Tears of a Clown

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I’m not one to follow the crowd. I know everyone is writing about Robin Willliams’ death today. But, as a huge fan and fellow depression sufferer, I have had so many thoughts that go through my mind since I heard the sad news last night, that I couldn’t get it out of my head. I am doing the only thing I know how to do, write it down.

I fell in love with Robin Williams watching Mork and Mindy as a kid, as so many in my age group did. I was so struck at this odd, hysterically funny character. He truly was unlike anyone I had ever seen on tv. I followed his career and always appreciated his humor. I believe his demons were always there, right under the surface. I think that’s why I related to him so well. As a life-long sufferer of depression, I could see it. I can see those demons peeking out between the smiles.

Dead Poets Society was an integral part of my formative years. As a long-time English geek, Mr. Keating was a hero, an inspiration. Walt Whitman had been on my bookshelf for years. To see a film all about life and how literature contributes to our life and nourishes our soul, was awe-inspiring. I cannot tell you how many times I have since seen this film. It seriously had an impact on me studying English in college.

When I had my two boys, they loved watching Disney movies and dancing and singing along to the musical numbers. We would act them out and sing along. Aladdin was a favorite. Robin Williams started the whole tradition of big name movie stars lending their talent to these great Disney characters. I can measure times in my life with Robin Williams’ body of work.

It’s hard to describe depression to someone who has never suffered from it. It’s not the opposite of happiness. It’s not extreme sadness. It’s a lack of every emotion. It’s hollow. It’s empty. It’s darkness. It’s a hole. It’s a void. It’s like a black hole within your soul that everything gets sucked into, leaving you with nothing. It’s a chasm that nothing can fill….not love, not money, nothing. You feel such a lack of hope that you cannot imagine that void ever getting filled, you cannot imagine that things will ever get better. Some of us try to fill that void with something, anything—–drugs, alcohol, sex, money, etc. But, that just makes it a million times worse. It causes a vortex that just pulls us deeper into that chasm and make the climb out even harder.

I’ve been there a few times, at that point where the only thing that I could imagine would bring me some sort of peace was death. I made a few attempts over the years. I think, deep down, they were half-assed. I think I was far too much of a coward to make a real attempt. The devil I knew was better than the devil I didn’t know. My depression has been difficult to deal with over the years, but they absolute hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with was the severe depression of one of my sons.

I saw the warning signs in him, but by the time I knew the whole truth, it was almost too late. A 2 a.m. visit from the police after a desperate call from a friend about his safety, led me to having to go into the bedroom to see if my son was still alive. There will never be words to describe those few seconds. They will never, ever leave me. They are tattooed on my soul forever. My son was okay. We called a hotline who spoke to him for a while. We got him help, therapy, and medication. But, I knew what he was feeling and I was helpless. I could lend support and give him all the love I have, but I knew from battling the depression demon on my own, that he needed to slay the monsters on his own terms.

It took a while, but he’s a normal teenage boy now. I am in a much better place than I have ever been. Through therapy, medication, and lots of love and support, we are not only surviving, but thriving. Every once in a while, without warning, that darkness starts to seep in. But, we are prepared this time. I think about Robin Williams bringing so much happiness and laughter to everyone, all the while suffering in this cesspool of pain and it makes me so sad. But, I have worn that mask. I have put on that smiling face and made the world think that everything is okay when deep down, all I saw was blackness.

I just hope that someone who reads this knows that they are not alone. I just wish that Mr. Williams’ death helps someone reach out for help. But, the problem is when you are down there, you don’t think to look up in the darkness to find a rope to hang on to, all you see is a noose to end the pain. I send all the love in the world to his family, especially his children. I know that the one thing I’ve learned through all the pain I’ve felt, all the lack of feeling I’ve had over the years comes from Mr. Keating himself. “Carpe Diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” Thank you, Robin Williams for making our lives extraordinary through your humor and being the extraordinary human being you were.

White flip-flops in the rain.

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First off, I am writing once again after a few months break. No matter what I do, I tend to fall back into my same old patterns of bursts of creativity interspersed between lulls of writer’s block. The past few months have been busy, but really….I have no excuse. I’ve been doing everything BUT writing this summer. My son will be a senior in high school, so I’ve had college visits, getting ready for senior year, driver’s license, etc. I just haven’t felt INSPIRED. I have so much on my plate, emotionally, right now that quite frankly, I haven’t felt like getting out of bed most days. My mom has been having more bad days than good. Most days I am walking on eggshells, which is exhausting. I’ve been stressing about my youngest being a senior.The thought of having him out of the house in a year has been weighing on me.

I feel like the only day I have to relax and forget about all the things that weigh on me is Sunday. So, the past few Sundays, we’ve been taking my photographer son on road trips to find some interesting shots. Anyone that knows me at all knows that I am NOT an outdoorsy girl. Don’t get me wrong, I like doing things outside. I’m not a couch potato. But, I don’t like the great outdoors. I like being in a city. I like exploring shops, bookstores, cafes, food markets, etc. I do like the beach, but in small doses…..under an umbrella….with a drink in my hand. I hate woods, hiking, camping, mud, rock climbing…well, you get the picture.

So, when we do these outings, I sit in the car and wait, while my husband takes my son on hikes. I’ll go on a paved path, if it’s a short trip. But, that’s about it. I keep a pair of “walking” shoes in the car, just in case. Yesterday, we found a cool overlook that is a hawk/raptor watch. It said easy hike. Our car was parked in a bit of a remote area, so I felt a bit uncomfortable sitting there and waiting and since it said easy hike, I figured why not.  I went for my “walking shoes”, but I had taken them out of a car when we packed for a trip a few weeks ago. I was wearing typical “me” shoes—-white flip flops with bows and jewels on them. I thought, ok…why not? Well, easy, short hike it was not. It was a rock climb, uphill.

Yeah, I could have turned around, but I thought….what the hell? If I can make it up this rocky hill in these shoes, I can do anything. When I’m told I can’t or shouldn’t do something, that’s when I’m determined to do it. So, on I climbed. I stopped a few times to catch my breath. By this time, it had started drizzling rain. On I climbed. I stopped and sat once, but then I noticed all the little crevices that snakes and insects could hide in and I jumped up and kept moving. Yep, hate all the creepy crawlies that live out in the wilderness, as well.

I reached the top of the lookout and may I just say, the climb was totally worth it. You could see for miles. It was spectacular. Just as I stepped up on the rock to take in the view, the heavens opened up and it started POURING!!! So, back down the slippery, wet, rocky trail I went in my white sandals. My husband held my hand the whole way down, as now the rocks were soaking wet and very slippery. I made it back to the car, looking like a drowned poodle, I might add. Seriously, my underwear and bra were even wet!! I felt miserable, yet accomplished at the same time. I had stepped out of my comfort zone for a brief period of time, all while wearing my stylish, yet impractical shoes and it felt good!

I will never take up hiking, camping, outdoorsy things as a hobby. I will continue to keep my walking shoes in the car for SHORT walks. But, knowing that I COULD do something kind of pumped up my self-image a little bit. I tend to get stuck in a rut. I love adventure and new things, but those things always tend to be within the same circle. This time, I was waaaay out of that place where I feel like myself and you know what? It was okay. I was okay. I think the reason I’m telling this story is that I feel like a lot of people I know get stuck in that purgatorial place of never really taking a chance. The older I get, the more I have been trying to take more chances. Live more fearlessly. I know that climbing a rocky mountain in flip-flops is trivial. But, one small step can sometimes be a giant leap, even if you’re not wearing the proper shoes.