The chances are that you have seen or heard about the sad death of Robin Williams due to suicide. If not you have probably been taking a ‘media break’ (as I sometimes do) or you are living under a rock somewhere. The reason I have decided to dedicate this post to depression is not just due to my own sadness about Robin Williams’ death, but also my sadness about how people are responding to his death.
Just two of the words being batted around. Others are saying it’s wrong that he; a perfectly healthy 63 year old, should take his own life when so many people are dying of terminal cancer and want to live. These people have obviously never suffered from depression.
Depression (or unipolar depression to be more precise) is often used to describe moments of sadness in a disproportionate way. ‘My footie team lost last weekend, I’m well depressed.’ ‘They stopped selling my favourite chocolate bar so I’m depressed’. ‘I’m depressed because my make up ran earlier’. This is what many people think is depression, but in reality it is much more serious.
Depression affects up to 1 in 4 people during their lifetime. The chances are you, or a close friend or family member either suffers from, or has had a period of depression in your lifetime. I am not a clinician, so here is a description of depression from the UK charity Mind:
My depression started when I was 12 years old. Initially it was what is sometimes known as ‘reactive depression’ so in other words the depression is caused by a life event, in my case my Granny dying of cancer. By the time my depression had been picked up by the ‘experts’, it was too late and had developed into generalised or ‘clinical’ depression. I got all the usual ‘helpful’ advice; ‘smile, be happy, stop worrying about things that haven’t happened yet, just get over it’. This, instead of being helpful, actually made matters worse. So not only did I have depression, I was CAUSING my depression. In reality I wasn’t. I was trapped in a pit of darkness which, unless you have been there yourself, is very difficult to explain. The more ‘helpful’ advice you get, the further into the pit you fall.
Eventually, I hit a recovery period. Unfortunately it was a period, not a cure. With medication, CBT and lots of self help, I managed to climb out of the pit. Shortly after, I got attacked in public (unprovoked), the spiral of self-hate returned and I was back to square one. I have spent the past 10 years cycling in and out of this state. Most of the time I just feel ‘down’ rather than depressed, but the good thing is I am beginning to recognise when the depression is coming on before I get to the ‘want to die’ stage. I have been there so many times.
So Robin Williams was selfish for committing suicide was he? Take it from my perspective as a depression sufferer. No, he wasn’t. Depression is an illness, you do not choose to have it, it chooses you. It does not discriminate who will get it, anyone whether black, white or asian, rich or poor, tall or short can develop depression. When you are in a state of depression, NOTHING will get through to you. You could literally be loved by everyone around you and have everything you always wanted but that still wouldn’t change how your brain works. When you are depressed, nothing is worth living for. No one loves you. Nothing can comfort you and even if it can, will make you feel worse later (for example buying yourself a new gadget which helps for about a day then you get more depressed because you can’t afford something important). A lot of people with depression; Robin Williams and myself included, become a ‘clown’, a very loveable person. It’s a way of masking the pain and anguish inside. People, even those who are close to us may not even see the depression until it is too late.
So even if you can’t empathise with us, at least think before you tell us we are selfish or to ‘pull ourselves together’. Remind us of the good things in life, but don’t tell us we have ‘so much to live for’. Depression cuts it out. Send us e-hugs, videos of puppies and kittens, but don’t judge us if we can’t get better.
I’ll end this post by saying rest in peace Robin Williams and all the other people in the world who lose their lives to this horrible illness every single day