I know there are many articles out there now about Robin Williams. I feel compelled to share my personal point of view. Robin Williams was one of the best comedians of his time. He was gifted in improv and impersonation, and his unique outlook on the world helped him to connect with millions of people. He brought us joy and laughter, and tears from the laughter that made our bellies ache. I grew up watching him and I sometimes wondered if he were that unbridled as a child. It was obvious just looking at him that he was a warm and caring person, a teddy-bear at heart. He oozed kindness from his very core; it was evident in his eyes. It has been said that the best comedians hide the most pain, which is obvious in Robin’s situation because of his nearly life-long struggle with addiction. Some may have put this off as an artist suffering for his work; that he needed the drugs and alcohol to make him a better performer. I would argue that this was the only way he felt he could deal with the tempest he had raging inside. But none of us would ever have guessed how truly bad things were after seeing his wonderful smile and his boisterous personality. You could hear the world’s collective gasp when it heard of his death. I wonder if he realized how many lives he touched with his comedic genius. I wonder if he realized how greatly he would be grieved and missed.
As a survivor of severe depression, I can see clearly where he was. There are many out there who don’t and will never understand what he was going through. He was not a coward. He was not weak. He simply didn’t know what else to do or how to continue managing the pain. What does depression look like? It looks like you and me. We wear masks to hide what we’re feeling from the outside world. We become experts at playing the part of the happy person living a perfectly normal life. Many times even our loved ones and friends cannot see what’s going on. From where does depression come? Sometimes it’s genetically inherited. Many times it is the result of traumatic events and troubled, regrettable pasts.
What does depression feel like? It is excruciating pain. It is mentally, emotionally, and sometimes even physically agonizing. It takes away your energy and your desire to go anywhere or do anything. It closes all the blinds, lays down in the fetal position in bed, and sobs fiercely into your pillow for hours on end. It looks out the rain streaked window at the traffic passing by and silently plots out various ways you can end your life. If you have family or roommates, you try to think of ways to do it so that there is minimal mess for them to deal with, or maybe even so that they will not find you immediately. It goes to counselor after counselor in frustration because you cannot find someone who will connect with you and will ask you the right questions to draw you out and help you to figure out what is happening. It diligently tests medication after medication, and combinations of medications, desperately searching for the right mix that will give some relief from the relentless grief you are experiencing every day, that will make you more clear-headed, that will turn you back into the person you used to be. It is suffocating. Your brain is an amazing jumble and a constant tornado of swirling confusion, self-loathing, and pain. Your emotions and your thoughts don’t make sense anymore. You wonder if you would be missed if you checked out of life. Depression doesn’t just affect you, but it affects everyone close to you. You become angry and aggressive and irrational. It causes you to lash out at those you love. You say things you don’t mean and would never say if you were in your right mind. You tell those close to you to go, all the while pleading in your head for them to stay and help you fight this monster. Your loved ones become overwhelmed and confused and don’t know what to do to relieve your state-of-mind. You are drowning in the thick sludge of terror, with just your arms and hands sticking out. You grasp at anything near, trying to pull yourself out of the quagmire and grab onto the hand of someone dear. Then you begin pulling, bringing them down with you while you are trying to get out, and they must then latch on to someone else in order to stay afloat. And it continues on and on like this.
I grieve every day for the loss of this great man. My husband and I prayed for him the night of his death. He brought me so much joy and laughter. I wish he could’ve gotten the help he so desperately needed. I love you, Robin. The world has gotten a little bit dimmer now that you are gone.
If you are depressed and suicidal, please do not hesitate to get help! The following are resources to use if you or someone you know are depressed and/or suicidal:
Crisis Call Center: 1-800-273-8255 (http://www.crisiscallcenter.org/crisisservices_sp.html)
The National Alliance on Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=Depression
Healthfinder (find local support groups): http://healthfinder.gov/FindServices/SearchContext.aspx?topic=833
GoodTherapy (find local therapists): http://www.goodtherapy.org/