“No! Are you sure it’s not a hoax?”, my mom said before turning on CNN to find the news story,“You know, I don’t get why he would commit suicide, he had everything anyone could want.”
Robin Williams is one of my favorite actors. He was apart of my childhood from Aladdin to Jumanji. He chilled me as an adult on his appearance on Law and Order: SVU. Like many, I am heartbroken we have lost such a beautiful human in this way.
Every time someone of note passes away from suicide, I always end up hearing something like my mother said. From an observer’s point of view, I can see why this thought might pop up. However, it isn’t always that simple.
I’ve battled anxiety and depression since my early teens. I was on medication and therapy for a number of years. For a long time, I had it under control, but it likes to seep back in every once in a while (As you get older, you find more and more things to get anxious about). I don’t talk about it much, because it’s a sensitive topic, not so much for me, but for other people. Personal flaws are not an easy conversation in confident American culture, where we always have to sell the best version of ourselves. I’m always afraid that talking about my journey will bite me in the ass some day, but maybe I can shed some light. It’s the least I can try to do for a man who taught me to be a goofball and made me laugh, even when it seems all the lights are out.
I haven’t had a perfect life, but a relatively comfortable one. Some days are worse than others, but I have a roof over my head, food, good company, and lots of yarn. Some days I wake up automatically not wanting to get out of bed because, “What’s the point? Do I even matter? I don’t think I do.”
Depression doesn’t care that I have a family that loves me. Depression doesn’t care that I have a boyfriend who loves me and is willing to stand by me through my hopelessness. It doesn’t give a shit that I have “nice” stuff. It doesn’t care that I love to write, or sing, or dance. It could care less about the friends who worry when I don’t answer their texts or calls. It doesn’t play nice when the people who love me wish I would get out of bed, stop crying, and enjoy the fresh air. It makes me feel small when it tells me, “You’re a piece of crap that will go nowhere just like they said when you were younger.” Depression doesn’t have a “type”. It doesn’t see your race, gender, your wealth, your family life, or your popularity and decide to pass you over. According to the CDC, 8 million Americans between 2009 and 2010 were diagnosed with major depressive disorder. In 2011, over thirty nine thousand people committed suicide. It is relentless.
In the same way my depression doesn’t care about how good of a life I have, the same is true for Mr. Williams. It didn’t care that he was famous and all the perks that come with it. It did not give a flying pig’s behind that even at 63, he still had a whole career ahead of him if he wanted it. It didn’t care that he already had a hard battle to fight with drugs and alcohol. It doesn’t care that millions of people would have done anything to stop him because of the joy he brought them, his loved ones most of all.
For me, it feels like a fog that you can’t drive out of. It sticks to your bones and consumes them to the core until you don’t know who you are anymore. You stop writing. You snap at things that never upset you before. You don’t want to go anywhere or do anything and your bed becomes your best friend. You cry, sometimes because you have no hope and sometimes for no reason at all. Sometimes, when the pain is too great, you think about slipping away entirely, because there is no point in any of this, right? You’re never going to be happy. You’re not worthy of it. You are not worthy of anything.
You have to drive long nights to get out of that fog, sometimes when you can’t even see two inches in front of you and you feel like stopping. You question if you have the skill to drive yourself out of this. Even if you do finally drive through it, and find yourself again, it can always come back. Unfortunately, not all of us make it out.
Depression is complex because there are different types even though the symptoms are similar, and it tends to manifest differently in each person. The description I wrote is based on my own experience, because I can only speak for myself, but some else can experience depression in a completely different way. Some only suffer once in their life while others it is an everyday battle. The symptoms can be so minor that even the person suffering might not even notice, or some people are so good at masking them you would never know what’s going on inside their head. There is no one singular treatment that works for everyone. If you need to find help, pull over and find it. If you are fighting, know that you worthy enough to see what’s on the other side of that fog. It’s worth fighting for.
Be at peace, Mr. Williams. You were a genius and that’s how I will remember you.