First in response to Diana, I do not know that suicide can ever be a rational act, except in cases where the person is terminally ill or in continuous pain. However, there are people who have committed suicide impulsively, and if they had only had a good dinner and a few hours sleep . . . . . these are not the people with deep mental illness. They may have been reacting to an event, a young person whose boyfriend texted her his desire to break up with her, etc. But, still, for a person in this situation to go through with it, there was definitely a problem with the person's self-defense mechanisms.
Now, Carrol, I would not think any person with depression to be crazy. Crazy is college kids engaging in a drinking contest and one of them ends up in the hospital or dead. Crazy is Colbert. But, depression is not crazy. Mental illness is not crazy. And I certainly know there is a difference between clinical depression and a period of depression someone may experience after losing a job . . .or a father.
I told you about my sister, who was worried since the day her daughter was born over 20 years ago that she would inherit mental illness from her grandmother, my sister's ex-husband's mother, diagnosed with schizophrenia. I'll always remember this one day when my sister called me, several years ago now. My niece would have been 14/15 or so. My sister sounded upset and I asked what was wrong and she said that she and my niece had a fight the evening before. I was not very concerned, of course, a mother and teenage daughter at odds. Then, she told me what she said to her. She said that "You are going to end up just like your crazy grandmother." I was so angry at my sister that I had to hang up the phone and call her back later when I had calmed down. My sister was taking her pent up fears and hitting her daughter over the head with them, and setting up a self-prophesy type of scenario for my niece. My niece, fortunately, does not have her grandmother's condition, but she does experience anxiety. Since that day, Aunt Kate has kept in close contact with her niece, although a million miles separates us, her in CA and me in FL. When she was floundering after high school, I encouraged her to go to college, even though she didn't know what she wanted to do and the world scared her. I tried to find out what would be good for her, and she mentioned the Peace Corps and she mentioned doing something important and I suggested nursing. She's now almost through with the pre-requisites and will be able to enter nursing school in the fall. She's a good artist, but she wants to be independent financially, and so we talked about career. She thought doctor, too, but wishes to pursue her art still, and decided upon becoming a nurse, maybe traveling after. She talks to me about her anxiety. I tell her that many young women her age have like feelings, about being scared of the future, not fitting in, her looks, her looks (and she's very pretty), being afraid to venture from the house sometimes, finding the right man, etc, etc. etc and I tell her to try to strengthen her self-defense mechanisms. I tell her to enjoy life. I tell her it's good to think, but not about herself, not to analyze her every move, her every conversation. She's been on and off meds for the anxiety. She's doing good in school. She has a part time job. She has a boyfriend. I just hope that she can overcome the anxiety. Aunt Kate has done her best, Carrol and she's never once thought her or anybody like her crazy.
In a message dated 3/31/2009 12:27:14 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, [log in to unmask]
Diana Manister wrote:
> Dear Kate,
> Your statement "then she was certainly mentally ill, going beyond
> depression" is apparently based on the assumption that depression is
> not mental illness. Major depressive episodes, whether part of the
> bipolar cycle or not, are certainly mental illness. An agitated
> depression includes a nearly unbearable level of anxiety as well as
> depression. What would you label mental illness if not that?
> I do think suicide is not always the result of mental illness; it can
> be a rational act.
I think Kate really wants to say "crazy," but knowing that that is no
longer socially acceptable tries to make the respectable term "mental
illness" do the work for her. Kate, you are obviously intelligent and
know how to think, but mere intelligence simply cannot by itself make up
for profound ignorance.
Kate probably also confuses clinical depression with "depression" as
used by those who say to a sufferer from depression, "I know just how
you feel. I really went into a funk after I lost my job or after my wife
died." Those who so speak probably never know how close they have come
to losing a few teeth. And as Diana notes, there are many features of
depressiosive illness other than what I call "plain vanilla depression,"
intense anxiety being only one of them. One can be deprived of sleep or,
on the contrary, be unable to do anything but sleep.. . . Or suppose
that in Eliot's case there had been a trivial error of phrasing which in
memory might seem portentious in his last letter to Verdenal -- looming
ever larger and more oppressively in his memory as a profound wrong that
could never be set right! And so forth. I could go on for some length.
Or profound self-depreciation: in 1958 it came back to me through the
grapevine that Austen Wrren had been praising me highly behnd my back,
resulting not in pleasure but in some loss of respect for Warren's
judgment (as in Groucho Marx's "I would not belong to a club that would
have me as a member").