Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Still learning from Robin Williams

The death of Robin Williams saddens me, in many ways. I’ll miss his incredible talent, his delicious humor. But the thing that saddens me the most is that his life didn’t have to end this way.

I hesitated before writing this entry, because it’s very personal and it really doesn’t have a lot to do with my work with prisoners. Except that I’m still here doing it at age 77, and still loving life to the fullest.

My simple message: depression is curable. And, pious and simplistic bits of advice are not the answer.

During my two-year bout with depression in the mid-90s, well-meaning people had quick advice, like, “Just trust in the Lord.” Well, I had never stopped trusting in the Lord, but I was afflicted with a disease. In one of the Homecoming videos, Gloria Gaither encourages those with depression to sing a song about Jesus. I’ll grant you that music was incredibly soothing to me during this difficult time. But it wasn’t the cure.

I find this quite amazing: We quickly run to the doctor when we experience serious physical problems. We won’t even put up with a prolonged bellyache. There’s gotta be a cure. But when we have a mental problem, there’s a stigma attached. We’re reluctant to admit that our mind is ill and that we need a doctor. Instead, we think we’ll tough it out. What a serious mistake.

Just like with physical problems, it may take a while to find the right professional to get to the root of the problem. A well-meaning minister sent me to a Christian counselor. Our chemistry didn’t blend at all, and my condition worsened. I went to another, and he made me angry. No healing there. But finally, thanks to some divine intervention, I connected with the right therapist. I called Marcia on my cell phone after the first visit, with a simple message: “I’m going to get better!”

It’s no shame to experience depression, any more than it’s a shame to have a headache. Stories do not have to have a tragic ending like that of Robin Williams.

The psalmist says: “…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

May we learn from today’s sad news report. There are qualified professionals to help us deal with depression. But they can’t help us if we don’t seek it.

Depression is curable. I’m a living example.

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