Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Come Back, We'll Rummage

I know there are many articles and talking heads out there who have addressed Robin Williams' death better than I, but I need to write about this as someone who deals with Depression on a daily basis.

The thing is I know the list of despairing lies that went through Robin's mind towards the end. Actually, there are millions of people out there who know because we fight them every single day. Some days we have nice thick armor and boxing gloves to fight back. Other days it takes so much effort to get out of bed, we have no protection or tools to fight the lies. Also, you learn a way to deal with Depression then your illness adapts finding new weaknesses. You are very lucky if you're able to spot what is going on before it gets you in a Death Grip.

I have tried to kill myself several times. I have been in therapy off and on since 2001. I have been on medication since 2005. I used to have a drinking problem as a way to self medicate before I was officially diagnosed. The absolute worst depressive episode I had was after my stroke. The way I see that time is that I was stuck in a dark tunnel where I could not see anything. I started fantasizing about being hospitalized. Not the sane reality hospital with lots of machines, wires, pain, and fear. No the fantasy hospital that allows people to completely leave their lives getting away from all their worries and stress. 

One day, driving home I was indulging in that fantasy and a voice deep inside me said, "Wait a minute, you have been in hospitals and it was horrible." I had to pull into a parking lot and just sob. As I was freaking out about what was going on with me, I realized that I had stopped taking my blood thinners for weeks. You know, the one medication that would prevent a second stroke. This is how a major depressive episode works. It isn't several conscious decisions, it's the circle of despairing lies and your subconscious sabotaging you.

Depression is an illness just like diabetes or liver failure but the public sees it as a personal failing and something to be ashamed of. That misconception is so insidious and evil because if you have Depression, the despairing lies always poke you with "You're so weak" or "Why can't you just feel better?" Public perception feeds and echoes Depression. I have a theory why the perception is so screwed up. America was founded by people who believed if you work hard, you will be rewarded. Plus, Americans brought over their religions and culture. I do not know a single culture in the 1700's or 1800's that had a compassionate approach to mental illness. We have a come a long way on social issues but not that far on mental health.

Robin Williams' death is horrible because it is so familiar. A tremendously talented loved person was felled by an illness we still whisper about. I would like to scream about this burden, shake people by their shoulders, and find some zillionaire to help fund mental health services nationwide (since our government won't). Depression isn't a first world problem afflicting the weak or lazy minded. It's your mom. Your brother. Your child. Once we stop othering the mentally ill, maybe those demons telling us just to end it all will be weaker.

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