Thoughts on Robin Williams and Depression

I’m sure I have nothing to say that a thousand others haven’t said, but I wanted to weigh in on the loss of this brilliant, iconic talent.

Hearing about the sudden death of anyone is always shocking, unsettling, and sad. Of course, when it’s a celebrity, everyone seems to want to jump to conclusions about the hows and the whys before all the details are known. And when the death is labeled a suicide, opinions run strong, and comments (some of which should never be voiced aloud) fly.

As with the news of any suicide, there’s a part of me that is angry, angry that someone didn’t see the signs in time to help, angry that Robin just gave up and took his life, leaving his family and friends to deal with his loss.

And there is sadness. Sadness in knowing that Robin got to the point where he felt this was his only option, sadness that for all the happiness and laughter he brought to so many, that he had so much heartache and pain inside. I’ve seen a quote floating around Facebook today, a quote that has been attributed to Robin Williams–“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone.”

Whether or not he was the one who said it, that quote speaks volumes, and it both saddens and angers me. I’ve been there. I can remember my first year of college, when I felt like a fish out of water. I felt so alone and so lost even though I was surrounded by people who cared, or said they did. I still remember something I wrote in my journal–“When I was in high school, I was often alone, but I never felt lonely. I knew who I was, and I was comfortable being with myself or with others. Now that I’m here, I’m almost never alone, but I’m always lonely and lost; I never feel a part of what’s going on around me.” I wonder if that’s how he felt too, at the end?

I know that his issues go much deeper than the loneliness and self-conscious fear of a teenager away from home for the first time. I know that he struggled valiantly for a long time against that demon Depression. I’ve been there too, but not to the extent that he was. Mine was short-lived bursts of hell, once after the birth of my first child, and once shortly before I was diagnosed with Lyme, when I had been sick for months but no one knew what it was. Believe me, those short stints of looking up from the pit of despair were more than enough for me, and they make me feel nothing but compassion for those who have to deal with it long-term, and even for those who take the “easy” way out.

I put the word “easy” in quotes because I don’t think the decision to end one’s life is an easy one to make, and certainly not one that is made in a split second with no doubts or regrets. I’m sure Robin had times during his long battle when he saw the light on the other side, times when he wasn’t at the bottom of that dark pit of despair, so what happened this time that made it so hard to bear? Maybe those times had been becoming less frequent and shorter in time when they did come. Maybe with each tumble back into the pit, he fell further and the darkness became darker, until he couldn’t even see the light of the surface anymore.

I have no answers why this happened. I have no solution for Depression. All I can do is encourage those who suffer from it, or those who know someone who suffers from it, to seek help in whatever form you need to.

Talk to someone, a counselor or a trusted friend. Sometimes feelings of being depressed or anxious are situational in nature, when you’re too close to the situation to resolve some problem or issue. In some cases, all you need may be someone to talk to on a regular basis about your feelings, your fears, or what’s overwhelming you.

See a doctor. I’m not one to throw medication at every little discomfort, but there are times when it is needed, sometimes short-term, sometimes for longer periods of time. A doctor should be able to tell you if what you’re feeling is the result of a chemical imbalance that needs to be treated, or even some kind of nutritional deficiency.

Turn to your faith. I am a Christian, so when things seem hopeless, I turn to the source of my eternal hope, Jesus Christ. Don’t be afraid to ask for prayer; sometimes just knowing that someone else is going to bat for you helps a lot. Also, don’t be afraid to speak to your pastor, your priest, your rabbi; they may be able to help, or to point you in the right direction.

For those of you who know someone who struggles with Depression, just try to be there. Don’t avoid your loved one because you can’t relate or don’t know what to say to make things better. You can’t make things better; you can’t make it go away. You can be a listening ear when they just need to unload. You can give that gentle push if you think they need to seek help. You may not be able to pull them out of that pit, but your presence and your caring may just give them a hand to cling to so that they don’t fall deeper into the pit while they’re waiting for someone who can get them out.

Rest in Peace, Robin. I pray that you have found the peace on the other side that you couldn’t find here. And I pray for comfort for your family and friends.

 

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