Robin Williams, a famous actor and comedian, struggled with severe depressive disorder most of his life. The other day, the depression won, and he committed suicide.
Most people have enough compassion, or at least enough humanity, that they offer condolences, even if they don’t really feel sadness at his death. But I have seen some making comments that essentially ridicule him and those who offer condolences.
On Facebook, one speaks of a horrible news story of a man holding his beheaded child in his arms as Muslims try to force him to convert to Islam. He then contrasted this to all the meme’s remembering Robin Williams, who had everything and had a “good” life, but committed suicide. He commented, all they have to do is call on Jesus for strength to endure. While there is a certain amount of truth, this showed a profound lack of compassion or understanding from someone who does not even begin to comprehend genuine depression.
Certainly, what that family had to face is horrible beyond imagination, but that does nothing to help those with depression. It is like telling someone is bound to a wheelchair for the rest of their life, “Look at so and so, his wife died. You should not feel so bad about being in a wheelchair and in constant pain.”
I also have a depressive disorder. And I certainly do call on Jesus for strength to endure, for strength to carry on. My disorder is perhaps not as severe as Robin Williams’ was, but it is still there. And I must live day by day seeking strength from Christ.
Most of the time, I do not think about the depression, because it is self-feeding. When you let the feeling arise, it just keeps building and building, reinforcing itself. But it is always there, right under the surface, waiting for opportunity to rear its ugly head.
Even when you go through a period of happy times, times of victories and accomplishments, it sits there, waiting. … Waiting for the elation to fade so it can resurface. It is like a living thing, there to tell you that you are nothing, a nobody. I am not talking about mere low self esteem. It goes even deeper than that.
Depression is attached to the natural man, the sin nature within every person. Most people have other strongholds that dominate that nature, those things they must always watch for if they engage in spiritual battle. It could be lying, or gossip, or anger, or lust. Any number of things.
But only a few things create such a battle as depression. Just as the love of money is a root of every kind of evil, so is depression. It can lead to murder, to suicide, to overeating or starving yourself, to sexual sins. Anything that might alleviate the pain for just a few moments, that might make you feel better about yourself, if only just briefly. Then, eventually, the depression comes right back in like a flood.
Through faith in Christ, I find a reason to keep fighting the good fight, even when I want to just curl up in a ball and shut out the world, shut out life. He is my hope, my certainty, that one day healing will come, in this life perhaps, but certainly when I fully enter into eternal life. If I endure to the end, as Scripture repeatedly says. If I keep on keeping on.
He is my source of strength when my depression arises. Many do not have that hope within, that certainty through faith that God loves them, regardless of what their feelings tell them. Others, who are believers, can be overwhelmed and briefly forget this truth, and then in their moment of weakness fall prey to suicidal thoughts. It would be so easy to just give in, to quit fighting. The fight, at times, can be quite hard.
There is a Michael Card song that says, “I swear by all that’s holy, I will not give up the fight. I will drink down death like water before I ever come again, to that dark place where I might make the choice for life to end.”
My sincere condolences to the family of Robin Williams from someone who understands that fight.
UPDATE: More to the story. On top of the depression he had to fight every day, he had just found out he had Parkinson’s disease, a very debilitating condition. So, we have the trigger, the thing he could not face.