Robin Williams. Mental illness. Matt Walsh. Oy.
Mental illness in all of its manifestations needs SO, SO, SO much more attention in this country than we can possibly imagine. If tragedy comes, but we can bring a small piece of light into the world because of a tragedy, then I give thanks for that opportunity. By no means am I giving thanks for that tragedy, rather I give thanks that we can let a small piece of light shine into darkness, the way God calls forth light from intense darkness, time and time again. So, listen to all these news stations that are using this as an opportunity to remind those suffering through depression, that there is help, and you are welcome and encouraged to use it.
However, there are still some people that are bringing darkness upon darkness. Namely Matt Walsh and Rush Limbaugh, neither of whom deserve any of the attention that they will receive because of my response here. While I'm confident those listening to Rush are either die-hards and have already stopped reading, or listen for the parody alone, I have hope for those currently reading Matt Walsh. Because I can implore you, to just stop reading Matt Walsh. Please. He's written other blogs that I disagree with, but after his comments about Robin Williams, just stop reading.
Matt Walsh's Facebook page says "Matt Walsh is a blogger, writer, and professional sayer of truths." I've googled, and looked on his blog and his Facebook and can't seem to find much else on what qualifies him as a "sayer of truths." So I'm going to go out on a limb, a quite strong limb built by the many others who agree with me, and say that he is quite often, WRONG. Not always, I've read a COUPLE of his hundreds or thousands of posts (no way of knowing, you also can't search old posts?) that are OK, just okay. But a lot of the time his theology is crap (if I could think of a more eloquent or sophisticated word to describe it, I would, but his theology is neither eloquent nor sophisticated, it is crap), his advice is awful, his "professionalism" is suspect, and it seems as if he is just in this to stir the pot and make money from blog clicks.
Most recently he wrote a blog about Robin Williams entitled, "Robin Williams didn't die from a disease, he died from his choice." (You are welcome to search for it, I've decided against linking to it.) I've read it and re-read it, several times, to see if I'm missing something, or mis-understanding. But I don't think I am. And while I value Matt's attempt at helping to comfort those who are left behind when this "choice" happens, and I also value what Matt is trying to do in encouraging others that may be contemplating the same, he is SIMPLY WRONG.
"It’s a tragic choice, truly, but it is a choice, and we have to remember that. Your suicide doesn't happen to you; it doesn't attack you like cancer or descend upon you like a tornado. It is a decision made by an individual. A bad decision. Always a bad decision."True in a small sense, Matt. Suicide doesn't happen to you the way a car might hit your car unexpectedly, or the way a bullet enters your body at the hand of another holding a gun. However, depression is a scary animal, that eats you up from the inside out, starting at some unknown point and time in a very small way. But after years and years of loved ones or "professionals" telling you to "choose joy," and after taking over your whole body, including the part of your brain that makes choices, unfortunately depression sometimes leaves individuals with absolutely no other choice. It is a bad, horrible decision, but for those trapped inside the terror of depression, it can often be the only choice one feels is possible. A choiceless choice, because of a disease (that deserves far more attention and support than it is given), called depression.
When he talks about depression leading to suicide and that it is "a choice," I think of a blog that I wrote after my visit to Poland to study the Holocaust called Choiceless Choices. I learned about Jewish Councils of the ghettos in Poland and Germany that were told by the Nazis that either "you" can choose the 20,000 who get into the cattle cars to be sent to their death while you stay here waiting for who knows what else, or we will. What? Is that even a choice? If you don't choose, then you've doomed possibly everyone to the Nazi's choosing, but if you do choose, then YOU have to choose 20,000 people that you know are going to die. In another situation, we visited a concentration camp, and could see a town, now a city, in such close proximity to this death camp. Our tour guides, and Holocaust survivors, talked to us about how the Gestapo would come to your house and tell you that either YOU go and work in the concentration camps as someone who either burns corpses or starts the gas chambers, or YOUR FAMILY would be headed there. Sure that's a "choice," but is it really a choice?
Depression that leads to suicide is not a choice in which someone simply chose death over joy. It is TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE theology; it is a horrific and wrong way to think of God, if you think that simply "choosing joy" will help you get through the throngs of depression that lead to such a decision. A blogger named Megan Tietz says it so beautifully, here when she says that "the dark night is no measure of your soul." Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary (one of my favorite bloggers) also talks about Jesus and Zoloft. While some days you can get by with one or the other, there are a lot of days it is PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE and celebrated that you get by with both, because we may very possibly, and likely, need BOTH. Depression, in some forms, is probably spiritual. Sometimes. However, it may also be spiritual and chemical/physical. Sometimes it is also just chemical or physical. Regardless, not all depression is spiritual, and not all depression can simply be "fixed" by "choosing" to not let it overtake your life.
"Joy is light, depression is darkness. When we are depressed, we have trouble seeing joy, or feeling it, or feeling worthy of it. I know that in my worst times, at my lowest points, it’s not that I don’t see the joy in creation, it’s just that I think myself too awful and sinful a man to share in it.
So this, for me, is always the most essential moral at the end of these kinds of sad, terrible stories: we are all meant for joy. We are all meant for love. We are all meant for life. And as long as we can still draw breath, there is joy and love to be found here. I believe that. If I didn’t, I would have left a long time ago."
So, sure Matt, we can call it a choice. But it is the most unfathomable, choiceless of choices to live inside of a darkness that has consumed your soul to the point that "choosing" death is the only choiceless choice you have. Depression is not a "situation" you can control by simply choosing joy. I too believe that we are all meant for life, and that there is plenty of joy and love to be found here on earth. But I also know there is a brokenness about our bodies that sometimes means we have diseases with which we struggle. Depression is a disease that requires help and support, both from professionals and loved ones, and we need to stop treating it like someone who stubbed their toe.
If you have the slightest inkling of that darkness inside of you, or are wondering about a way out. Know that there are Christians who do not believe like Matt, many of us. We support all means necessary to work against this disease that is plaguing you from the inside out and we are here to celebrate when there is joy, to celebrate when you can see the joy, and to sit with you to remind you that you are loved, and welcome to ask for help when the darkness is beyond something about choice.