As I continue to see more and more news related to the passing of Robin Williams, I can honestly say that I can see one good thing coming from his passing. People are opening up and discussing depression. People are admitting to personal battles, talking about loved ones that have battled it and the effects it’s had on so many lives.
I have personally battled depression for as long as I can remember. Yes, thoughts of suicide have often been part of the illness. There are periods of time in my life when just finding a reason not to do it is a struggle within itself.
Sometimes, the darkness gets so deep, the pain so intense, the feelings of hopelessness and anxiety so overwhelming, that it’s all I can think about. It feels like the only escape from the pain that I’m feeling.
Yes, I have attempted suicide before due to my depression. No, I’m not proud of it and it’s something that I generally discuss very reluctantly even with family or close friends, much less publicly. Only people who have fought with it and hid it will ever know how hard it is for me to write this.
I grew up in a time when mental illness was still very taboo, even more so than it is now. It was a dirty secret you tried desperately to hide. You could loose the few people you had that loved you if you were open about it. People either thought you were “crazy” or it was “all in your head”.
People that did not suffer from it didn’t understand and people that did suffer from it, didn’t want to discuss it. Honestly, that still seems to be the way it is, only not quite as bad.
They say it’s even worse for men. I suppose part of that is that men are raised to be the strong one emotionally. Many men would not admit to being truly depressed for anything because they fear that people will see them as weak.
Depression is hard, and it often feels contagious. You try to talk to someone and if they don’t shut you out and try to understand, you walk away feeling like “oh great, now they’re depressed too”.
Self-medication with drugs and alcohol are considered a “normal” side-effects of untreated depression, but the thing is, there is no real treatment for it. The medication helps sometimes, just as for some, counseling helps, but there are those of us that it don’t really feel like it helps at all. You feel like it’s a band-aide, not a cure. You end up feeling like no matter what you do, depression stalks you, especially in your weakest moments.
You loose interest in the people around you. Things you once enjoyed start to feel like a chore. You find yourself reminding yourself to laugh at appropriate times, not because you find any humor in anything, but to keep people from asking “What’s wrong” because no matter how much you talk about it, it never goes away and nothing anyone can say to you makes you feel better.
Twenty people could line up and tell you they love you, tell you what you mean to them, how lost they would be without you…and you appreciate the thought, the gesture, but on the inside, it doesn’t mean anything to you when you’re in the grip of a deep depression.
For Robin Williams, even knowing the entire world adored him was not enough to keep him here.
Depression is real, mean and hard. There is no cure. There is only the battle. For some of us, the battle goes on.
RIP Robin Williams. I hope that soul finally knows the peace it has sought.