this is me too

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

tropical paradise pattern assignment 1 - Make it in Design Summer Camp School ;-) Susan Black 

hand collaged bits with drawing, found paper all close cropped and then assembled in Photoshop & ps this joyful, happy, bold & brightly coloured pattern was created by someone who struggles almost daily with depression - this is me too ! I want to shout. This is me most !! I honestly believe - bright, colourful, engaged, creative, full of life, joyful ... this is me too !

 My friend MLou sent me this post from Buck 65's Facebook page this morning - I've pulled out a portion I find particularly poignant, particularly bang on.

When I heard the news about Robin Williams yesterday, my first thought was ‘I can’t believe it.’ But a moment later, I realized that I can believe it. Not because I knew Robin Williams, but because I can’t be surprised given what I know about depression. 

It’s easy to think Mr. Williams had every reason to be happy. And the reaction on Twitter yesterday showed that he had a lot of friends who cared about him very much. So we think, ‘if anyone could have gotten help, surely it was Robin Williams!’

The thing is, no amount of money or success or friends can rescue someone from depression. And it’s great that strides have been made in the field of mental health but a depressed person has to want that help and it usually doesn’t work that way.

My guess is that Mr. Williams was depressed for a long time. Maybe his whole life. I bet there was a link between his comedy and his depression. The comedy was probably a mask he could wear. He probably only ever took it off when he was alone. Yesterday there were so many stories from people who knew him well or who met him once expressing that he was a very sweet, loving and generous man. Did any of them see this coming?

I sense that Robin Williams was a very sensitive and empathetic person. He probably knew deep down that he could have reached out to practically anyone for help. But he was also probably acutely aware of the everyday pains, problems and struggles of the people around him - even those of strangers in airports. The last thing he wanted was to add to anyone else’s burdens. Life is hard. That’s probably why he chose instead to devote himself to bringing happiness to the lives of people - to try to lighten their load. They say he never refused a request for an autograph. 

A thing we often forget when something terrible like this happens is that when a person wants something badly, they run toward it, not away from it. That applies to bad things as much as it does good things. When someone wants to smell a flower, they smell the flower. They don’t stop themselves and say, “maybe I shouldn’t do this. I wonder if there’s a support hotline I can call so I can get over this urge to smell flowers…” 

We take comfort in things. We have a tendency toward addiction. Sometimes those addictions are small, sometimes they’re big. Some addictions are healthy, some are negative. Someone who runs everyday isn’t addicted to exercise. They’re addicted to the good feeling exercise gives them. They find a certain comfort in it. Just try tearing a lifelong runner away from their daily or weekly routine. In the same way, people can become addicted to their own bad feelings. Indulging in those feelings gives them a certain comfort. Sometimes that results in art, sometimes that results in drug abuse, sometimes it results in something much worse - like what happened yesterday with Robin Williams. He wanted badly to go where he went. Based on interviews I listened to yesterday (I’m thinking of his 2010 interview with Marc Maron on the WTF podcast, in particular), I think it’s a place he thought about going to for a long time. Yesterday, he lost himself in the comforts of his darkness. It swallowed him up forever. That’s where he wanted to go. Not to the hospital. Not to a friend’s house. He satisfied the darkness’s hunger so that it wouldn’t swallow anyone else - especially not someone he loved.

Yesterday, the call went out loudly that if you’re depressed, you can get help. That’s a beautiful notion. But I think it shows a lack of understanding of what some depressed people wrestle with (I can only guess). Maybe hotlines lit up yesterday. Maybe the wakeup call worked for some people. I hope it did. But I’m guessing it also made other people want to hide more carefully. 

It’s up to us, not them. We have to do a better job of looking out for one another. 

Quick aside: I recently saw a tweet that said something like, “what kind of asshole says anything other than ‘fine’ when you ask them how they’re doing?” 

That sentiment (and it’s a common one) is a big part of the problem. We don’t make it easy for someone to say they’re having a hard time. We don’t have the patience for it. Everyone says “fine, thanks” when asked how they’re doing and everyone is lying. We’re all wounded. We all have things that eat at us. We all have bad days and dark times. 

When we ask someone how they’re doing, we expect them to lie and not waste our time with their problems. So “fine, thanks” becomes the only acceptable answer. But sometimes, we’re not fine, thanks. 

We need to open things up. We need to be unafraid to get closer to the people we care about. It’s the only way to stop depression from being a fatal disease. Let’s not let the ones we love fight alone. 

I’m not suggesting that all a depressed person needs is to get things off their chest. Not at all. It’s as much a physiological disease as cancer (but harder to diagnose). All I’m saying is that I think depressed people often have the ability to hide their darkness very well. That’s why news like yesterday’s is often so shocking. But we can’t leave finding help, support or medicine up to those who need it. If they’ve been suffering long enough, they might not even know that the way they’re feeling isn’t normal. We need to talk. We need to ask the right questions. We need to listen very carefully. And when the mask comes off (and it will), we need to take the ones we care about by the hand and lead them to safety. 

It’s hard but we have to try.

* & another post today about a friend of his who's slipped into that abyss

1 comment:

  1. from Elizabeth (Liz) Gilbert's Facebook page - thanks Sara Jewell Mattinson ;-)

    Dear Ones —

    The sad news about Robin Williams's suicide makes me need to remind you all to please, please, please take care of your beautiful lives, and to please seek help if the snakes in your head have been attacking you without mercy.

    I wanted to share with you this tweet that the great Harvey Fierstein wrote yesterday, in mourning over his old friend. He has said it perfectly. Do not fuck with depression, and do not let it corner you alone in a room.

    Pick up the phone and call someone. Don't let your pride or your pain force you into silence or isolation.

    I once read an article about the Golden Gate Bridge, and how it has become a suicide magnet over the decades — to the point that public health officials must struggle with how to make the bridge somehow less appealing to the despairing and the lost. The story quoted the one man who ever survived a jump off the bridge. He said that he had wanted to die because his life was so hopeless, and he'd lost everything — his spouse, his job, his dignity, his friends, his meaning. But then, he said, in the moment that he jumped, he was overcome with this one remarkable, true realization: "Everything in my life can be changed and reversed...except what I have just done." Luckily, impossibly, he survived. But far too many others do not — and far too many others do make that final, irreversible decision.

    As someone who has been through depression and came out on the other side (with help from: therapy, friends, medication, meditation, prayer) I beg you to not walk alone through your darkest shadows.

    And please share here your own thoughts and wisdom and resources on this topic. Let's be of help to each other, always.

    With love,


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