Let’s Talk About Depression


The discussion of depression is often avoided because it’s an uncomfortable topic. No one wants to listen to someone who is sad, feeling alone or having thoughts of killing themselves.

I suffer from depression. I have since I lost my hearing back in 2009. Most of time, I’m a pretty happy person. However, I do have my depressionmoments where I wish to not get out of bed, sadness paints me like an incoming thunderstorm. Do I get lonely? Yes. Do I feel alone? Sometimes. Have I ever had thoughts of suicide? You bet.

When Robin Williams died on Monday, I cried. He was a manic genius of a man who had the ability to evoke sounds of laughter and exhume genuine tears of either sadness or happiness, depending on what character he played.

It is written that people who make others’ laugh often suffer from depression. Ellen DeGeneres, David Letterman, Andy Kaufmann, and John Belushi just to name a few. The big question is why?

Researchers identified four humor styles:

  • Affiliative (friendly banter to strengthen social bonds);
  • Self-enhancing (laughing at life’s problems to overcome them);
  • Aggressive (laughing at others’ weaknesses)
  • Self-defeating (self-deprecating)

The last bullet point has been pin-pointed over the last ten years of research to be associated with depression. (Oklahoma State University published this research last year).

Robin Williams was not afraid to discuss his problems with substance abuse which he often used to mask his depression. Alcohol and cocaine were his normal choices of escape. However, he always recognized the fact that when he had too much of a problem, he sought treatment to sober up.

Depression is the second most prevalent cause of disability after hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization.

Read that last paragraph again.

robinwilliamsOnly half of the people diagnosed with depression will seek treatment. Robin Williams did seek treatment, but it wasn’t enough. He was too sad. Too alone. He probably felt his life would be better off if it were shut off. He probably also felt that his family would be better off without having to deal with his depression. I think he also felt that if he ended his life he would be happy at last.

Humor is often a mask to shield the pain; just like cocaine or alcohol. Robin Williams used all of those tactics and was successful in being sober for twenty years before he relapsed.

He tried his best to help himself. After all, only you can help yourself–or so I’m told.

When I would wake up in the mornings still in bed, I would cry while tears stained my pillow. This never happened to me before. I was a happy person, or so I thought. But, I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I knew I had a problem. I talked to my husband about it and really felt I needed to seek a therapist to discuss my issues. Diagnosed with moderate depression, with the help of a therapist and medication I got better. But, it never goes away.

Never.

One of my favorite movies is called, “What Dreams May Come.” It’s one of my all time favorite movies because of its beauty and message.

While vacationing in Switzerland, American physician Chris Nielsen (played by Williams) meets artist Annie Collins (played by Annabella Sciorra).  They are attracted to each other, and bond as if they had known each other all their lives. They marry and have two children. Their life comes to a sudden halt when the children die in a car crash. Life becomes difficult: Annie suffers a breakdown and the couple contemplates divorce, but they work through their losses.

On the anniversary of the day they decided not to divorce, Chris (Robin Williams) is killed in another car crash. Unaware that he is dead, and confused that no one will interact with him, Chris lingers on Earth. He sees Annie’s attempts to cope with his loss and attempts to communicate with her, despite advice from a presence that this will only cause her more pain. When his attempts cause more sorrow, he decides to move on.

Meanwhile, Annie is unable to cope with the loss of her husband and decides to commit suicide. Chris, who is initially relieved that her suffering is done, grows angry when he learns that those who commit suicide go to hell.  This is not the result of a judgment made against them, but rather their own tendency to create “nightmare” afterlife worlds based on their pain. Chris is adamant that he will rescue Annie from hell, and uses someone in heaven to help rescue her soul.

I’m wondering if Robin Williams thought there was any truth to the heaven and hell theory from the movie he made when he was contemplating his death. It probably didn’t matter to him either way; he just didn’t care anymore and wanted to end his pain and his family’s pain.

We lost a wonderful man on Monday. He made everyone laugh. They say laughter is the best medicine. Robin Williams used his medicine to cheer up others. When you see someone who appears to be sad or is often alone, there is nothing wrong with saying hello with a genuine smile on your face. Please do me a favor and put your phone down away from your face to avoid eye contact, because that person you just passed may be on his or her way to end their life because no one took the time to notice they were even alive.

Lord, God bless Robin Williams and everyone who suffers from depression.

Sidenote: If you know of anyone who is suffering from depression, or showing signs of depression, please, PLEASE talk to them about getting help. 

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