Depression, Robin Williams, The Church and Me
Our whole nation is mourning Robin Williams. He for a long while was very open his bi-polarity, depression and addiction. And in that he is not alone. It is believed that 30% of Americans suffer from either or both substance addiction and some form of serious depression.
I have noted in the last fifteen years the church come along way in its understanding and approach to depression and those depressed. Oh yes there are still the magnificent morons out there. But most of the church at least is beginning to understand the the malady defies simple solutions of pray and “getting right.”
Yet there is still a stigma on any individual who admits to being a sufferer of this pain. And that is sad. From my experience I would say an astonishing number of church leaders deal with some form of bio-chemical depression. This depression is different that situational depression or depression brought about by poor mental hygiene or things like a lack of forgiving. All are rough but at least the other usually goes away with some cognitive counseling or making life adjustments and improving thinking habits.
I have suffered from depression that at times has been very severe at times since I was a young man. I didn’t know what it was for years. I took the approach that basically believed everyone dealt with what I did. It was actually my mid-thirties before I realized that this stuff was running me I wasn’t running it. It was kind of friend sometimes like Churchill’s description of his depression as the “dark Black Cat” that visited him.
I have a variety of depression that follows a period of creative bursts. I don’t get crazy or destructive I just incredibly focused and get the work done. I wrote a book in four days in this state once. I would say this part of me is just a period of way too much good.
Then I slid into what I call my monks mode. I hide out. It hurts to be around people. I cant’ focus. I have horrid agitation. the agitation effects my ability to type – or converse. And I feel like am in a bubble and can’t connect with anyone or beauty. I have learned to be joyous if you can imagine by faith and grit my way through what I have to do. And I feel despair, days and days of despair.
You would only slightly know what I was going through even if you knew me well. Remember it gets to in some ways feel like home. And the really horrifying reality is when this comes on the docs proved to me that it lasts exactly three months. So when it starts I know that’s where I will be for three months. And let me tell you I panic. But there is only one way through and that’s going through.
Yes, three months. I know that I know where Robin Williams was living. And you know no one can help you. I thankfully have found a deep connection with God in the darkness which I know few know because they have never felt that much pain. I have often wished I were dead for days at a time. The separation is unbearable.
I had fortunately have had two extraordinary docs. One, Dr. Ray Vath taught me that King David in the Bible had exactly the variety of this stuff that I do. Yet God called him a man after his own heart. It is a possibility as well that Peter was some variety of this thing. And for sure King Saul suffered as well. Dr. Vath pointed out to me that David had the ability to not be narcissistic in his pain or elation and also was able to listen to others. These were skills I sought to master.
I hated most of the drugs. Most I got every side effect the meds had. And others put me in a state that was more unlivable than the depression. Then one day I was coming out of one my journeys inward and Dr Vath shared with me he had finally found something I felt would hit my issue. It was a med that they gave parkinson disease sufferers. Somehow it keeps dopamine levels high. I shortly found I was normal. Since this med I only experienced maybe two to one week of depression at a time. It was marvelous. It was like coming into the gates of heaven for me. No more covering up how badly I felt. Or worrying about my reputation and people thinking I was incompetent or dangerous. It just felt good to discover what feeling good feels like.
If you are not one who is afflicted please fall down and thank God now. You are a very very very fortunate person.
I have lived in Florida now for two years. I love what I am doing here. It is thrilling to face each day’s work. And the most amazing part of living here is besides Mickey’s place I haven’t had even ten minutes of depression for two years. I still take a mild dose of some meds and the magic med Dr. Vath gave me. Life is more than good.
I have two reactions to things like Robin Williams suicide. One, I understand why. Two, rather than recriminating the suicidal everyone who doesn’t should fall on your face and thank God for the life you have. You have many more reasons than you realize to me thankful.
In conclusion the truth is I can hold my own with anyone’s competency. And I probably would trust my perception of life as much as anyone. My thinking is razor sharp. But I have had to have a regular practice of self-awareness and patience. I have found my way enough times that I know most everything ends at some point.
They say one thing depression suffers develop is an acute sense of empathy for others. I hope I have that. I think I do. If you or loved ones suffer I am writing this mainly because once in awhile I come out with my story. I am 63 now and no one can really do any more damage than I have inflicted upon myself. And every time I am honest I get a flurry of leaders, successful business people, and parents thank me and often ask for help.
Of course there is a spiritual component to this. For a number of years I was a speaker for a national organization seeking research and help for families and individuals who suffered from a depression or other mental illness issues. I met some of the most intelligent creative people in my life at these meetings who were learning to talk about their challenges. I usually taught on the spiritual effects and contribution to healing.
I hardly think of it these days. i would be dishonest if I didn’t that I am somewhat fearful about writing this story. And I am also a little embarrassed at some level. It’s hard to admit your broken.
So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.