I was going to make this article about Robin Williams and how much happiness he gave me, but that just didn’t seem to fit for me. Surely Robin Williams dying is painful, heartbreaking, and really tragic. I grew up with “Mork and Mindy,” “Hook,” “Good Will Hunting,” and I watched him make people happy with stand up comedy, his appearances on talk shows, and his general love for humanity all around.
What’s really kept me on the verge of tears, is the knowledge that Robin Williams was the victim of depression and likely committed suicide.
“But he was so funny! He always seemed so happy! I don’t get it.” Yes, you don’t. You really don’t. And the truth is, even victims of mental illness don’t get it. We just live with it. I suffer from a mental illness.
My mental illness is so extreme, that my last clinic told me they couldn’t treat me since the case was well beyond their realm of expertise. I’m not ashamed to admit that, and you shouldn’t be. Mental illness is something very unfairly demonized and stigmatized within our society. We have to stop treating mental illness like a skeleton in our closet, and start talking about it, and open the floor to people that need help.
Anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADHD, manic disorder, it’s all mocked, derided, or viewed as nothing but a hoax perpetrated by some mysterious shadow committee, and is not even considered a disease by some. Seeking help or treatment is still, in some corners, considered weak, a waste of time, and pointless. And if you consider any of these viewpoints remotely true or valid: Fuck you.
In regards to my depression and anxiety, to this day I get the occasional “Just walk it off,” or “Don’t think about it,” or “What are you so worried about?” along with “Just don’t panic.” Not only do those replies completely make the sufferer of said disease feel completely dehumanized, but it’s counteractive to helping the victim of the disease overcome their episode.
Depression is a very real disease. It can be inherited or developed. It is painful. It is soul crushing and unbearable. In the worst depression episodes, you’ll do anything to end the excruciating pain. I can’t really express to you how many times I have wanted to merely stop the pain altogether, and would have thought of anything to ease it. Drugs, cutting, beer, you name it, I considered it. In 2010, I turned to alcohol and only at the angry demands of my father to stop the habit before it became an addiction did the potential for alcoholism not progress any further.
I’m lucky enough to where I have people behind me guiding me to avoid the pit falls that come with depression, but it’s sometimes never enough. With depression, you always feel alone. It doesn’t matter how many smiling faces are around you, how many people hug you and say they’ll be there for you, you feel alone, and even worse: you feel like a burden that the world would be happier without.
Over the last fifteen years I’ve been diagnosed with a severe mental illness by many doctors and have been branded a severe case. Sometimes I’ve even been asked by doctors to admit myself in to hospitals for long periods of observation. And no, it’s not because of my parents. I have loving parents that help me as much as possible, and they’ve never physically abused me in any way shape or form. But that’s the rub. The older you get, the harder it becomes to reach out and talk depression sufferers off of the ledge.
Imagine you’re being told by your family how much they love you, and want you, and how important you are to the world. Then imagine going to bed, and your brain is saying “They’re lying to make you feel better. They’d be so much better off without you. They wouldn’t worry so much, they wouldn’t have to look after you, or make sure you were okay. Maybe if you just did something about it, you could solve everyone’s problems.” Sometimes, in that vulnerable state it’s tough to argue with what your mind is telling you. And it’s tough to trust your thoughts.
The fact is depression is a real illness. It’s a terrible horrific illness I wouldn’t wish on anyone, no matter how much I hated them. And depression makes you feel alone. It makes you feel like no one understands you.
You’re not alone. You may feel it, but you’re not alone. There are many people out there going through the pain with you. I’ve battled depression since I was a child, and I’m still living day to day through the pain.
Robin Williams death has had a profound effect on me. Because I grew up with his movies, and entertainment. Because he made me laugh more times than I could count. Because I genuinely loved the person he was. And because through all accounts, he was a very kind person. And we’ve lost him, thanks to depression and mental illness. There’s never going to be another Robin Williams, and he brought joy in to my world, despite the fact he was suffering for years.
To those suffering from any kind of mental illness, remember you’re not alone. Reach out to whoever or whomever you can and look for someone that can talk you off the ledge.
If you know someone who is suffering, don’t dismiss them, don’t belittle them, and don’t mock them. Be there for them, and always show them that they have a partner in battling their mental illness.
I hope you’ve found peace, Mr. Williams. Thanks for so many years of joy and laughter.