I came back to the house from a walk last night when my husband told me Robin Williams died. I gasped.
He followed that with the suspected cause of death: suicide. Then I felt a little part of my soul retreat, looking for a safe place to hide.
Robin Williams, beloved actor, comedian, and genius, died from depression.
It hits you hard when you know you walk around every day with an illness that, while treatable, could eventually be fatal. It hits you hard when it claims yet another victim.
I’ve done as much as I can to document my struggle with depression and its BFF anxiety on this blog because it is an illness, just like cancer, and the stigma attached to it has to stop.
Depression, being the sneaky liar that it is, would love to remain shrouded in shame so that it can go unabated.
For my part, I suffer more from anxiety than depression, but all that worry just adds kindle to the fire of depression. So the little bastards are co-conspirators.
As far as I know, there is no cure for depression or anxiety. There are plenty of treatments for the symptoms, but nothing that makes it all better. When you suffer from depression, you will never be able to take a test that shows you are now depression-free.
I’ve tried everything. Talk therapy? Check. Books? Check. Prescription drugs? Double check.
And I’ve self-medicated most of my life. Food was my drug of choice. And abuse of that perfectly legal, socially acceptable drug led to obesity, which is the kind of sick joke that depression enjoys, because that made things even worse. Just to add another smack down, obesity not only made me more depressed and anxious, it led to potentially fatal health problems.
Depression and anxiety are sinister assholes.
The best treatment for depression, in my case anyway, is emotional support, positive self-talk and medication. I don’t know if Williams had any of that. Being a celebrity, it might be hard to know who really wants to help you because they care about your well-being or who wants to help you because they need something from you.
I’m sure his family loved him and tried to help and my heart goes out to them. Sometimes the hole is just too deep for anyone’s love to reach.
I have a rock of support in my life. I can’t rely solely on him for my survival, but it helps to know that when I want to retreat, when I forget to tell depression “Fuck off, you liar!”, he’s there to remind me and he doesn’t judge. He has helped keep me from going too far down the hole more times than he knows.
One of my favorite Robin Williams movies — it’s hard to choose just one — is “Good Will Hunting.” In his role as Sean, a psychiatrist treating Will, a troubled genius (ponder that irony for a moment) he told a story about his late wife.
The fact that it came directly from Williams — according to IMDB it was unscripted — makes it all the more profound to me:
“Sean: My wife used to fart when she was nervous. She had all sorts of wonderful little idiosyncrasies. She used to fart in her sleep. I thought I’d share that with you. One night it was so loud it woke the dog up. She woke up and went ‘ah was that you?’ And I didn’t have the heart to tell her. Oh!
Will: She woke herself up?
Sean: Ah…! But Will, she’s been dead for 2 years, and that’s the shit I remember: wonderful stuff you know? Little things like that. Those are the things I miss the most. The little idiosyncrasies that only I know about: that’s what made her my wife. Oh she had the goods on me too, she knew all my little peccadilloes. People call these things imperfections, but they’re not. Ah, that’s the good stuff.
It lacks the eloquence of quotes from “Dead Poets Society” or even “Mrs. Doubtfire”, but for me it demonstrates real love. I am so lucky I have someone on my side who knows all my flaws and loves me anyway.
No matter what depression tries to tell me, I hold on to that love, and then I know I will be OK.
We both fart in bed and blame it on the dog. That’s the good stuff.