Could we have prevented this suicide? - Every survivor asks the question in the aftermath of a loved one's death. In Searching for Normal: The Story of a Girl Gone Too Soon, Karen Meadows traces through her daughter Sadie's entire life, reexamining every decision that affected Sadie's illness. No, Karen, for God's sake, you even paid professionals to find the best options out there for Sadie's care.
Sadie was a bright, lively, inventive child with obvious gifts and potential. A victim of bullying, things turned dark in middle school. The school's routine screening for depression yielded an awkward phone call to her parents - they should get her treatment.
Depression is the DSM's junk drawer. Lots of people start their sojourn in diagnosis by getting slotted into it. Lots of them get moved to another drawer when antidepressants prove less than helpful. Sadie's first suicide attempts followed closely upon beginning treatment with antidepressants.
Ten years ago I retired on a mental illness disability. It was a relief. It was dreadful. It was a heartbreak. And I was pretty sick.
Being a priest is a public job, and mine had been more public than most. So between retirement and the mental illness that led to it, I felt isolated and had a serious case of Who the hell am I, anyway?
But I sat down, signed up for a blog, wrote my first post, and there it was, my new life, Prozac Monologues: Reflections and Research on the Mind, the Brain, Mental Illness, and Society.
This is the place where I have recorded my learning about what happened to me: genetic variation, childhood trauma, wonky wiring, unhappy mitochondria, that broken internal clock... followed by misdiagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, inappropriate antidepressant medication, a bit of psychiatric manipulation, a new diagnosis of Bipolar 2. And then recovery. Not cure, but recovery, as in the way I live the rest of my life.
Anosognosia. It means lack of insight. But from the mouth of Xavier Amador, it’s his ticket. He tells you he knows why your son or daughter won’t take meds. And you are desperate for the answer, aren’t you. Because schizophrenia is a terrible disease and your beloved child is sick and won’t take the meds. The meds would make everything alright. So you are desperate and Xavier Amador throws you a lifeline, a promise that once you understand this unpronounceable word, you can learn how to get your child to take the meds.
He must be right, right? Because he is a psychologist and he can pronounce it. And then the kicker, he also loved somebody with schizophrenia, and he says he got him to take the meds. So NAMI invites him to give the spotlight lecture, and for the rest of the convention, parents hear every other presentation through the filter of this new word that they cannot pronounce.
Here is how you pronounce it:
But really, why bother? It means lack of insight. But you have heard o…
Eight years ago I wrote "I don't believe in God anymore." It was the title of a book chapter, a book reflecting on suicide from a Christian perspective, though probably not the Christian perspective that you think about when I say that. More like what goes through the mind of a Christian who is suicidal and is bringing what is left of her theology to the experience and desperately trying to tell the truth about it. The truth. Not what we want the truth to be. Just the truth. It wasn't exactly a suicide note, though it might have been taken that way if that's the way it turned out.
It didn't turn out that way. I recovered. "I don't believe in God anymore" anticipated that I would recover, but that wouldn't make the problem go away. Relapse was statistically probable. I might be in that darkest of places again. This chapter dealt with the problem of suffering. Oh, how tidily that phrase expresses the chaos of a believer's brain when looking…