My heart hurts today.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Robin Williams – from the first time I saw him in Good Morning Vietnam I knew he was a phenomenal actor, and I made a point to watch every movie I knew he was going to be in.  I’ve always been told by people – sometimes several times a week – that I was a dead ringer for Robin Williams.  Even in his later career, The Crazy Ones was an amazing show [I’m still angry it got cancelled].

I’ve seen tons of blog posts and articles on the matter – the one that stood out, however, is worth discussing. The ever-infamous Matt Walsh has weighed in.  I won’t link to the blog post (feel free to visit his site if you want to see it), but the main point of the article is this: depression is not an issue of disease, but one of spirit.  That “chemical imbalances” are false and that we are somehow far from Jesus if we feel the need to take our own life. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.

My wife Holly suffers from depression.  Truth be told, when she’s going through a down day the entire world seems to shut down around her.  She takes medication for it, but if she misses a few doses then, as she puts it, the whole world seems to crash down around her.

Depression is something that can affect anyone – no matter how “spiritual” or “centered” or “famous” or “funny” or whatever.  Depression isn’t racist, ageist, classist, and doesn’t discriminate against anyone.  It’s overwhelming in the absolute worst ways.  It overtakes your sense of joy and happiness and replaces everything with the worst of the worst thoughts you can have.  You forget the things that make you happy – even your most favorite activity won’t drag you out of it. As family members, we can’t fix it – and that’s the hardest part for me.  All I can do is sit there, put my arm around her, and reassure her that things will be OK – even if the world around her is crashing down.

I’ve had first hand experience with suicidal students in youth ministry.  Many would dismiss them as calls for attention, but I believe that every case deserves to at least be looked at.  If the disease is truly there, and medication can help, then I think it’s worth it.  Some of them were wolf cries – someone just wanting an adult to take notice – but some are doing better after therapy and medication. If you or someone you know has the symptoms of depression:

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
  • Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
  • Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
  • Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
  • Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
  • Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
  • Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
  • Reckless behavior. You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
  • Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
  • Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.

…then you owe it to them to step in and have them seek out treatment options. Robin Williams was loved by many.  He’ll be missed, most of all by his family and friends.  And there’s nothing we could have done to prevent it.  But there is something you can do for your friends and family.  Support them.  Be there for them.  And be the voice of reason – the push – that some people truly need.