This last weekend, Rick Warren’s son Matthew completed suicide after years of struggling with clinical depression. If you don’t recognize the name, Rick Warren is a very influential American evangelist, and many people both within Christianity and outside of it have a problem with his theology and politics. I happen to be one of them. But I also am a fairly empathetic person, and even more than that I see a lot of myself both in Matthew and his father. So I’ve been really interested with the way people have reacted to this news. It’s a reflection of a lot of my own experiences, played out on a larger scale.
I don’t mean I’ve become an evangelical, or that I agree with Warren Sr.’s politics. Quite the contrary. But I’m also someone who has spent the better part of the last decade dealing with clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. I’ve also known people who I love deeply who died through suicide. I’m not suicidal myself and never have been, but I really do think I understand a piece of what Matthew was going through. I’ve never been suicidal myself, and I am not Matthew, so I can’t say I understand Matthew’s situation exactly.
But I’ve felt the physical pain, the inertia, the self-loathing. I’ve developed language with my friend where we talked about ankle days, calf days, waist days, shoulder days – alluding to how difficult it was to move about and get things done, an analogy with walking through snow at that height. Walking through snow up to your ankles is the best-case scenario. Action isn’t impossible, but it’s draining, it’s hard to get anything done, and then on top of things you really are your own worst enemy. I know this side of Matthew’s pain, or at least a taste of something similar enough that I know better than to pass judgment on him too hastily.