In attempting to decide on a topic to write about this week, my mind kept going back to the same old thoughts. Depression. Robin Williams. Desperation. Sadness. Unnecessary loss. Tragedy.
There has been so much in the news and on social media about the tragic death of Robin Williams. From finding his body, to the revealing details of the condition of his body, to the question of a suicide note and a possible recording of his last thoughts. All of these private details being splattered all over the media with the headlines reading sudden and unexpected.
It is no secret that Robin Williams has struggled over the years with depression and anxiety, as well as with drug and alcohol addiction. As recently as July it was reported that he had checked himself back into rehab, for reasons I am not too clear about this time.
So how does one wrap their head around depression and suicide? And how is it that his death was such a surprise to the public?
In one word, DENIAL. Nobody wants to believe that anyone, especially someone like Robin Williams, who spent his entire career trying to make others laugh and be happy, could himself be so unhappy and living with such sadness.
Depression is a serious illness, which often, too often, gets dismissed by those who do not fully understand it or its implications. It will pass, or it is a phase, are often words we hear to dismiss its seriousness.
To some extent, the effects of depression waver, as symptoms do come and go, and at certain times, those who suffer are better able to manage. However, this does not, by any means, indicate that the depression has miraculously vanished. It is at these times that the outward struggle is seemingly less apparent to loved ones. But this slope is a slippery one. Because we cannot see something, does not mean it does not exist. And unless those suffering are forthcoming with their struggle (most are not), many people suffer in silence.
So all of these facts just make the tragedy of Robin Williams’ suicide that much more tragic. Not because he was so talented and pure genius in every project he took on. But because he was not silent. He shared with the public his struggle over the years. He admitted to turning to drugs and alcohol to help him numb his pain. He had the support of both family and the public, and he certainly had the financial means to get help for himself.
And still, even with all of this, Robin must have felt so completely helpless and hopeless in his last moments. To follow through with suicide is a true act of desperation. No one, no matter how famous or no matter how ordinary, should have to live with this kind of pain.
Depression affects those afflicted on every level. It is not in your head. It is real.
And there is help out there.
There are people who understand. There are ways to learn strategies to help loved ones and ourselves. The key is to not suffer alone. And the only way to do this is to come forward. Speak out. Shout out. We must try the best we can to help ourselves. We must educate ourselves about the symptoms. And we must learn to recognize the symptoms in our friends and loved ones.
And most important of all, we cannot be ashamed. Speaking about this and coming forward is one of the truest acts of bravery there is. And there is no shame in wanting to take control of our life instead of having depression grab hold of it for us.
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