What Matt Walsh Gets Wrong About Suicide
Trigger Warning: This post deals with issues of depression and suicide. If, right now, you feel like the choice of suicide is a viable one for you, please get help. Find a friend, a doctor, anyone you can talk to. There are ways to heal depression. There are ways to clear your head. Please don’t die.
It’s six years, thereabouts, since I had a plan to end my life. It was a good plan, as plans go. I thought I had covered all my bases. My plan was interrupted. I am thankful to have survived and even more thankful to have enough distance from that day six years ago to lend my voice to the conversation.
My sister, a family practitioner and amazing friend, sent me a link to Matt Walsh’s recent blog post about suicide. She wanted my insights if I felt comfortable giving them.
I get it. When a celebrity, someone who seems to have what we are taught to covet – a career, a family, friends – commits suicide, the conversation is on our lips. It is an opportunity to raise the social consciousness. So, here I am, doing something I didn’t intend to do: I’m writing a post about suicide.
At first I didn’t read the link. Then I did. I read the post but no comments. Afterwards, I wrote the following email to my sister. I wrote it hastily and passionately. And I’m sharing it here without edit. It may seem trite to say this is a brave thing, so I am trite. I finally have enough distance from that day six years ago to stand up to someone who doesn’t get it and to tell them where their thinking is flawed. I don’t claim to be the everyman of suicide. I don’t claim to know your pain, Robin Williams’ pain, or anyone else’s. But I speak for the me who couldn’t have spoken six years ago.
Feel free to read Matt Walsh’s blog post, which triggered my response. But, as a personal favor to me, please come back here and read my response. An issue this big and deadly deserves multiple viewpoints.
Email to my sister, 8/12/2014, 10:18 PM:
Okay. I read it anyway. Only the article, no comments.
I feel extremely ragey about his words. He claims to have been inundated by suicides even in his family but he presses free will. Where depression ends with a choice (and may well begin with one or many), heart disease begins (and continues and may well end) with a choice, too. Every disease has an underlying choice. Swim in a pond and you may just get a parasite up your nose to eat your brain. Eat to obesity and you may set yourself up for diabetes, heart disease, cancer. Smoke and invite cancer in. The truth is that everything we do in life is about choices. We just like to judge other people’s choices more than we like to reflect on our own. We like to say some sins are bigger than others. We like to say some decisions are bigger than others. But far more often, we cannot judge the size of a choice until we are past it.
Saying that joy is the only thing that overcomes depression forgets that the depressed person can no longer see joy, feel joy, hear joy. This is why you cannot church a person out of depression. Why you cannot sing or eat or dance or sex a person out of depression. Why you cannot love a person out of depression. Your non-depressed-person joy has exactly zero to do with a depressed person’s depression. While spirituality is a component, it is not the only component to healing depression any more than it is the only component to healing acne. God gave us people with minds attuned to sciences and maths so that they could determine ways to heal diseases. Physicians heal depression, too.
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 depression. The depression colors everything, including life and death decisions.
AAAAAAAAAAH! Okay. I’m better now.
As to ‘free’ – that is used whenever anybody dies and it is sort of a weird thing. In the strictest sense, a dead person is free from all the pain, sickness, and depression of this world. That person may have new concerns but he/she is free from this world. Is a person who died at 96 in her sleep free? Is a person who died in a car wreck free? If yes, then why wouldn’t a person who died from suicide be free? If no, then death does not equal freedom. Death is either equal or not equal to freedom. It isn’t a case by case deal.
The person contemplating suicide will find plenty of backing for his decision. Yes, saying another person was freed through suicide may compound that. Any more so than telling a new cancer patient that another cancer patient was freed in death? I don’t know.
I’ve long, long been depressed. I’ve been in the proximity of suicidal ideation more than once. I’ve been very near commitment to suicide once. Before I was very near commitment to suicide, I think I believed the same way as the author. I think I believed that people just chose rashly or without thought to others, with only their own desires in play. Now I believe very differently. I was going to die FOR the people I loved. I was doing what was best for everyone. Not in a self-pitying way but in an I’ll-never-hurt-my-children way. I wanted to be free. I wanted it to all stop before I did something irrevocable to someone else. That was freedom at the time. That will never make sense to a non-suicidal, never-been-suicidal person.
Therein lies the problem. It is the nonsuicidal, never-been-suicidal people who are in the position to examine these matters and argue their points of view. The suicidal people are far too busy fighting or dying in their disease to become part of the debate.
Thanks to my family who stands beside me at every opportunity. Thanks to Matt Walsh and to my sister for prompting my voice. Thanks to my sister and my husband for telling me my words were good enough to share. Thanks to you for reading.