Robin Williams, Depression, and my own suicidal thoughts

Robin Williams’ death has us all discussing depression and suicide. We’ve all heard that depression was likely a contributing factor to Robin Williams’ death. We’ve heard he apparently took his own life. I’m writing this because I have dealt with a lot of depression throughout my 37 years and I’m coming to realize I’ve dealt with it in the wrong way.

What we should be discussing is health and wellness.

I just finished reading Matt Walsh’s take on Robin Williams death (http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/08/12/robin-williams-didnt-die-disease-died-choice/). Let me first say, if Matt Walsh is a representative of Christ, and you call yourself a Christian, you should seriously consider a new religion. Anyone who touts truth as the highest ideal is not a follower of Christ. The best thing we can give each other is love. If we must give truth, it must be in love.

Walsh feels the need to point out that suicide is a choice and not just the byproduct of a chemical imbalance. He wants secularists and atheists to admit that depression is a spiritual problem not just a creation of our brains.

Christians pundits like Walsh want us to spiritualize everything. They despise clinical, scientific answers or research. When something bad happens, there must be someone who sinned.

My Own Experience

I have been gluten free for just over a year. It has changed my life. I joke with people that I feel “born again.”

Prior to going gluten free I was frequently losing my temper with my sons. It was getting pretty bad. I mean probably every other day I would freak out and yell at them. There have been a lot of stressful things in my life in the past 5 years, but just because I could understand the stress doesn’t mean I wanted to let myself be a yelling father.

As soon as I made the change to my diet everything changed overnight. In the past year or so I have lost my temper with my sons only a hand full of times. If you believe in miracles, this truly seems like one.

My depression really just stems from being tired all the time. I have dealt with extreme fatigue my whole life. I’d wake up in the morning and within 2 hours I’d feel like I needed to go back to bed. I’m a creative, visionary person, with no energy to follow through with my dreams. Talk about depressing!

So that’s it. After years of seeking God, reading books on Positive Thinking, treating my depression/fatigue problem as a spiritual one, one simple change to my diet transforms my life more than any sermon, or prayer, or Bible verse ever did.

In my experience, depression comes when I feel powerless to be the person I want to be and do the things I want to do. Like when I finally get a morning to myself to write songs or write a blog post, but don’t even have the energy to keep my eyes open.

Not One or The Other

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not discounting the spiritual, but I am very much counting on how the physical effects the spiritual.

My wife is studying yoga to be a certified instructor. The basic idea of yoga is taking care of the physical so we are free to focus on the spiritual. Try focusing on your work when every fiber in your body is screaming for nourishment. You’re not going rail on yourself for not being spiritual enough to overcome your physical hunger with positive thoughts are you? Just feed your body so you can get back to work. In the same way exercise is essential to being able to utilize your brain properly.  Just eat!

My wife and I used to get really irritated with each other in the mid mornings, until we began realizing that if we ate food within the first hour of our day, we didn’t seem to have anything to fight about.

What Does Over-Spiritualizing Look Like?

I was so excited when I started to understand the True Gospel of Grace. All the minor “Thou Shalt Nots” I was taught were evil like beer, tobacco, dancing, and rock ‘n roll were all of a sudden available to me! O Glory Day!

I’d smoke cigars at the end of the day. Discovered a deep love of Lager. Could hear God while listening to the Smashing Pumpkins. Boy I had a lot of cool music to catch up on!

But just because I could spiritually justify drinking beer doesn’t mean it was the right thing for me. Being gluten free means no more drinking beer (sad) but I feel so much better so I don’t really miss it (yea!) Besides I make up for it in my enthusiasm for red wine.

My take on over-spritualizing is using broad, generalized “spiritual truths” and applying them indiscriminately to everyone. Like, “Robin Williams should have had the mental and spiritual fortitude to overcome his negative thoughts.” Wasn’t there some jerk on Fox news who called him a coward?

In the Apostle Paul’s time there was an conflict about whether eating meat which has been sacrificed to idols was okay or not. His answer? Yes, and no. Sorry no one size fits all over-spritualization. If you want to eat it and it doesn’t bother your conscience, go ahead. But if you it bothers you, don’t eat it. Do whatever makes your conscience feel good.

This is my new approach to life: Do whatever makes you happy and avoid things that make you unhappy. And very importantly make sure it’s a sustainable happy. For example, I could drink a lot of beer tonight and get temporarily very happy, but I will end up extremely unhappy and feel crappy tomorrow because of the way gluten affects me.

Let’s stop comparing ourselves amongst ourselves. I could get jealous of my friends who get to drink beer, but why? I’m more happy without it. And isn’t that the point of drinking it in the first place? I’m happy for them that they can still enjoy it. Doing something that makes me happy, like singing and songwriting, might make you want to pull your hair out.

Some people are happy being missionaries in the Congo. Not me. Who’s more spiritual them or me? Neither. We both just do what makes us happy.

Overcoming Depression

This is what overcoming depression looks like: It’s me, right now, admitting that I have had suicidal thoughts in the past 6 months. Gluten free has helped me a lot, but it’s not the total answer to my happiness. Maybe years of feeling like shit and the thought patterns that go along with it have worn a groove in my brain. Maybe some happy pills might help me for awhile until I can thoroughly reboot my system. You better believe my wife is helping me experiment with other crazy diets. I will do whatever it takes to feel good!

I am dealing with anger at God. I guess I’ve had wrong expectations of him. I’m working through it. Realizing I have to take more responsibility for my life and maybe waiting for God to open doors or windows or whatever is just dumb. I’ll tell you what, I feel almost as stupid shaking my fist at the sky as I do yelling at my amazingly wonderful little dudes.

Walsh condescendingly admits he doesn’t understand suicide; can’t fathom it. Well, then keep your mouth shut,  Asshole. Stop shaming people who are human and deal with negative human stuff. You’re the reason modern Christianity is useless. You shame people like Robin Williams forcing everyone else dealing with depression into hiding. “I’m don’t want to admit I’ve had suicidal thoughts, because that means I’m not a good Christian, like Matt Walsh.” Congratulations for pushing away the people who need to be helped the most through this crisis of losing one of our nations most beloved Clowns.

Here’s some preachy Bible stuff for those of you who want a big smack in the head:

The prophet Elijah performed some crazy miracles in just a few days time, which left him physically and emotionally, completely exhausted to the point where he wanted to die. God eventually rewarded him with the incredible experience of being taken into the after-life without experiencing death.

How about this jewel from Numbers 11. It’s Moses talking to God:

11 He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? 13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”

Ironically, God did eventually take Moses’ life, but first he took Moses’ plea seriously and made some changes.

Conclusion

Spirituality begins with the brain which is fed by the body. Just like our stomachs digest food to nourish our bodies, our brains digest truths which nourish our spirits. Keeping body and brain healthy are the first steps to spiritual enlightenment and happiness. We can get there together, by being honest and encouraging each other.

Do you deal with depression? You’re not alone. Please email or call me if you need support. I really have a strong desire to encourage people. I want to live my happiest life and I want you to as well.

While Mr. Williams Rests in Peace, let’s help each other find Peace now; Body, Mind, and Spirit.

 

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