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.