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

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.


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. 

Calming breaths.

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. 

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