This morning, as I was watching one of the many tributes to Robin Williams on television, my daughter asked me how he could be depressed if he was a famous actor. She is 9. And while that may sound like a 9 year old question – I am hearing similar comments made by adults today. The DJ on the radio right now is confused because “Williams had plenty of work” (4 movies due to come out yet this year). I have heard some say he is selfish and weak and ungrateful for his lavish life.
“Depression doesn’t care who you are, honey. It is an illness that can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or how big your house is. You can have millions of people who love you and still have depression. It is sad and scary. But there is help and many ways to treat it. Most people with depression can live normal lives – it doesn’t have to be hopeless.”
I don’t know if my answer was appropriate – I tend to be as honest as possible with her.
I have been very open about my struggles throughout the years. So open, in fact, it has made others uncomfortable. I have lost friends due to my outspokenness about my anxieties. My mother was never very happy with my openness, a little embarrassed, perhaps. I am certain I have not been taken seriously when it really counted in the Dr’s office because of me not hiding my anxiety in the past. While dating, I was dumped a number of times because I admitted to these issues. There certainly are consequences to sharing experiences such as these. So much stigma still remains when it comes to mental illness.
Even with all I have mentioned, it hasn’t stopped me from talking about it. I refuse to be ashamed of something for which I have no fault. I refuse to be silent because it might make someone uncomfortable. If I have a friend, relative, doctor, etc. who cannot handle my honesty – they are clearly not a person I need in my life.
I have never wanted to end my life. Not really. I may have had fleeting thoughts out of pure exhaustion and frustration. But never could I cause my own death. And I am very grateful that my depression/anxiety isn’t on that level. Yes, I have lived with this for most of my life. And there are times when it has been worse than others. So I do understand it. I can imagine that feeling of no other way out. I can imagine being so depleted of all energy. I can imagine no longer having any fight left within.
We hear all of the time – Cancer Sucks. There are 5ks, ribbons, Facebook games, telethons. You can’t go anywhere without seeing pink breast cancer paraphernalia all around. But how often do we hear about suicide awareness or mental illness charities? Why are people who are plagued with depression or OCD or bi-polar considered weak while cancer patients are considered warriors?
Here is a post I made yesterday on Facebook:
When you see an addict – picture their bandages because their using is almost always an attempt to self medicate. When you see someone with a mental illness – picture their wounds because they are as real as anything visible. Stop seeing mere weakness because there is nothing weak about being sick. What is weak is how society views and deals with these very real diseases.
Many of us grew up watching Robin Williams. He was an American icon, a fantastic actor and an electric comedian. He brought happiness and laughter to countless people around the world. And he was a true humanitarian. The loss of his life have many in a contemplative space today. The sadness is almost tangible. And it kind of upsets me that it takes such a tragedy to get people talking about something we should have openly dealt with long ago. But it is better late than never and I truly hope that, if nothing else, this horrible situation will open the eyes of family members, politicians, physicians, media and those suffering.
Stop the silence. Stop the stigma. Speak up. And speak loud.
For information on getting help for yourself or a loved one, please visit: