When I heard of Robin Williams’s death, I felt, like many, shock and sadness. He was such a talent, a force of nature, who made me laugh and gave joy to so many people. He was battling severe depression and, according to his wife, Parkinson’s disease. We may never know what finally pushed him over the edge to take his own life.
What I do know is that depression can take a person to that edge. As someone who has struggled with it since I was 34, I know the pain it can bring. There’s the sense of worthlessness, the fatigue, the joylessness of life, and the frustration for your family and friends that want you to just snap out of it.
I spent many days wishing I would wake up and all would be well. But it doesn’t work that way. I feel like I lost so much time and life overwhelmed by the darkness. I know it was tough for my family and that still pains me. And yes, there were days when I didn’t want to live anymore. I did get to the edge, but somehow I managed to keep myself from going over it.
It took a long time, but with the help of a great psychiatrist, medication and many hours of talk therapy, the darkness lifted. Things aren’t perfect by any means, but today life and living are meaningful, not hopeless. After many years, I reached a point where my doctor helped me to get off the anti-depressants. It was time. By the way, if you are taking anti-depressant medication, DO NOT suddenly stop because you are feeling well. Work with your doctor to do so, otherwise you may crash hard. I know because I made that mistake
Robin Williams’s death puts depression in the spotlight once again and for a while we’ll hear a lot of talk about how to cope and treat it. That’s good, but there is still a huge problem that we don’t seem to confront and that is the stigma of mental illness. It is not a human failing.
There is a long list of prominent people who have talked publicly about their struggles with depression. Like cancer, depression is a disease. It can be life threatening. It can be treated. And the truth is it can happen to anybody. It happened to me and I am so fortunate to still be around to talk about it. I will continue to do so and I hope others will do the same. It will go a long way in helping people understand depression. There is no shame in talking about it.