In the aftermath of Robin Williams death, there has been much shock and much discussion on the topic of depression. We are urged to understand that it is not a weakness, to offer help and to seek it.
No one on this earth could make me laugh as hard and as easily as Robin Williams could. He was manic, a live-wire, pure genius and unstoppable. How could a man who made so many laugh, who genuinely seemed warm and good-natured be so unhappy that he would take his own life? I do not have the answers to that. I can only offer what I know from my own experience. Depression is not a state of being unhappy. You can laugh, have moments of joy, love and be loved and still battle depression. This is clinical depression. You can not just get over it.
Some people experience bouts of temporary depression. What we call the blues. Maybe they have hit on hard times or have suffered a sudden loss and life no longer seems worth living. With this kind of depression, a person can dig themselves out of it with help. On the other hand, clinical depression is a life-long struggle that makes no sense. Neither to the one fighting the battles.
There is anger. Plenty of anger because one can not understand why one feels this way. Just get up out of that bed, walk out the door, call a friend there’s no reason to feel this way. Then comes the guilt. Why can’t I just get over it? What’s wrong with me? This is followed by confusion. Why am I this way?
In my teens and early 20s, I suffered from depression. There were days I just stayed in bed and never got up. There didn’t seem to be a world outside my door. I’d get up and go through the motions of getting out the door and going to work. I’d smile and even laugh with friends. Then I’d go home drink a bottle of wine and smoke a pack of cigarettes and fall asleep hopefully. Or I’d write stories in my notebook. When insomnia hit, I’d walk all around the city sometimes with friends and sometimes alone. It didn’t really matter. It was like there was a heavy leaden cloud above me trying to crush me and I couldn’t get out of it’s way. I was paralyzed.
I once had a basement apartment and that was the worst. No sunshine ever got in and I just slept on and on and never bothered to pick up my phone. Eventually, it stopped ringing. I did not want to live this way. I did not understand why I wasn’t happy and carefree. I was generally an optimistic person. One who believed it would all be all right in the end. I worked and put myself through college. I laughed and really, I wanted to live, so why did I have thoughts of not going on? I have never understood.
At age 28 I was diagnosed with ADhD and depression. I started taking Ritalin and opted out of wellbutrin. I started running and quit smoking. I changed my diet and cut out preservatives and artificial coloring. I made sure I got some sunlight everyday. I took up yoga again. Eventually, I stopped the ritalin and managed myself with diet and exercise and routines my doctor helped me with. I was doing well. After I gave birth to my son, I felt renewed. I lost weight, felt energized and stopped having migraines. This effect lasted for about 5 years, which leads me to believe a lot of the symptoms of depression are hormonal.
I still battle with my demons. We all do. I was in shock after I heard of Robin Williams death by suicide. He was so young, but had battled his demons for so long. Through drug and alcohol addiction, he seemed to have gotten through it, to have survived when so many had not (Freddie Prinze, Spalding Gray, Kurt Cobain…). I thought he had it beat.
It seems the demons can resurface at any time.The battle may be won, but the war is not over as they say. And that, is what scares me.
R.I.P. Robin Williams may your laughter rain down on us always. Thank you.