I have a feeling that most of us are reeling a bit from the news of Robin Williams’ death and apparent suicide. I think it’s a good time to discuss a topic that I have wanted to touch on here, that I have dealt with first hand for years, but haven’t had the impetus to really talk about until now – depression.
I truly believe that only a person that has experienced deep depression can understand what would bring an individual to commit suicide. We can never walk in their exact footsteps but we have similar shoes. Do not be quick to judge…thank goodness that is between the individual and a loving compassionate God.
Depression is a long, difficult and extremely lonely and frightening road to travel. I’ve heard so many people in the past make remarks about “shaking it off” or “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” or “exercise it off”. If it were only that simple…if it were only a miniscule portion of that simple…
Depression is such an absolutely intangible thing to describe to someone that has never experienced it, but to the person that is living with it – nothing else can exist alongside of it.
We’ve all had bad days…but depression is not even remotely the same animal. It is all encompassing and it is all consuming. It creeps into every nook and cranny of your being and your life. It’s not a matter of “shaking it off” or “picking yourself up by your bootstraps”. It is such an overwhelming obstacle that without the proper help, you cannot possibly get through it.
Often times, it is the highly intelligent, sensitive individuals like Robin, that fight this demon. I really think, and this is just an opinion, that there is a close tie between extremely acute sensitivity and depression. I think it’s because when you are so absolutely in tune with your surroundings and emotions, you feel so much more intensely than others, and that includes the good and the bad. But the bad can suck you in like a vortex because you are so intuitive that you feel others’ pain and so compassionate that you end up absorbed by it all. Sensitivity is such a gift…we owe sensitivity to many of the great artists and humanitarians of our times, but to be that person…is both a gift and a curse.
When it takes over you, there’s no way out without help. Many turn to alcohol or drugs to try to cope with the pain. Intensely sensitive individuals tend to be artistic (whether it be singers, actors, painters, writers, etc.) because they have a gift that enables them to express those feelings, but they are also a group of people that fall into the trap of substance abuse – a way to help them cope with the pain that is present. They are trying to survive…it’s an absolute total irony that the very thing they turn to for help will also aid in their destruction.
Imagine waking up in the morning…the very split second you are awake…your body physically feels the depression. For myself, it’s what I call a “zinging” feeling in my arms, which is actually the nerves, accompanied by a very gut wrenching hole in my stomach and weakness in my body. You are overcome with a veil of gloom that you can’t shake. Then the fear and apprehension of the day is in front of you. This is immediate. This doesn’t settle in later in the morning…it’s there immediately upon waking.
This feeling lasts all day. You are physically anxious all of the time. You tell yourself that if only your body would calm down, your mind could calm down and vice versa. But it doesn’t happen. You can’t wait until it’s time to go to bed, so that you don’t have to deal with it anymore. IF you are lucky enough to be able to sleep. But so many times, that sleep is the only relief you get. And then you wake again the next morning and start all over again. This is just the physical end of it.
On an emotional end…it’s even worse. That veil that’s covered you? It’s impossible to lift it on your own. And it’s so totally and absolutely overwhelming that even trying to get help is difficult. You can’t imagine the feeling. You have such an overwhelming sadness and feel such overwhelming pain…that it sucks up everything you have. Surviving is all about getting to the end of the day to go to sleep to escape it for a short time.
The hurt…it’s everything. Every emotional pain is magnified one hundred fold. The emotional pain that you feel is unbelievably strong. I have had two major depressive episodes in my life. The first one was thirty five years ago, and the last one was twenty years ago. I don’t wish this on anyone. With therapy and just a small amount of medication, my depression was able to get under control. I have gone YEARS … almost 18 years, without symptoms. Several months ago, I cut my dosage in half in the hopes that perhaps after all of these years, I wouldn’t need it any longer. However, a few weeks ago, I was struggling and increased the dosage to where it was previously…for a week…until I started feeling better. I still struggle and I don’t know whether it’s depression or grieving, or a little of both, but to be able to so totally understand where Robin may have been emotionally…is frightening to someone that deals with depression. So today…my dosage is back to where it should be…and it will stay there. It’s not worth the risk. When I take the medication, there are areas of my sensitivity that don’t exist in the same realm as before, (you may not get as much deep poetry out of me) but I exist…and that’s what matters. Depression is generally very treatable…but addictions that may come along with it compound the issues and interfere with the treatment. That’s not to say it’s hopeless, because it’s not. There are just more layers.
The main thing I would want to say to any of you…if you are dealing with depression and haven’t already…seek help. It’s out there, it really is. You are NOT ALONE even though you feel that you are. You are too important and too special and too wonderful to not be able to enjoy life and live it to its fullest. I love you. I really do. If you need to talk, if you need to chat…I’m here. You can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pray for Robin and pray for his family…and most of all…pray for everyone that suffers from depression.