I haven’t posted in a quite some time for a variety of reasons. But this I couldn’t sit out. As everyone who doesn’t live under a rock has heard by now, Robin Williams committed suicide earlier this week. He wasn’t fooling around either, he slit his wrists and wrapped a belt around his neck. He wasn’t interested in failing at this. The darkness was going to come to a conclusion.
The normal (yes, sadly this is normal) he was a horrible man who committed a very selfish act comments started almost immediately. I must remember to stay off social media after these type of events happen as it only upsets me. His daughter Zelda has been chased off social media due to the cruelty of others.
All of my regular readers know that I have been very open and honest about the fact that I suffer from long-term clinical depression, known as Major Depressive Disorder. I have had this since I was in high school and possibly earlier. I am not ashamed of it, it is part of who I am. I don’t like it and I wish it were different, but it isn’t. This is one of the crosses that I have to bear in my life. We all have them, whatever they may be.
I want to scream when I see what is said about mental illness after an event puts it in the news once again. A famous person committing suicide, a mass shooting, or whatever else happens to make this issue get national attention. Sadly, it has become predictable to point of comedy. You can almost predict to the minute before you see the whole “selfish” thing start after news of a suicide.
Yes, when a person leaves the world by taking their own life they leave behind questions. They leave loved ones who feel guilt, who wonder why they couldn’t help them. It is hard to be that loved one. Now, that is something that I don’t really have a great deal of experience with, as the small amount of people who I know that have done this weren’t all that close to me. I knew them and some cases really liked them, but it has never been someone very close to me, with one possible exception. A guy that grew up two houses down from me died by grabbing onto live wires at a train crossing. We went to school together, we had the same first high school job together. We shared many interests and were close for a long period of time. He eventually moved to another state and we lost touch with one another. He died in Florida. We were in our early 20’s at the time, if I recall correctly. He recently had been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and was said to be coping rather well. But at some point he stopped taking his meds, a very bad break up with his long-term girlfriend, and the lack of close friends after a recent move led him into his darkness that he saw no recovery from. He took his own life. He left behind a mother, a step father, a younger brother, and many close friends in our home state of CT hurt and angry.
Oddly, I wasn’t angry at him. I was envious in very strange way. His pain was over while mine just continued. On and on it went. I had yet to be given a proper diagnosis of my problems. I had already made one attempt at ending my life at that point, and would make another just a few short years later. Mine was triggered by events. My BFF from my entire childhood was killed in a car accident. She was in a car going someplace that I was supposed to go and was unable to attend due to family that came in from out-of-town. Talk about guilt. It was horrible and it took me many, many years to get over her death and the guilt that I felt. I still think about her everyday. The second downward spiral in my life came after a relationship with a man I had planned on marrying came to an end. That also took me a very long time to come to grips with. Quite honestly I am far better off that I didn’t marry him. He had many issues, not the least among them a substance abuse problem. But I was devastated just the same.
Blogger Matt Walsh talked about the joy of life and how that should be enough to sustain you through your dark moments. From what I can glean from the post, Mr. Walsh seems to have an understanding of depression, he says he has struggled for many years with it. I wonder.
One of the worst things about my depression is how it robs me of the joy in the world. That is what it does. I can see many good things in my life. I see the people who love me, who I love back. The things that I have been able to accomplish in spite of the fact that I have suffered from clinical depression for the majority of my life are quite good. I have a degree from a highly regarded university from which I graduated with high honors. I have a family life today that at one point I never dreamed I would have. I love them dearly. They love me back. That is part of the joy in my world.
But, I don’t always treat them the way I should. It isn’t on purpose. I become withdrawn. I seek shelter in the safety of my bed. I sleep a great deal. I don’t want to do much of anything. I am lucky that the man in my life notices it and does his best to be supportive and I love him all the more for it. He reminds me of doctor appointments, he will ask about my meds. He will take me out for Fro Yo, which I just love. He will clean up the house and do other things around the house when he senses that I am feeling overwhelmed. He is a keeper. But as I said, there are days that I just don’t feel all the good that should come from having him in my life. I see it, but I don’t feel it. I don’t think I deserve it. I wonder why he gives up so much and gets so little in return.
Does Mr. Walsh think that women who suffer from postpartum depression don’t understand that there is joy in the world? They have a newborn baby to care for. A child that brings much joy to them and their family, yet they still feel the darkness, the pain, the confusion, the guilt that comes part and parcel with clinical depression. Their hormones are going nuts. Their bodies aren’t allowing them to feel the joy that little bundle of wonderment has brought them, they see it, they just don’t feel it. They aren’t being selfish. They are coping the best that they can in a horrible situation.
It is amazing that people can easily accept that other parts of our body are ill but not our brains. That can’t possibly be the reason. I mean many cases of osteoporosis are caused by chemical in-balances in our bodies. We have these things called osteopaths and osteoblasts in our bodies. One helps build bone density, one thins the bones. When we have a proper balance between the two our bone density will be fine. When we have an in-balance, our bones become weaker and more prone to breakage. Our hearts and livers have many different types of enzymes, we have insulin levels in our bodies that help us digest sugar. We need the proper balances for our bodies to run correctly. Why is that people think that our brain is so different? It isn’t. Our brain is an organ just like the others. It needs certain things to function “normally”.
Our brains give off chemicals when we exercise, when we have sex, when we are experience the “joy” in our lives. The make us feel good. Clinical depression causes our bodies not to produce those chemicals in the same manner. Sometimes I wonder if I have any at all. These chemicals are also a cause of why some are more at risk of becoming substance abusers. I have a childhood friend who became a heroin addict in her teens and early twenties. One of the things that she, and others that I know that have had the same experience, tells me is that the first time you use it the euphoria you get is something that they never experienced before or since. It never feels as good as it did the first time. That is how they become addicted, they are chasing that high. They are looking for something that make them feel that feeling once again.
We know very little about the amazing thing that is the human brain. There are so many things that we don’t fully understand. Why will some fully recover from traumatic head injury while others will not? Why some don’t produce the proper levels of neurotransmitters that give them a healthy sense of the world around them and others do? But we know that it happens. Or least some of us do. Others live in denial of that fact.
I don’t know if it is fear that keeps people from seeing the truth, but they do. One of the most ridiculous things I heard since the death of Mr. Williams was a comparison of his death to that of a suicide bomber. Yes, someone actually said that. Insert primal scream here.
The lack of compassion shown to people who are in trouble and are dealing with a darkness that is so severe it is almost impossible to explain, is nothing short of breathtaking. You hear about how if you just let Jesus into your life that you will be healed. Does Jesus heal cases of bone problems? Does Jesus heal cases of juvenile diabetes, which isn’t caused by behavioral issues, but strictly a genetic problem of not producing the needed amounts of insulin? I am sure some will recall a story of someone they know who was healed, but many faithful people have medical problems that are directly related to their bodies over/under producing chemicals in their bodies, and therefore need medical care to deal with those problems.
Mr. Williams was very open and honest about his problems with clinical depression. He talked about it publicly many times. That isn’t an assertion, that is fact. He was also very open about his drug and drinking problems that he suffered and found ways to overcome for decades. Depression and substance abuse tend to go hand in hand. People turn to substances to just feel a little relief, even if it is only briefly. People with depression try to find all kinds of ways just to feel a little relief.
I can’t speak for what was going on in Mr. Williams’ head on Monday. I can only talk about what my experiences have been. What I can tell you is that when I was seriously considering taking my own life, the one person I didn’t think about was myself. I thought about everyone but me. I was not acting in a selfish way. I was looking to not only stop the pain, but to no longer be the burden that I perceived myself as being. I felt broken beyond repair. That there was no hope that things would ever change for me. That I was always going to be living in a very dark place that hurt. I was in a closet that got smaller and smaller every day. I felt like I could barely breathe most of the time. I was only dragging the people who loved me down. They would be better off without me. They would actually thank me one day. I was doing them, and the world, a favor.
With what we know as public record of Mr. Williams and his problems, I would guess he didn’t feel all that much different. You see, it doesn’t matter what you have, how famous you may be, how much you do or do not love Jesus, how many people you have that care about you, it matters what you feel on the inside. In the places that most people can’t see. The deep recesses of your heart that most people are too afraid to talk about. Those are things that matter. Those are things that clinical depression rob you of. Those are things that are warped in your pain and your turmoil. You aren’t being selfish, you are trying to find a solution to a problem that from your point of view has no end. A problem that you are bringing into the lives of everyone else around you. You are the cause for their discomfort. You are the reason that they too can’t enjoy life. You become the reason that joy is being taken from them, and since you know exactly what that feels like, you just want it to end. For everyone involved. You too feel guilt and remorse.
Think about this the next time you tell a person who is suffering from depression to “get over it”, or “it will get better”, or one of my personal favorites, “others have it much worse than you do”. Yeah, I know that logically. But logic and depression don’t exist on the same plane. Stop looking for logic in mental illness, it doesn’t exist. Reach out to the person. Be there to listen to them talk about why they feel so bad without judgement. Try and get them medical attention. They may resist, but try anyway. You may just save them from the fate that Mr. Williams was not able to pull himself away from. Show true compassion to those feel that they don’t deserve it. Who feel that they aren’t worthy of it.
R.I.P Mr. Williams. Thanks for laughs and the tears you brought into our lives with your career. Thanks for the money you raised for children with cancer. Thanks for entertaining our troops who were a long way from home and willing to die to protect our freedoms. Find peace. One can hope that your death will help educate at least one person on the dangers of mental illness and accept the fact that it is indeed an illness, not a choice.