Follow-up to Matt Walsh’s First and Second Posts, in re Suicide

My most recent post was my shell-shocked and hasty reaction to a post by Matt Walsh, though I can’t say that my opinion has much changed.

Matt followed up his post with a second, longer post, in which he considers opinions that have been shared with him and, perhaps, insinuated as his own. He also confronts the cyberbullying that has torrented his direction since the first post.

Let me be clear: I am passionate about this topic. I disagree with Matt on some issues. I don’t lend my voice or my support to any bully who would threaten a person for speaking, even when that speech feels offensive or any other emotion-laden word. Don’t be a bully. It’s unbecoming.

I’ve read both posts and no comments.

After reading Matt’s second post, I submitted a comment. The last time I saw it, the thing was awaiting moderation. There have likely been many, many comments posted in the interim.

Unlike my first post, an email I wrote to my sister, this post was written not as a reaction but as a response. What’s the difference? Well, the first was my gut issuing forth through my fingertips. The second was my brain searching for the words to give Matt pause, to help him reflect on a different perspective. I shared the first, and I was super nervous. I am about to share the second, and I’m super nervous. Though I have a tiny readership and love you all, these are big ideas to put out into the world. I’d think maybe I was sick if I wasn’t nervous : ) 

My comment on Matt Walsh’s second post regarding suicide, 8/13/2014, approximately 9:00 pm:

I can tell a cancer patient to fight and the cancer can still win. I can tell a suicidal person to fight and the suicide still wins. Doesn’t mean I should stop telling people to fight. It does mean that the complexities of life tend not to listen to third parties, including dictionary definitions.

I don’t know if you read my response to your first post on this matter, since it was posted to my own blog, but I think something bears repeating.

“Expecting a depressed person to make a sound decision is not unlike asking a person with dementia to make a sound decision. It may happen by coincidence but not by design. So when choosing life or death, the whole difference between the suicidal and the not suicidal is the depression. The depression colors everything, including life and death decisions.”

Outside suicidal ideation, it is fairly straightforward to apply a textbook definition to suicide as a choice. Inside suicidal ideation, things become much less clear.

In 2010, my nephew was in basic combat training. He ran a five-minute mile. Then he turned 18. Then he was flown to a hospital and diagnosed with leukemia – a blast crisis. Three weeks later, he died. The drugs had done their best and killed the leukemia. My nephew died from sepsis. I was confused. I simply couldn’t understand how the body could betray him so quickly and so thoroughly.

In 2008, I had a plan to commit to suicide. I planned it. Seems, pretty straightforwardly, a choice. My plan was interrupted by the most random thing. The interruption meant the difference between death and life. Now I can hardly believe my reasoning at the time. I was going to kill myself to avoid hurting my children. Postpartum depression turned me very nearly into one of those mothers on the news who is carted to prison for killing her own children. My body had betrayed me – my mind had betrayed me. It betrayed me with thoughts too horrid to contemplate. It convinced me that I would kill my own beautiful children in my sleep. And it betrayed me again when it told me my options were to kill them or kill myself.

I don’t write any of this as woe competition. I write this because I’m trying to elucidate a major flaw in your logic. The choice in suicide is a whitewashed tomb. Sanitized on the outside and rotten on the inside. The family, friends, onlookers of a suicidal person see the sanitized shell of a choice. The suicidal person lives on the rotten inside of that choice. A choice made rotten by disease.

So when you, coldly in my opinion, say that Robin Williams died from his choice, you leave a metric ton unsaid. It is the stuff unsaid that is vital to the conversation. Decisions are poisoned all the time. Sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently. Drunk driving is a choice, a choice poisoned by overconsumption of alcohol. The driver who made that poisoned choice must still bear the consequences of the choice. One who dies from suicide bears the consequences of a poisoned choice. Poisoned, not by alcohol, but by disease.

Don’t simplify it. Don’t sanitize it. Don’t make it so academic that it fails to capture the empathy and compassion possible in unspoiled human nature.

Tell a person in your sphere – loved one, caller, emailer, guy on the ledge – tell a person that he has options. Lead him to them. Love him through them.

But please don’t come online and tell the world that suicide prevention is as straightforward as a rational, clear choice between life and death. To do so is a disservice to the people suffering from their own and others’ choices poisoned by disease.

People of the world, if you are dealing with suicidal thoughts and impulses, your choices are poisoned by disease. You can seek to be healed. Medical science can begin to draw the poison out of your choices so that you can see them clearly, so that you can be informed. Spirituality, family, support structures can help draw the poison away, too. Please don’t choose suicide today. Please seek help. Please seek medication, counseling, and other things that can free you from a poisoned choice. Delay choosing death. Wait and try and fight until you are freed from the poison of depression. And then keep living. Please.

1.800.273.TALK (8255) or suicidepreventionlifeline.org


That’s it. That’s what I wrote. If you are leaning Matt’s way, know that this isn’t a contest. You can take in all of the perspectives and discern for yourself what is true, what is beneficial, what is worthy.

4 Comments »

  1. I so very strongly disagree with Matt. This type of ignorance about depression is why I have avoided Facebook for the better part of the past few days. Telling someone isn’t going to help, and it is not a miracle cure. You are trapped within your own mind, it is an attack on the heart, body, and mind, with you believing all of these lies you tell yourself to your very core. He over simplifies the issue, because he does not understand it. It is easy for him to say these things because he has not suffered in a similar manner. Depression goes so deep, and you are in so deep, you feel that you have no other means of escape from it. Your sense of self-worth is below zero; you feel like nothing you do, nothing you say, and nothing you think will ever change how you are feeling. You are stuck, and it is an eternal, emotional prison. Even faith does not save someone from this disease. It is so easy to go the faith route, saying that it will help. It doesn’t. To you, nothing can help, nothing can save you from yourself; so you do the only you can do to alleviate the internal pain and suffering you experience day in, and day out; and everything you have tried to escape or deaden the suffering does not work. For Williams, it was drugs and alcohol; an attempt to change his emotional state to anything that was not what he was feeling. And it failed. So he did the only other thing he felt he could do on his own, within his own power that he can control, and he went with it. If you can not understand that, then you have no right stating whatever misinformed, ignorant, and, frankly, insensitive opinion you may have about depression and how it affects people. Keep it to yourself.

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    • Joshua, Thank you for sharing your perspective. Every time someone in or past depression can quantify and qualify the disease, the community has a new opportunity to improve our capacity to sympathize and empathize.

      In my experience, there is a way up and out of that dark place. Some of us make it and some don’t. It is gut-wrenching every single time someone doesn’t.

      I hope your last two sentences are not directed toward me. I hope that I have not stated misinformed, ignorant, or insensitive opinions about depression. But if you believe I have, I ask your forgiveness.

      If you are still fighting, as I will always be fighting relapse, please keep fighting. Your voice is important in the world.

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      • My last two sentences are directed toward anyone who does not understand the internal impact depression makes upon an individual, and by reading Matt’s blog, and his own admission, he does not understand that. In fact, I agreed wholeheartedly with this post and your perspectives. Because he has been merely an outside spectator to depression, rather than out on the field himself or with other people who struggle with it, he has no clue what he is talking about. Even people of faith, like myself, and succumb to the twisted darkness within our own minds. It is not a spiritual problem (that argument draws very strong parallels with the book of Job), though it does affect our hearts, minds, and bodies. Faith and spirituality does not help, for depression attacks our very image of self-worth.

        It is why Robin Williams’ death is affecting me so much, because anyone who is suffering from depression is very aware at the point he was at when he took his life, and why were are so bothered by perspectives like Matt’s.

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      • Thanks for your follow-up comment. I like your note about Job – depression is not a sin problem, it is a medical problem. I’ve written quite extensively, privately, about depression in the Bible, because my faith is Christianity. Elijah suffered a depression that is recorded in I Kings 19: 5-21. There, the Bible records things that Elijah’s God did during Elijah’s depression. His God ministered to him, gave him time to get physically renewed, allowed him to verbalize his feelings, asked about the problem, allowed Elijah to question him in honest conversation, assured him he was not alone, expected Elijah to go back to work when he was ready, renewed his fellowship with God’s people. I think this is a good template for anyone to give support to someone with depression. I think the aspect of spirituality and depression that too many Christians miss is that the spiritual work begins on the healthy person’s end. It’s in service to a depressed person that we exercise spirituality. But there were no easy answers to anyone’s depression in the Bible. I don’t read a time my God ever told someone in active depression that they simply needed to choose joy. If my God understood that depression takes time, resources, and support, how can I do anything else?

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