I usually don’t comment on controversy or controversial issues in a “large” forum. If you ask me my opinion, I’ll tell you, but I don’t volunteer it, especially if I have no dog in the fight. Through the past year or so, some pretty high profile people have committed suicide or admitted to suffering from depression and I’ve said nothing. I’ve seen the posts on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere in which people say things like “All that money and still not happy? SMH” or “that person is so selfish to do that” and etcetera. I’ve seen people use it as an opportunity to air their personal views on whether or not someone is going to Hell for committing suicide, and even whether someone has the “right” to suffer from depression, and I haven’t said anything.
To be honest, I feel a little silly saying something now. My limited experience with depression a long time ago doesn’t feel relevant when someone has taken their life. Over the years, I’ve minimized my experience with it and rendered it unimportant, a footnote. I never had to take any medication, so it wasn’t that bad. I was just a little sad, understandable in the circumstances. My experience wasn’t sad enough, long enough or dramatic enough for me to consider myself to be able to talk about it. It was just a few silly feelings a really long time ago. But then I think “how many people are having these ‘silly little feelings’ and sweeping them under the rug when they really need help?” and I can no longer remain silent on this issue.
Depression has about as much to do with your socioeconomic status as happiness–which is to say absolutely nothing. Depression can be caused by chemical imbalance, life circumstances, certain personality disorders, childhood traumas, or any number of things that have nothing to do with the person you are when you are affected by depression. Depression is not a badge of honor for those who are poor or who aren’t famous. Depression is NOT a “right.” It doesn’t take into consideration social constructs like white male privilege or social stereotypes such as “black people don’t suffer from depression.” Depression is NOT a choice but a disease, an affliction.
My experience with depression was mostly circumstantial. I was at a low point in life where tests and trials just kept hitting me from all sides. I had a lot of classic symptoms, but at the time, I didn’t realize it. I suffered from insomnia. I didn’t want to go anywhere. My body ached for no physical reason. I was withdrawn. Even when I did make myself go out, I was isolated and experiencing everything from a distance. I gave myself many stern lectures to “get it together” that didn’t make a difference.
Things reached a head when I was walking along an overpass one day and thought about “falling” into the traffic below (you can read about that experience on my Copywrite1985 site in the Untitled Section under “Living on the Edge”). In that moment, not being around to deal with the tangle and the mess just seemed easier. I can’t speak for those who have committed suicide, but for me, in that moment, the constant buzzing in my head stopped. That was the clearest thought I’d had in a long time. I didn’t really have to do anything; all I had to do was let go, let gravity do all the dirty work. Then all of the hard things will be over. I’d never had that eery feeling before and I haven’t had it since.
The fact that I am still here and am not depressed has very little to do with me. I made the decision not to jump or “fall,” sure, but that was because as overwhelming as what I was going through felt, I knew there was a light at the end of that tunnel. As idealistic and patronizing as it sounds, I clung to God and He pulled me out. I know for some, they also need medication and intensive therapy, and I see no restriction or commandment against that for a Christian or anyone else. If changing your diet and exercising helps, do that. If seeing a therapist works, do that. If it’s not illegal or immoral and it works, do that.
Worrying about what other people will think can play into depression. It did for me. It can deepen the disconnect, prevent people from seeking help, and serve to isolate people from the resources that could help them. Thinking that you are supposed to be above depression because you’re famous, rich, a certain ethnicity, a certain religion, or anything else is a false notion. Minimizing depression and saying your just sad doesn’t make it go away. But I also know that getting over the worries of how people perceive you and how they will perceive you admitting to depression isn’t as easy as it sounds. Eight years later and I’m still struggling through this post.
The point, then, is to bring back some sensitivity to this area. If you haven’t lived through it, you can’t speak to the effects depression can have and what it can influence people to do. Even if you have experienced it, it doesn’t mean that you can speak for or about everyone who has suffered with it. Sometimes as people we have to learn to keep our mouths off of other people’s situations unless it’s to pray earnestly for that situation. Someone’s illness is not fodder for us to gather likes for pithy commentary or deep thoughts, nor is it to further our personal agendas. It’s not for us to “be God” and pronounce judgments or make decrees as to who has the right to suffer. If anything, it’s a call to arms against an illness, a disease–not a person.
That’s my two cents, anyway. Leave yours in the comments section.