Yesterday, the world lost a comedic legend. But for those of us who have struggled with depression and other forms of mental illness, we lost a fellow soldier in a war that never seems to have an end.
It’s different for us, you see. Every single day that one of us continues breathing we get to say “screw you” to the thing that’s trying so, so hard to kill us. So when someone loses that battle we feel it deeply. As deeply as we feel or felt our own nothingness. Because that’s what depression is – it’s nothing. It’s feeling nothing, enjoying nothing, wanting nothing. It’s just a hole. A big, deep, dark hole filled with demons who would love to make you believe that you don’t matter.
By all accounts – even his own – Robin Williams had a lot of demons. Drugs, alcohol and depression among the biggest. While I’ve never done drugs and only occasionally drink (and not to excess), I do know what it’s like to struggle with depression.
I’m healthy now, but three years ago I most definitely was not.
Being depressed is kind of a weird state to be in. The first time I called for help they immediately asked me, “Are you suicidal?” I understood why, of course, but it just seemed odd. I never wanted to kill myself. As a matter of fact, I have a healthy fear of death. I’d like to be around as long as possible.
What I do understand, though, is what it’s like to just not want to exist. While I would never kill myself, I had days when I just wanted to stop. I just wanted not to be at the bottom of the hole I was in, and if that meant I was going to die, then so be it. I wouldn’t have facilitated it, but I probably would have welcomed it. (There are some of you who will read this and it will be difficult for you to hear. I’m sorry. I never told you because, well, how do you say “I just don’t want to be around anymore”?)
It’s honestly incredibly scary to be in that situation, but it does feel like the only way out sometimes when you’re in the bottomless pit of depression. No matter how good you have it.
From the outside looking in, I had a great marriage, I had just bought a beautiful new house, I was blessed to be able to be a stay at home wife. And all of that is true! Things were (and are!) great. It was just an issue with the chemicals in my brain. Those chemicals lie. They tell you that you aren’t worth much. They tell you that you suck. They tell you that you’re a failure. They use words like “you’ll never” and “why bother” and “no one cares”. I’ll say it again. They. Lie.
It’s hard to be in a place where your brain is trying to kill you.
Obviously, I didn’t know Robin Williams. But I can imagine the lies his brain told him. No matter how rich and how successful and how famous you are the one thing you can’t escape is your brain. Depression doesn’t care about your status or your bank roll or how popular and successful you are. It will tear you apart. With glee.
Unfortunately, Robin Williams couldn’t beat the disease. Not all of us who have battled survive – I’ve been incredibly lucky. I got help. I got better. And today I have a new perspective on life and how to live it because of what I went through. But I know not everyone has that experience. Which is why we have to talk about it. We have to take the power back. We have to take away the stigma of depression and mental illness.
If you’re out there reading this and you’re at the bottom of that hole just wanting things to stop, please know that you are not alone in this. We all have battle scars. Some literal, some figurative. I’ll say it again. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOU CAN BEAT THIS. I care. Others who have been in your position care. We are here. We are behind you. We want you to know your brain is lying.
But there is help. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. They are available to talk with you 24/7 about whatever might be causing you pain. You can find more information by clicking here.
And now, one of my favorite scenes from the movies. Robin Williams at his finest. What will your verse be? Because your verse matters. Oh so much. No lie.