Like the rest of the world, I was shocked and immediately, completely, overwhelmingly saddened to hear of the death of Robin Williams by suicide yesterday. It’s not often you’ll find a celebrity death that hits so close to home to really affect everyone you know. Robin Williams was truly loved and admired by all. He brought so much joy to the world, so much laughter, and he really did good things. I have never read anything bad about him. Every single person who has met him or worked with him can only gush with glowing things. What a great human being.
I also loved just how human Robin Williams was. He fought personal demons in addiction and depression. He owned it, too. He sought help and was treated. He was a survivor for a very long time. This suicide is shocking because most people don’t completely understand what depression is or what it does. As my friends and family know, I suffer from depression. I have been on and off medication for many years now. All I’ve seen about depression all over social media today has been really great. But only up to a point. Let me tell you what I know about my disease.
I know it’s an illness. I know it’s not my fault. I know people love me. I know that there are plenty of people out there who really do care and want to help me and don’t want me to commit suicide. I know there are numbers to call, people to talk to. I know when I’m on my medication I am much better than when I’m off. I. KNOW.
I also know that most days it’s hard to get out of bed for no other reason than I just don’t feel comfortable in my own skin, in my own mind. I often feel like I’m stuck in this deep, dark, black abyss and I can’t find my way out. Or like I’m swimming in tar. Everything about me is moving slowly and is painful and takes so much effort, but I can see the rest of the bright, fast-moving world and I can’t figure out how to get there. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting swallowed up. Sometimes I don’t think I can breathe. A lot of times I just get angry. At every one. At every thing. Often I feel like I’m having an out-of-body experience: I can see myself reacting in a certain way and I say to myself, “Why are you doing that? This is ridiculous!”, while at the same time I can’t control myself in that reaction and it just happens. I look at my children and I take joy in how wonderful, beautiful, smart, talented, and awesome they are, but in the back of my mind is always that whisper: “They deserve better.” I have never been able to squelch that whisper. I look at my husband and I can feel how much he loves me and cares for me. I love him with my entire body and soul and don’t want to do a thing to hurt him, but that same whisper is there: “He deserves better. If he’d married someone else, he wouldn’t have to deal with this.”
There is no end to depression. None. Getting on medication and seeking counseling takes it down. A LOT. But it’s still there. Always there, lingering, waiting, whispering. If you’re like me, you learn to cope. You have your bad days where the house is a mess and you’re in pajamas and it’s a victory in that the toddler got fed. And then you force yourself to take a shower and get dressed because you have to go volunteer in your kid’s classroom, or your husband needs you to drop off lunch for him. You put on a smile and ask your son how Cub Scouts was. You go to the neighbor’s house to socialize because that’s what neighbors do. But you can’t wait until everyone goes to bed so you can have some peace and quiet and not have to smile or tell jokes. I am pretty open about my depression, but I also hold a lot back because of the fear of what others will think, say, or do.
You know someone with depression. Every single person knows someone with depression. What can you do? You can check in with them. You can tell them you love them. You can make them feel wanted and needed. And even if you do all that and they still choose to end their life? You can not feel guilty about what could have or should have been. It is not anyone’s fault. Not yours, not mine, not theirs. You can mourn them and love their family and know that sometimes this really does feel like the only way to end the despair. It’s so tiring to feel like this. I continue to fight. Every day I fight my own demons. Every single day. I can’t tell you who’s going to win this fight. I know that you all fight with me, though, and that’s huge. It is! Just… be there. Continue to love me for who I am. Don’t try to change me. Don’t tell me what wonderful things I have in my life. Don’t try to blow it off as me being sad. Don’t tell me to just change my attitude or diet or medication. Don’t read to me scriptures and tell me that Heavenly Father loves me and expect it to be enough. Just love me and be present. The fight is a little easier when you know you have an army.