Last week, I was in the Bahamas on a long-planned, highly anticipated trip. I was busy on this trip, I guess because I'm always busy, but one day when I wasn't sunning myself on the Lido deck or snorkeling in Paradise Cove or puking in said cove (yes, really. The waves got me), I turned on the television and learned that Robin Williams had passed away.
That he hung himself.
That this man, who made me laugh for years, had hung himself. That he was gone. That it was too much...everything was too much. That he, despite all outward appearances, was not okay.
I was glad, quite glad, to be away from social media for a few days. I knew what was coming.
Unfortunately, I knew from personal experience, what was coming.
"It was a choice. A selfish choice!"
"He's burning in Hell. Suicide is a sin!"
"What a waste."
"Why can't you just smile?"
"Why don't you focus on the positive instead of the negative?"
"Why can't you just try harder?"
"You aren't sad all the time, so you must not be depressed."
I suppose, even now in the year 2014, there are people who think that what Robin Williams did was because of a horrible choice he made. There are people who honestly, really, don't understand that depression is not a choice. That there are moments, dark, real moments, in which there is no other way.
I'm not advocating suicide. I'm not advocating hurting yourself. I'm just saying...I get it. I'm saying, I have been in those dark places. I'm just saying, I'm just admitting right now, that there have been times that someone in my life has pulled that trigger and I have been envious. Jealous.
Because I didn't have the guts to do the same.
But not me. Not me, right?
Because I have everything. I have everything and even more than everything. I have a husband who loves me, I have well-behaved, beautiful, intelligent children. I have a job that pays the bills, a lovely home. A dog that I adore. I wrote a book that people have read. I wrote other things too and people read those other things and told me how much they liked them. I have friends, good friends. I have people who love me and care about me and want me in this world. There are people who value me as a human being, an employee, a co-worker, and a friend.
There is no reason, none at all, that I should ever want out.
It doesn't work that way.
Please, please, please. I'm begging you. Read this line. And then read it again. And again.
It doesn't work that way.
Depression is not a choice. Depression is not logical. You can't snap out of it. You can't just smile and watch a funny movie and then everything is okay. You can't just look at your life objectively and go, "Oh. I'm an asshole for feeling like this. Everything is fine. I'm lucky." There is always, forever, something that is missing. Something that is "wrong". You smile and laugh and make everyone around you smile and laugh and it's still not okay. You can take your medicine, you can eat the "right" foods and avoid everything bad, you can exercise every day and get out of bed every morning and take yourself to work and plaster a smile on your face, and you know what? It's still not fixed. It's still not okay. The hole is still there.
There is no one who suffers from depression because of choice. No one. There is no one who would choose to feel this way.
As I write this, I have a lot of fear. A lot. People don't judge you if you have cancer or MS or a blood-clotting disorder, but depression is different because people still don't realize it's not a choice. I can't cure my depression any more than my dad can cure his own cancer. I can treat my depression, and I do. I can't fix my brain. I can't change who I am as a human.
And you know...my fear is a huge part of the problem. Why am I afraid to let people know? Why should I feel ashamed because of things I cannot control? (This is rhetorical. I know why. I've spent so many years in silence because I know why)
There are no good answers. We are all flawed human beings...wonderfully, beautifully flawed human beings. Sometimes it is too much to bear. Sometimes we are left wondering why. Sometimes the person who gives us the most comfort and joy and hope is the one who is suffering the most inside. The one who is hiding behind their smile.
I am not fragile. I am not broken. I'm not crazy.
This is not because I'm a bad Christian or don't love God enough. You cannot pray this out of me (feel free to pray for me though, as it definitely could not hurt).
Simply, I suffer from clinical depression.
I am not ashamed.
If you need help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Please. Right now. Do not wait one second longer.
Please do not be afraid to seek help. One of the hardest things I've ever done in my life is make the first call. It got easier for me after the first call.
And please know this:
Every single person who reads this matters to me. Every one of you. You are often the brightest lights in my very dark world. You don't even know how many times one of your comments or emails or texts have made me feel like there is someone, somewhere who gives a damn. Because you matter. You matter.
Please keep talking about this. Change can never come unless we keep talking about this.
Thank you for reading.
Perfect, Stephanie. Mental illness is one of the last acceptable discrimination. (Being overweight is the other). People do not understand, and they fear what they do not understand. They think to themselves, "There but for the Grace of God..." and they turn away, like it's catching. I was married to a man with severe depression. I was married to him for six years and the meds he took helped but they did not "cure." He needed to have his meds adjusted by he would not go back to his psychiatrist. He was volatile, moody and would yell at me for real and imagined faults. I know that it was the depression talking but I could no longer live with the abuse. I was unable to deal with his outbursts. He now is in a loving relationship with someone that seems to tolerate his Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde behavior. I'm very happy for himn. I'm ashamed to admit that I could not deal with his illness because of how it affected me personally. I have admired you for years, Stephanie, how you deal with all the ups and downs in your life. I'm sure you struggle more than you let on. But you help shine a light in the dark corner of mental illness and I applaud you. You are not a victim of depression; you are a survivor! :)
Spot on. Thanks for writing that. You've written about depression before and I remember thinking how well you explained it. You can have it all and still not be able to physically or emotionally summon the energy to get out of bed and into the shower in the mornings. I know this very feeling. I have depression too and I've been in that dark place more than once in my life and not that long ago. It's very very hard and no one can understand unless they've experienced it firsthand. I take my meds and I paste that smile on, but depression is always there lurking in the shadows.
This whole thing was a terrible tragedy, but I hope the silver lining is that it shines a light on mental health.
People just don't understand... but we're here for you. Always, always.
Yes, and amen!
Thanks for getting the conversation going.
Exactly. Love this.
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