If you read this, you know who I am, probably.
And you probably also know that I suffer from depression.
First, let’s define what I am not talking about here. I am not talking about a momentary sadness, or a movie that makes you feel down, or “I just feel down in the dumps today but ice cream made me feel better!” People will say, “oh, that movie made me depressed,” and that’s a definition of the word, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Nor is it some emo whining teenager. There’s angst, and there’s depression.
(And before we go any further, uh, trigger warnings I guess. Also: I am not looking for a debate or argument here, so don’t even start one, and also, I have no plans or desire to self-harm. I am describing what I go through and what I talk about regularly with people that I know as well as my therapist and other health professionals.)
For me, depression is a voice in my head I hear every day that suggests I would be happier if I didn’t have to deal with life because I would no longer be living it.
For me, depression is a voice in my head I hear every day that suggests no matter what I do, it’s worthless and going to come to ruin, and I might as well give up.
For me, depression is a voice in my head I hear every day that that hopes when I go to sleep, I don’t wake back up.
For me, I know depression lies, and I fight it every day, I fight it with medicine, I fight it with diet and exercise, I fight it with perhaps some bad habits (for me, it’s hard to hear that voice when I’m sitting outside, smoking a cigar, sipping a beverage), I fight it with my doctors and therapist, and most of all, I fight it with my friends because I’m not afraid to talk about it publicly. I let them know that I fight it, and when it feels like it’s winning, and they let me know that they’re there and they support me.
I also fight it with humor. I pretty much make jokes constantly. It’s a coping mechanism, and while it’s not always perfect, and you have to be careful not to hurt others with your jokes, it feels good to make people laugh.
That, perhaps, is why when Robin Williams died, I was devastated. Immediately, I thought, “this could be me.”
Normally celebrity passings don’t bother me. But here was someone who was brilliant, and had battled his demons, and one day, just one day, lost that battle.
The day after it happened I was speaking with someone at the event I was at. Somehow things came around to this person’s life as newly single, and the person told me why singlehood was new – a partner of 20-something years committing suicide in front of my acquaintance. Having never felt depression or suicidal, it was left to me to try to explain how it feels. My acquaintance just can’t understand it.
If you don’t have it, it can be very hard to understand. But whether or not you have depression, remember a couple of things:
- Depression is NOT a weakness any more than cancer is. It is a disease. It is an imbalance of chemicals in your brain.
- You can not wish it away, or meditate it away, or just “cheer yourself up”.
- If you do not have depression, and you propagate any of those myths from #2, you’re a horrible human being. Please either remove yourself from my life forever or let me know how you feel so I can do it for you.
- Suicide is not cowardice, it is not weakness. It is an advanced stage of the disease. I can’t put in words what it feels like. I can’t put in words what happens to your mind. Suicide is only cowardice when someone takes it to avoid what is due to them – for instance, Ariel Castro committing suicide in prison? That’s a fucking coward. Robin Williams? He lost the battle just one day. Just once. That’s all it takes.
- If you’re feeling suicidal, call 1-800-273-TALK right away. Talk to them. GET HELP.
- If you’re suffering depression, talk to your friends, your family.
- If a loved one is suffering from depression, keep in touch with them. Do not condescend. Don’t tell them to “cheer up”. Listen to them, be there for them. That’s what they need. You may be well-meaning in your desire to give advice, but often it just makes a depressed person feel more isolated and alone (“they don’t know how I feel”).
Anyways. The week that Robin Williams passed, between that and the Ferguson riots, killed my desire to write anything. This is the longest writing I’ve done since. I needed to get it off my chest. Thanks for reading.