Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thoughts on Depression

Like most others, I was struck personally by the news of Robin William's suicide. Having grown up with his films and his comedy, I feel that connection with him that is the hallmark of a great actor: he is so authentic and wholehearted that the audience feels WITH him as he performs and takes that performance with them when they leave the theater. Some of my favorite and most watched films -- Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, Aladdin, and Good Morning Vietnam -- are great in large part because he starred in them.

There has been, unfortunately, a great deal of ugliness on the internet in the wake of his death. If I am believing the best I have to think that it comes from a place of fear and a need to separate themselves from his choice because they know, deep in their hearts, that we are all capable of falling into despair and seeing death as the only end to an unbearable existence.

Thankfully, the ugliness is more than balanced by sound defenses of the truth and lovely tributes to this talented man.

Glen Close: "Robin was incredibly sensitive to the crew, to the people who don't always get the recognition they deserve for the various jobs they do during a shoot. Robin knew everyone's name and could always get a laugh---not a laugh aimed at himself, but a laugh that recognized others. He gave various favorite crew members special nicknames. Our camera operator had famously combed-back, black hair that had considerable amounts of product in it, keeping every hair in place in all kinds of weather. Robin dubbed him "Teflon Man" and would do hilarious rifts as an archeologist in the distant future finding "Teflon Man" with his hair still perfect."

Ben Affleck: "Heartbroken. Thanks chief -- for your friendship and for what you gave the world. Robin had a ton of love in him. He personally did so much for so many people. He made Matt and my dreams come true. What do you owe a guy who does that? Everything. May you find peace my friend."

Anna Kendrick: O Captain! My Captain! Rise up and hear the bells. Rise up, for you the flag is flung, for you the bugle trills.

Ben Stiller: His kindness and generosity is what I think of. How kind he was to anyone who wanted to connect with him. And he could not help but be funny all the time. He would do something as long as it would keep you laughing. He made many, many film crews laugh out loud before the audiences ever saw it. He made such a big impact on the world. So there is the man, and his talent and I think in his case both were extraordinary. 

Our understanding of mental illness has grown in the last decade so that we are finally at the point where we can look at depression and see it for what it is: illness, rather than weakness or lack of faith. I think that's what bothers me most in a situation like this. Of course he made the wrong choice. It amazes me that this is up for debate! Suicide is NOT the answer. Never the answer. But rather than blame, we should be filled with compassion and sorrow. Depression wrecks your logic like a tsunami of despair. It invades every part of your mind and soul. No matter how you try to escape it, the waters rise up and pull you under again. They twist you so you don't know which way is up or where to find air or what to hold on to. It makes no difference if you have God, a loving family, financial success, friendship, or none of the above. Depression can still take you.

I do think, in my own experience, that having a proper understanding of who God is and my place in the universe helped me through my depression. Even when I didn't feel His presence, I knew He must be there and the problem was with me, because all the literature and testimony of thousands of years of humanity's relationship with Him continue to repeat "I am with you, even to the end of time."

But I have to admit that had I been capable of it, I might have come much closer to suicide than is comfortable to think about. I was pregnant and so miserable that I do remember I wished for death. I had a night where I couldn't stop throwing up, and I lay there and thought, "It's fine. I could just keep throwing up and die. That way this baby wouldn't be born into a world of suffering, and my children could be free from me. It's probably better if I just let myself die."

To look back on this moment from a place of health (both mental and physical) I can see the absurdity of it. I had everything: beautiful, healthy children, a warm and comfortable home, family supporting me in my illness, excellent medical care, freedom to rest all day long, entertainment to distract me, and access to any food I desired. Yet I couldn't see that. I could only see my own misery and loneliness.

I don't know what could have been done to help Robin Williams. I'm sure his family did what they could. They clearly loved him. We all did. I know he is at peace now. I know he regrets killing himself.

I am grateful that I am also at peace and my personal tsunami has receded. God is ever merciful, ever forgiving, ever loving, ever unchanging. May we imitate Him and show such love and compassion to our fellow brothers and sisters here on Earth.

Depression Does Not Discriminate

People Who Need Help Sometimes Look a lot Like People Who Don't Need Help

Robin Williams Didn't Die from a Disease and My Detailed Response
by Matt Walsh

5 Common Myths About Depression

10 Ways to Show Love to Someone with Depression

Depressed Catholics: God Wants You to Get Help

Monday, August 11, 2014

Peace and Prosperity

It is almost midnight and I should be in bed if I am to have any hope of getting up tomorrow at 7 am but I see that my last post here was in April (!!) and I feel the need to pop on if only for a moment to update the blogosphere as to what I have been up to.

I am in a great place, happy, peaceful, trusting in God's plan and doing my best to love my family no matter the circumstances. I am being challenged in a few key ways right now, mostly related to homeschooling which I am undertaking this year for the second time with my eldest. It did not go well the first time, but God brought everyone around to believing it was for the best that we try again. I am determined this time to focus on character, not performance, and work to make the experience as positive as I can.

My health is good, Praise God, my children are growing and active. My husband started a new law firm a year ago and it is growing with all the accompanying growing-pains that are to be expected, even desired. But naturally there is stress involved which my husband is bearing the brunt of. I personally have no doubt about his success, if not with this endeavor than with the next. That doesn't help him out much, though.

I am hoping once I get into a rhythm with homeschooling and the kids fall activities, and get a handle on my volunteer positions (Shepherd for my daughter's American Heritage Girls troop, Registrar and Prayer Coordinator for my Mother's Group, and volunteer with Catholic Charities Archdiocesan Housing) and my home, that I will be able to focus more attention on getting back to living simply and communicating some of our wonderful new Pope's wisdom on the subject.

Till then, blogging will likely be rather spotty. With love and prayers to all who read this little blog, Good Night. :)