressed people considering suicide to view it for what it actually is – a devastating choice that can harm friends and family, will not bring any guaranteed result other than to cease to exist, and is a choice (however difficult), not a mandate. He did not minimize anyone’s experience. He simply wanted to help put the brakes on someone making that choice by calling it exactly what it is. Sorry it upset you. It was meant to empower, not harm. I think he actually accomplished that.

    1. Agree to disagree. I want to point out that I NEVER said or insinuated that Robin was in a better place because he committed suicide so please be cautious with your words.

  4. Your second quote changed to reflect how I feel about Matt’s premise, “In the end tallness is the only thing that defeats shortness. No tall person in the history of the world has ever been in the depths of shortness and at the heights of tallness at the same time. The two cannot coexist.” Saying that two things are opposites is not proof that one is the antidote to the other.

    1. Julia thanks for your reply. Saying that happy and sad are mutually exclusive feelings really struck a nerve with me. They definitely can coexist. I know because I’ve felt it! Thanks for reading!

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