By now you know that Robin Williams has committed suicide. When it first hit my Facebook feed I thought perhaps it was one of those internet hoaxes that gets sent around the world before the truth can catch up. No such luck. Apparently Williams suffered from severe depression and battled alcoholism and substance abuse over the years. I read somewhere that he fell off the wagon after 20 years being sober.
While I appreciated his talent, I was never a huge fan of Williams. I did enjoy his edgy supporting performance as disgraced psychiatrist Dr Cozy Carlisle in the 1991 thriller DEAD AGAIN starring Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branaugh. [Hat tip to Dante Bacani].
Everyone is writing about Williams and talking about depression. Here is an awesome post by fellow CN blogger Candid Candace with helpful advice pulled from the American Suicide Prevention Foundation website. Here are a couple others:
- Why funny people kill themselves
- Creative people and depression
- Something in common with Robin Williams
The thing is we all know someone who is a Robin Williams or Chris Farley waiting to happen. That class clown wise aleck who always has something funny or sarcastic to say. Or maybe it's someone who seems real quiet and never says anything beyond small talk.
Go find a picture of you and a dozen of your friends. Maybe it's an old sorority photo or maybe the swim team from high school. I'll be there is at least one person who at first glance looks like they are right smack dab in the middle of the crowd, yet they couldn't be more alone. If you look closely, you'll see that their smile is forced, their stance a little tense. This person may be laughing on the outside but she is crying on the inside and definitely suffering in silence.
Depression is a complex recipe of emotions, faulty wiring and tons of other ingredients that doctors and scientists are only beginning to understand and I cannot even comprehend. I cannot speak to the cocktail of chemicals that float around your brain and cause you to interpret missing a train as being the whole world is against you. Depression is probably very internal but also can be greatly influenced by external circumstances. Forces that the person has little or no control over which only fuels the internal struggle Depression brings.
Depression is something no one seems to wants to talk about in the abstract or admit they are suffering from specifically. That is probably Depression's secret weapon: so many people suffer in silence yet put on their "everything is awesome" Mask in order to appear normal to the World.
For example, if you find yourself in a dead end job, have no girlfriend and live in a crappy apartment in a sketchy neighborhood, you might be a little down in the dumps. That's perfectly normal. Yes a low paying job dictates where you can afford to live and not having an abundance of disposable income affects your dating prospects.
The mythical creature known as a healthy well-adjusted individual will realize that although they are the common denominator among these circumstances, they are not the cause. They recognize that they have the ability to change their situation. They will find a better job or get additional education or skills to get a better paying job. Or they might simply find someone with a nice apartment in a better neighborhood who wants a roommate.
However, if your brain is also wired for depression, you might take these three unrelated items and internalize them too much. I live in a crappy apartment so no one will ever love me so why bother trying to get a better job!
Sometimes the "problem" with being depressed is that you have your shit together just enough to pass for being healthy and well adjusted 75% of the time, with the other 25% being attributed to just being a little odd.
I wouldn't say that I ever seriously thought about taking my own life. But I will say that Dark Thoughts did cross my mind a time or two. I recall once in my early twenties we were driving to my aunt's house in Streamwood when I thought about swerving the car into on coming traffic. Only thing stopping me was my grandmother was in the car.
I was probably a sophomore in college though I was taking some time off from school for financial reasons. We were in a financial bind. My mom was out of work and a twenty something yr old with 2 years of college under his belt didn't have many prospects. I might even have been working part time at the only job I could get while attempting to finish my degree as quickly as possible. Yet my mom was nagging me to get a better paying job. She even read an ad about some company needing drafters. You took drafting in high school, why don't you apply for that? Because I'm pretty sure they are looking for people with a skill-set beyond high school Drafting I, a course in which I got straight Ds.
When we got to my Aunt's house she knew something was wrong and asked me, but I wouldn't tell her. I couldn't. I was embarrassed by my external circumstances and didn't have the right tools and experiences to recognize that something wasn't right. I shut down.
When you spend that much time and effort attempting to appear normal, you forget how to ask for help, or even accept it when it is offered.
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