Tuesday, June 22, 2010

* Depression: The Silent Search for Self

Shim GRD ’10 dies in apparent suicide
By Vivian Yee
Staff Reporter
Published Monday, June 21, 2010
The Yale Daily News

Cell biology graduate student Sang-Ohk Shim GRD ’10, a Ph.D. candidate from South Korea, died Sunday in an apparent suicide, Graduate School Dean Jon Butler said in an e-mail to the Graduate School community Sunday evening.

Shim had been receiving psychiatric treatment for depression, but her death still came as a shock, friends said. She had told friends she had nearly finished her thesis, a research project on the role of a particular molecule in brain cell development and recovery, and she expected to receive her degree in September. She had gone out to dinner with other...

#1 By Y10 11:26p.m. on June 21, 2010
All my love to her friends and family. I can't imagine a more confusing sorrow.

And all my love to all of those who may be suffering in silence, as Shim was. There is hope for you--if you reach out, your loved ones will open their arms.

#2 By 이호빈 9:05a.m. on June 23, 2010

Such a travesty to both the Yale community and the Korean community here at Yale. May her family be strong and may she rest in peace.

#3 By newsonline 5:57a.m. on June 24, 2010

Such a loss to her friends, family and community. My condelences to you all

#4 By Helen Li 1:45p.m. on June 24, 2010

Absolutely shocking. Such a beautiful and outstanding young lady. My prayers and condolences for her family and friends.

#5 By by a news reader 3:16p.m. on June 24, 2010

I can't help my self to saying how sad i am for all her loved ones and those who new her. My condalences to you all at yale and the Korean community for such a lost.

#6 By Yalie 7:01p.m. on June 27, 2010

How sad. May she rest in peace. Remember to seek help, this is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

#7 By By a news reader 7:53a.m. on July 1, 2010

I just read this article,and i feel so sad for all of her family, loved ones, and to everyone at yale. It is such a shame that such a bright,beautifull, person would end her life, when it was only the beggining of her life.My prayers go out to everyone.


My sincere condolences to Ms. Shim's family.

“She was all about everyone else” said her deskmate.

The following words are offered to those who think no one could ever feel as isolated as they feel:

The insidious thing about depression is the sense of emptiness and artificiality it creates in the depressed person. Religion—from Christianity to Buddhism - - - - preaches EXACTLY the wrong thing for such an illness: be SELFLESS, help OTHERS, get out of your SELF.

The trouble with depression is that the self either remains UNFORMED or, what there is of it, is DISINTEGRATING from the inside out.

In short, there is no SELF with which to be SELF-LESS; there is no THERE there. Attempting to give away what you don’t have in the first place simply digs the emptiness hole deeper.

Instead of self, there is the robotic performance of other people’s expectations, as if one were a puppet on a stage.

What a depressed person needs is permission and encouragement to be SELF-FULL, not SELF-LESS---permission to STOP being a people-pleaser and try to find out what one’s unique self is and what please IT, not what pleases OTHERS.

This is precisely the opposite of what the self-abnegation and self-mortification religions preach ( with much damage to the converted, I might add).

Freud’s “Where Id was, there shall Ego be” is ignored by these self-eradication religions, if not transformed into “Where Id was, there shall emptiness be”.

Weirdly, those religions think emptiness is cleanliness, and therefore suitable for entry of the numinous, the Divine.

For a depressed person, this emptiness is a recipe for suicide.

Having spent 17 years in academia as a student, I can say first-hand that in each of my college experiences (from age 20 to age 52) I reached a point in the process of obtaining a degree when I said “What am I doing this FOR? It’s all worthless and phony.”

This crisis point used to be called “sophomore slump” for undergraduates. I believe it is a distant and genderless cousin of  post-partum depression:

Is that all there is?

What am I here for?

Why am I kowtowing to other people’s expectations?

What gives ME meaning?

These are the questions students should be exploring. Instead they are sometimes fed formulas of selflessness from religions, religions which have already decided the answers: Self is sin!

Mike Wallace, William Styron, Jane Pauley all embarked on such exploration after reaching a different kind of emptiness, the emptiness of success.

Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Wolfe, Sylvia Plath did not.

Depression is the silent, lonely search for self. Its negativity drives others away adding to the already crushing certainty that things will never get better. Often it is accompanied by 'racing-brain disease' and sudden panic which feels like adhesive bandages being ripped off the inside of one's chest.

Professionals can assist in lifting the burden with therapy and medication (whose side effects in rare instances provokes suicide), but the search must be by its nature a solitary one.

For the perfectionist, the intellectual, the artist, often a pet, a hobby, or a common duty (mowing the lawn) is salvation from incessant cerebration. Structure and a schedule are similarly salvific.

Depression needs to be respected as a courageous exploration, not hidden in a closet of smiles and service.

 It also needs to be monitored.

Paul Keane
M.Div. ‘80

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