Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." Genesis 9:13

Friday, April 12, 2013

Matthew Warren

I've written a lot about suicide lately.  I've been dealing with it heavily for nearly 2 months per Dr. Mind 's notes and it is something that both weigh on my mind and terrifies me.  I didn't write about this and I should have.  Michal reminded me of it and I guess I can focus on someone else for a change.

For those who don't know, Matthew is the son of pastor and author Rick Warren.  Last weekend he killed himself.  His father has spoken of it, essentially saying that Matthew had mental illness and everything was done to help him but it didn't work.  That last thing is really important:  it didn't work is much, much different than casting blame.  It's not about blame and it's not about guilt.  It's about illness that is so hard to live with that sometimes  desperation feels like the only solution.  Suicide is not about not having faith.  I thought for a long time that it was the unforgivable sin because you can't ask forgiveness.  I don't believe that now.  I believe God recognizes desperation and God forgives.  God know what mental illness is and it is not something that He has chosen to take away like some many physical diseases.  We live in a world where most kids won't have chicken pox, something that was nearly universal for us (except me, I wasn't immune when tested and I only had half the shots because of psych reactions that occurred simultaneously to the shot.  It's probably not the shot but we aren't taking chances.  So when I get chicken pox at 38 you can know it was my decision), but mental illness is controlled for some and not for others.  Not knowing why things work for what people makes treatment extremely difficult.

 Mental illness has a lot more treatment options now than it did 20 years ago but a quick look at my undermedicated because of lack of meds life shows why there are still so many who find they cannot find the hope to make it another day.  Finding hope daily is an actual job with mental illness.  When the reality is that counseling is very helpful for many but commonly needs to be augmented with meds, yet there is no way to know what med will work for what person and what combination is needed.  Sometimes people can't take the wait to find what works.  Sometimes the meds are just too much to deal with.  People forget sometimes that being on psych meds often includes:  significant weight gain, thirst, tooth decay from dry mouth, diabetes, fatigue, restlessness,nausea, GERD, insomnia, interaction with other meds, anxiety, severe constipation, diarrhea, sedation, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to the sun, heat sensitivity, and hundreds of others.  Psych meds aren't easy.  What is even harder is that they don't know why meds work.  I was on a med called Latuda in 2011.  I was on it soon after it came out.  It lasted maybe 2 weeks.  It made me worse and I couldn't describe how.  A few months later I was taking that NAMI class I took and someone in there and later in my support group was having amazing results from this new drug.  I asked and it was Latuda.  A month later another support group member started Latuda and had immediate improvement.  Soon after someone commented on here or emailed me about how much Latuda was helping them. I am convinced it is the drug that helps everyone but me.

I guess what I'm saying is that some will judge this man.  He presumably was a Christian and "shouldn't" kill himself.  Some Christians think mental illness is all about not having enough faith and not asking God for help the right way.  Some in fact completely discourage treatment, something we know was not true of the family of this man.  Unfortunately it's hard to not absorb this belief when you already are depressed and feel that you should be doing SOMETHING different or you wouldn't feel this way.

He should not be judged.  Neither should his family or anyone involved with him.  I know that Dr. Mind once had a patient kill himself/herself within a few days of seeing Dr. Mind.  I know that he feels tremendous guilt and that he feels he should be exceedingly cautious, which is how I know I'll wind up in the hospital if he is concerned.

Suicide is an awful, desperate choice.  Feeling you wanat to die more than you want to keep trying to live is nearly impossible to describe.  When you are a Christian there is even more to contend with in that you (I, I assume others) feel like there is no hope and yet faith is about believing there is hope.  To me it's about  feeling there is no hope for life here but that if I can move into the life I know awaits me after death that maybe  I'll find that hope I struggle desperately to hold to because I know it is what God promises.

It's so hard.  That's all I can say to describe it. Talking about it is good, but it is also not socially acceptable.  It is not easy.  Even with people I'm comfortable discussing it with it is hard because you don't want to be hospitalized where you can't do what you've decided.  Seeing and wanting help is hard. On the other hand help can happen.  Dr. Mind asked me recently how close I'd been.  The answer is scary.  My last hospitalization, the one for suicide, the first few days they didn't get it.  They thought it was all about my lithium levels and they were trying to get those increasing and send me home.  When I realized Tuesday night that they intended to send me home Friday I realized I was there because I wanted one more chance.  I wrote what later was described as a suicide note and go the help I needed.  It was so tempting to go home, blame the hospital for not getting it, and following through with the plans.

Right now I keep  pointing out to people that I may be talking about this as something that seems to be part of any loss now.  I keep telling them that I can't do this for another 30-40-50 years.  This is existence, not life.  I think they get it and Dr. Brain promised to throw every med that comes out at me until something makes that time sound less awful.  But hopeless is insidious and when your brain creates it it's hard to live with.  In my case my brain seems to look forward and malfunction; it has for years.  It's always the future that makes me want to die.  If I had even a hint of what would happen 10 years into a career that I fought for I wouldn't have done it.  And I would have missed so much, but that can be impossible to see.

All this is to say, I hope that this is something that helps Christians grow in their knowledge and understanding of mental illness.  I hope that people learn and that this gives a positive to the Warrens' loss.  I hope that they do not judge and that they remember how much they respect Rick Warren and that they extend that respect to his son, someone who sought treatment and still couldn't face a life of pain that is not easily imagined by someone who is not in that position.

Grace please,  just let people react with grace.  God will.


Jean Grey said...

Some days what allows me to go on is the knowledge that this won't last forever. I will die, eventually. Of old age if nothing else. It is pretty sad that this can be comforting, but it is. As for suicide- it can be a comfort to know it is an option in some ways, but sometimes I get so obsessed with it that my brain just needs a break from arguing about it- which happened with my last hospitalization. I felt safe enough that I could stop thinking about it for a few days.

Michal Ann said...

Thank you, Jen, for this very insightful and helpful post.

xoxo Michal

Michal Ann said...

Jen, this is my sister's message.

Thanks for sharing Jen's thoughts. Her insights give a glimpse into the heart breaking struggles of a person living with bi-polar illness. I will pray for her health and for all those who are supporting her.

p.s. You remember that her daughter's good friend lost her son Asher a year ago and her best friend's brother lost his battle as did our sister.