Monday, August 11, 2014

"There is always hope"

I felt a bit foolish for being so crushed by the death of Robin Williams - then, texting some friends who are part of the special club (the 1 in 17 of us who live with mental illness that is enough of a pain in the ass that it "interferes with our daily lives"), I realized I wasn't alone.

Because we have been there, gazing over the edge into the abyss, and so far, we haven't been pushed over it - or jumped. To lose one of our own - one who seemed to be able to accomplish anything - well, it stings beyond belief.

A friend who lives with bipolar disorder summed it up well.

"Sometimes," she said, "it takes constant, pure will not to give in."
Robins lived with mental illness, and he was vocal about destigmatizing - ending the discrimination that surrounds - it. He joined a movement called "Mad Pride" (e.g., pride in being "mad"), and got involved with fellow actor Joe Pantoliano's nonprofit, NKM2, which seeks to "stomp the stigma" of mental illness.

We saw him perform in a small venue a few years ago in San Francisco. He was amazing, and amazingly human.

My younger brother N took my even younger brother B to see him a bit after that - B was 15 or 16 - and Williams looked out into the crowd and joked that he had better watch it with the language, "Because there's a little boy in the crowd!" (He didn't watch the language. But he did meet B, and was very gracious.)

I have been in that place, as have some of you. That place where you think nothing, nothing, can be worse or more painful than being alive. Picture your worst despair, multiply it by 1,000, and feel in your gut that nothing will ever get better, and you may get a glimpse of what it's like.

Chances are, someone you know has told you they live with a chronic illness. Now picture them telling you they live with a chronic mental illness. Does that change how you feel?

Despite public discourse, despite public awareness campaigns, the fear of having the discussion is there. And it is very real, and very lonely. If Williams, with all of his courage and all of his resources, was taken by mental illness, what chance to many of the rest of us have? If we don't make this an accepted topic of public discussion...not much of one.

I wish I could tell everyone who ends up in that place that, as Williams once said in an interview, there is hope.

That there is always hope.

If you worry about a friend, check on them. If you worry about yourself, call and get help.

No matter how dark it is, it gets better. I promise.

In the meantime, let's talk. Let's start the conversation. Let's come out of the darkness.

25 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Sometimes it is indeed hard. Very fucking hard. And some days taking things a day at a time is an impossible ask. So one step in front of the other - and reach out for help. Please.

Vanessa Morgan said...

You're the first I hear it from. I'm in shock.

Last summer I lost a family member due to chronic depression. It's a terrible disease.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

So thoughtfully said, my dear. and with such great compassion. We should all have this compassion and remember----anyone can be standing in the same place as dear talented Robin Williams....that is a precipice that is always there for so very many people.....There is no shame in that. The shame is in how we refuse to look at it and don't understand.

Lynn said...

My friend's 17 year old niece had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and recently killed herself. I had met Mary a number of times and would not have seen this coming, but her family definitely saw the signs. They are beating themselves up, as you can imagine. She was in therapy. They are heartbroken - I am still heartbroken for them and for her. It was profoundly shocking.
I wish she could have talked to you.

I was an extra in a film that hasn't been released yet that featured Robin Williams. It was amazing to be standing so close to him and see the sparkle in his eyes. He was very sweet with the child actors. This is heartbreaking, too.

furrybottoms.blogspot.com said...

I LOVE YOU, RK!!!!!

As one who lives with mental illness, I can definitely understand that dark abyss and the impossible feeling of anything ever getting better. You convince yourself that life would be better for everybody else if you just went.

What bothers me is the method he used- asphyxiation. That is a horrible way to go. That must have been a massive struggle. For him to feel that deep in despair makes me feel very sad.

Ragdoll Mommy said...

Nicely written post, and you're right--there is ALWAYS hope.

Abby said...

It's clearly a deadly illness, and I'm very sad it took away such a man as Robin Williams. This is a nice reminder of the seriousness of it, and that those who suffer aren't alone.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

We are all of us, even Hollywood stars, just so unutterably human and vulnerable, aren't we. I feel so sad to think of Robin Williams' pain.

Lee said...

Robin Williams' death has hit us all very hard if the outpourings of sorrow are a guideline. I know it did me...I felt guttered all day yesterday after learning of it early morning. So very sad.

As our TV channels cover the sad loss of Robin Williams...it's amazing the vast portfolio of brilliant - absolutely brilliant work he has left in his wake. Robin Williams shared with us so much of his unique talent. His sad, unexpected passing reminds us of the massive contribution he made to the entertainment world. I wish we'd been reminded another way.

Depression is a dark, invisible demon...reach out to your loved ones, to your friends...there is no shame...it isn't a display of weakness to ask for help...

Birdie said...

Sometimes asking for help is he hardest if not impossible.

Claire said...

I love you, man. Talking is the way forward. There should be no stigma; hopefully we'll get there one day.

Granny Annie said...

It is a very sad way to get a message across, but Robin Williams has probably moved the understanding of mental illness and depression forward miles and miles.

G. B. Miller said...

From what I've read over the past few days, it seems that the coverage of Robin's death has been an anomaly, in that the media (in all formats) have been covering it in a very sensible and non-pandering way that people can appreciate.

Pursing the permanent solution to surely what is a treatable illness cause unbelievable not only to those in the immediate family, but the far range extended family as well.

Shelly Rayedeane said...

Yes. There is always hope. xo

LL Cool Joe said...

I was at the airport when I heard the news that Robin Williams had died. What a shock. I had no idea, but of course I also didn't know he had a drug addiction and was bankrupt either. So tragic.

DWei said...

I saw this on Reddit and was really hoping that it was a hoax.

Really disappointed when it wasn't. :(

agg79 said...

Robin's death hit a lot of people hard. He was a great, funny man and I was deeply saddened to see his light dim. You are spot on - Depression is one of those unspoken illnesses that people cannot seem to grasp or understand but it can be as deadly and devastating as any cancer.

Scarlet said...

So sad. I can't imagine what it's like for his family and close friends as we, who didn't know him personally, have been deeply affected. It's heartbreaking. I do like that we're all talking more about depression/anxiety and trying to understand what it's about. I'm doing more research, reaching out to friends who seem more withdrawn or showing some of the signs I've been reading about. I'm analyzing myself more, too. It can hit anyone at any time, those hopeless, lonely feelings, and it's good to be aware and recognize how it starts and if/when it gets more severe. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and personal experiences with us on your blog. You're down to earth and easygoing so it makes bringing up the topic and asking questions easier. I know I will turn to you (as I have in the past) for answers or any concerns. I know you'll be there. Thanks, amiguita. xo

Linda said...

It appears he died clean--no addictions. Money was not the cause, either. He had an incurable disease--Parkinson's. I do not have an addiction or mental illness, but have had people judge my motives for doing things. I can just imagine the speculations when I die!

Ginny said...

I think crushed is the best word to describe how I felt as well. His death hit me hard.

Riot Kitty said...

Thank you all for the thoughtful comments. I appreciate them!

A Beer For The Shower said...

This news hit everyone so hard, and it's raised more awareness of depression in the process and started some conversations about it. I just hope that once the shock dies down people will still be willing to talk about depression, because it's not going away, and it's still robbing people of their lives.

Blue Grumpster said...

Could it be that it isn't an accepted topic of public discussion because most people don't even want to imagine what it's REALLY like? So they say things like, "Go to a comedy. It'll make you feel better." Unbelievable.

Riot Kitty said...

ABFTS: Well said. I hope so too.
Blue: I think you're right.

CraveCute said...

Just catching up on posts RK. Very thoughtful discussion here. I know how devastating it is to the family. My Aunt (by marriage)came from a large family and two brothers and a sister committed suicide. After all of this, she swore to her family that she would never do the same thing. Sadly she fought for several years and ultimately died of cancer when she was only 43. I still admire her for her courage and strong will. There were so many times when she could have given up, but she fought to stay alive to the very end. If only someone could discover what (trait, gene etc.)it is that people like her have and capture that magic in a bottle, what a wonderful day that would be.