Thanks to Beliefnet’s Lilit Marcus and my friend Priscilla Warner for the lead on J.K. Rowling’s quotes regarding her depression.
As much as I am pleased that she admits her despondency in the years before the Harry Potter series, and therefore contributes to lessening the stigma, it’s too bad, that once again, everyone hears that she was depressed BECAUSE of the ugly divorce from her first husband, Portuguese journalist Jorge Arantes.
We’re back to classic equation most people use when trying to understand a suicide or suicide attempt: Owen Wilson wanted to die because of the Kate Hudson separation, yada yada yada.
While I know that severe major depression and cycles of depression with bipolar disorder can be triggered by life events, they don’t make the depression. Depression, as I have said 100 times on Beyond Blue, is a brain disease, just like cancer or diabetes or arthritis. It is not caused by a divorce, or a bad breakup, or a job failure, just like a person doesn’t become diabetic when her husband is caught having an affair (unless she stuffs her face with Ben and Jerry’s to cope, that is). Even if those things precede a severe episode.
“The thing that made me go for help was probably my daughter,” said Rowling, referring to the then-infant, Jessica, reports the Telegraph. “She was something that earthed me, grounded me, and I thought, this isn’t right, this can’t be right, she cannot grow up with me in this state.”
While I appreciate her point here, it once again deceives the masses on the complicated and disabling bio-chemistry, on the neurological shut down, that happens inside the brain of a person with a serious mood disorder.
Despite Rowling’s suicidal thoughts, it’s possible that her depression wasn’t that severe. Because when a person wants to die as much as I wanted to die, no one thing is enough to save her. While I knew that I had to hang on for my kids, I also wanted to disappear for my kids. My self-esteem was so low that I wanted to get out of the picture so that they had a shot at a normal life without the baggage of a whackjob mom.
My God, think if everyone just had to think of their kids to save their lives! There would be so many less suicides. I truly wish that was all you needed to think about. But I know that this disease is so powerful and manipulative, that it finds a way to persuade you to end it FOR THE GOOD of your kids.
I applaud Rowling for speaking publicly about her darker days, for saying this: “I have never been remotely ashamed of having been depressed. Never. I think I’m abnormally shameless on that account because what’s to be ashamed of?”
I congratulate her on telling anyone who suffers from depression to “go and get help.” But I warn people of the shallowness in this one profile: that falling down with a breakup and picking yourself up for the kids can itself send a superficial impression of what, exactly, this brain disease is capable of.