First Do No Harm


With the recent suicide of Robin Williams, there has been a lot of talk of depression, suicide, and, amazingly enough, brain damage during cardiovascular surgery. (Who knew?)

Depression is nearly epidemic. Itís almost as if it was contagious. Although the connection between nutrition and depression is not accepted by conventional medicine, they still havenít a clue as to its cause cloaking every aspect of the epidemic in two terms: chemical imbalance.

We know that psychoanalysis isnít a cure. Even before he died, Freud admitted that psychoanalysis just makes people angrier and meaner.

Iím convinced there is a connection between nutrition and lifestyle, and depression. However, I also know that sometimes, we suffer from sadness, and thatís okay. We are allowed to be sad. To our Native American brothers and sisters (the Lakota, more specifically) depression is an inner sadness surfacing.

There are some very simple, but temporary, solutions to depression. One is exercise. Iíve seen people clinically depressed who smiled and laughed all afternoon while playing tennis.

Then there is helping others. When we are helping others, we lose the focus on our own problems and this alleviates our depression.

The one thing we do know about depression is that the things one must do to combat it are usually the last things a depressed person will do.

And must I add that success has never cured depression.

A man goes to doctor and tells the doctor he's depressed. He says his life is harsh and cruel and that he feels all alone in a threatening world.

The doctor says, ďTreatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up.Ē

The man bursts into tears. ďBut doctor.....I am Pagliacci.Ē

As a youngster, growing up in a ďmedicalĒ family, I had an interest in medicine. The field I was most interested in happened to be psychiatry. This, however, was prior to the pharmaceutical takeover of psychiatry.

I remember listening to a lecture on suicide back then, and it must have made an impression, because certain aspects of the lecture have stayed with me all my life.

I remember the lecturer saying: Three things are needed for a person to commit suicide:

  1. The person must want to die.

  2. The person must want to be dead.

  3. The person must be able to murder.

The difference between 1 and 2 is very subtle. Many people want to be dead, but they donít want to go through the action of dying. Fewer want to actually experience the act of dying, but donít want to be dead. And the last one was a shocker when Iíd heard it, but it soon made sense. The individual has to be cable of murder. He or she is taking a life.

With all the violent shootings in our society ending in suicide of the shooter, itís pretty clear that the suicidal person is capable of murder.

Selfish Act?

There was a real hubbub in the press when someone on Fox News called Robin Williamsí act: selfish.

I have to admit, calling it selfish is ďclose.Ē Close but no cigar.

In Catís Cradle, a book by Kurt Vonnegut, he creates a religion called Bokononism. When a member of that religion commits suicide, he says: "Now I will destroy the whole world."

I donít know if Kurt Vonnegut had ever contemplated suicide or whether he was just darn intuitive, but he hit upon something that few people realize; something only someone who has been there knows.

You see, a Bokonist, on the verge of suicide is more than selfish; heís solipsistic. Solipsism is a belief that only the self exists. Nothing else exists; everything in the universe is the creation of the individual.

Thus, if the individual kills himself, heís actually killing the world, the universe.

As I said, this was either something Vonnegut had experienced or he was very intuitive because, I happen to have been there.

Does the suicidal person think of those around him? Of course. At first, he does. But then the universe begins contracting as the potential suicide slips deeper and deeper into the void. Itís silent, painless, and emotionally freeing. The universe has contracted tighter and tighter, swaddling the individual warmly in its squeeze, so tight that there is nothing else; just the individual, as big as the universe.

The next step is not just ending oneís self, but ending the universe.

When a person reaches this point, there is usually no turning back. Itís not a cry for help. Itís not a selfish act. It is the ending of everything. The end of all pain and suffering.

Personally, I donít remember exactly what brought me back. Iíd had close friends. One of them got me to the VA. I spent time, institutionalized here and there.

But I will never forget entering the void.

Yes, the suicide hurts mainly the people around him, but one can only imagine the pain he felt in order to get to that point; to end it all.

Now you can regurgitate all the clichťs about suicide till youíre blue in the face: Itís a permanent solution to a temporary problemÖetc etc etc.

What people need are loving friends. Real friends who are there when times are great and when times are rough.

And we need that special friend who sees into us and knows when we need a friend.

Often there are signs that afriend needs us. And sometimes there are none.

Iím not an expert on this subject, but I do know that nobody commits suicide who is convinced he is loved and loved deeply.

We need more of that in the world and a lot less bullshit, anger, hatred, bullets, and greed.


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