The passing of Robin Williams on Tuesday has understandably left the world shocked and speechless. I personally felt like the world lost a little part of its magic because he was such a funny human being that brought so much joy into people’s lives. Obviously I never met him so I can’t speak to who he was with first-hand knowledge but he was one of those people that you always felt, in watching him, that you could relate to him. He was inspiring to watch and on the days when I just didn’t feel like much of anything he made me laugh.
One of the things that I am hearing most is how it could be possible that someone who made everyone around him laugh so much wasn’t happy himself. If anything good comes from his tragic death it is the open forum that it leaves for us to really take a look at what depression is. I find it striking just how many creative people, writers, comedians, actors and actresses, singers, dancers’, just creative types in general, struggle with depression. What’s even more alarming is that the majority of comedians in particular are said to be masking the reality of their inner pain with the outward satisfaction of making others pain go away with a moment’s laughter.
People don’t talk about depression, as if it is something to be ashamed of. And then there are some who just don’t take depression seriously because it is a disease that you can’t see. I know that I personally suffer from bouts of depression and feelings of hopelessness. A lot of my writing serves as my own brand of therapy to cope and sometimes it helps and others it doesn’t. There were many times in my teens and my early twenties that I just didn’t want to be here on this earth anymore and there were attempts made that weren’t successful (obviously) but it’s just never been something to talk about with people. I am only recently starting to talk to my closest friends about the depression that I suffered and that I sometimes still feel creep up inside of me when things seem to not be going right.
Talking about depression doesn’t make it go away but it certainly does help people who are dealing with it feel less alone. In talking with others you sometimes realize that you aren’t the only one who is suffering with this disease. More importantly we need to open up a discussion about it because it doesn’t just strike in adults, it oftentimes starts when you are a child. Children today are going through so much more than people realize from being bullied, to domestic violence in the home, to feeling like you just are not quite good enough. We need to stop being afraid to talk about this disease or feeling stigmatized by it.
Depression hides behind those smiles that you see on your loved one’s faces and it can be covered up with excuses of being tired or purely exhausted, or even in their loss of appetite or on the flip side that sudden urge to devour every item of food in sight because food doesn’t judge you. Depression does not just jump out at you and shout that it’s there and a lot of times the person struggling through it may not even realize that that is in fact what they are struggling with. So pay attention to your loved ones and don’t just downplay a developing pattern of behavior simply because you’re too busy to pay attention to what may really be going on.
I think that Robins Williams’ death shows us that even the most successful and seemingly happy people can have pain inside them that they can’t see their way past. Depression doesn’t just take place in a certain class, culture, or area. It is everywhere and can strike anyone. For those out there that envy the lifestyle of a celebrity (and I am guilty of this too), you should be reminded that you could be the person that seems to have it all, to have everything that would make almost anyone happy, but that does not mean that you are truly happy and that you don’t suffer. No one has to suffer from this alone. If you know someone who you think could be suffering from depression, don’t try and wait for the right moment to do something about it, there isn’t one. And if you are that person, don’t wait until it’s too late to talk to someone about it. Talking really does help.
R.I.P. Robin Williams
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