On Depression

"Robin Williams Death Inspires 'Coming Out' About Depression -- NBC News (Click to read article)

“Robin Williams Death Inspires ‘Coming Out’ About Depression — NBC News (Click to read article)

Perhaps the only ray of light coming from Robin Williams’s suicide is the fact that people are beginning to believe it’s okay to talk about depression. Much in the way that Rock Hudson’s death opened the lines of communication regarding AIDS and HIV, people are now openly talking about depression, bipolar disorder, cutting, suicide. Maybe the light will begin to shine on this disorder and scientists will begin to pursue solutions in earnest.

I find it difficult to believe that a society that is on the verge of proving the existence of the multiverse of universes can’t determine how to stop the flood of chemicals and resultant blinding numbness that is behind some depressions. It isn’t sadness any more than decapitation is a cut on your neck. It isn’t a choice. There is no, “Smile, and it’ll get better.”

In fact, for many, sadness is a step up. Depression is death, just without the peace. Is it any wonder some, after years of torment, choose peace, however illusory? Suicide isn’t about giving up. I’ve counseled potential/attempting suicide victims. I’ve yet to meet one who would consider making that choice it they believed there was a bearable alternative. The simple truth is for some, there is no cure. There often isn’t even a treatment other than hunker down in your undersea cave and hope at some point that you want to float to the surface.

Robin Williams is the guy you knew about. I can tell you about a boatload that you don’t know about. Depression is real, and it’s harder than you think. I kicked mine, after years of it. I promise, if you ever fall in that pit, getting out and staying out will be the hardest thing you ever do. I lost a marriage to depression, not my own. Depression kills more than just joy.

If you know someone going through depression:

1.) Don’t compare them to yourself or others you know who don’t suffer with depression. AIDS ain’t a fucking head cold. Depression isn’t a “bad patch.”

2.) Don’t tell them to cheer up. They don’t need smiles; however, empathy would be nice. Do that.

3.) Encourage them to find professional help. You may have to wait until they have the strength to rise and look for answers. In the meantime:

4.) Love them unconditionally. That last word is a bitch. It means without judgment, without rules, without expectations, and often, without success.

You may lose the battle, but it’s worth fighting. Write your Congressloser and ask them why Mental Health isn’t a primary Government Initiative.

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11 thoughts on “On Depression

  1. The problem with depression is that it isn’t always obvious to others. It’s such an intimate and deeply personal set of circumstances that creates the screen of depression that some of us experience, that it becomes interwoven with who were are and how we portray ourselves. We loved Robin Williams for his rumbunctious and often very subtle and clever humour, but perhaps that was his coping strategy for dealing with his own chronic depression. Some if the most unhappy people are the best comedians.
    Nice post.

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    • That’s true. People tend to walk away from those suffering from depression as though it’s a personality disorder and not a mental health issue. I always thought Robin Williams’s on-set “mania” was an exaggeration to cover something. That kind of energy is emotionally taxing, even if you are a comedic genius. It seems the best of them — Williams, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison — were covering a huge dark side.

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        • I think being genuinely funny — not reading someone else’s words and telling a joke funny but from the gut, extemporaneously funny — takes a level of sensitivity that makes it as easy to hurt as to laugh. At the core, comedians are wounded by the same shit that makes them laugh. It is the shards of glass amidst the crumbs of humor that make it hurt.

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          • Yes, sensitive and depressed people tend to find the irony in life from prolonged exposure to disappointment I think. So humour for them is a way of fighting back by deviating from the accepted norms, overstepping boundaries in order to overcome restrictions. They are thrill seekers, but instead of riding coasters, they ride on other people’s emotional reactions to them.

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  2. Hey Bill,
    This is a really great post-very real and to the point, which I admire.
    I appreciate your tips -especially to love unconditionally. Depression isn’t a choice, and when you are in the thick of it -someone telling you to smile and get over it only adds to the problem. People tend to look -rather run- the other way instead of come closer and try to be there. It seems to be considered contagious, or at least disgusting.
    Your candor is refreshing.

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