Robin Williams’ suicide personally affected me. Not because I knew him, or even because I’m a big fan of his work. Rather, we have a mutual enemy: depression.
Like Williams, I’ve been battling depression for much of my life. It’s a difficult condition, not only for those afflicted but also for the afflicted’s loved ones. In addition to severe sadness, it can cause extreme anger. It can be a constant feeling, or in my case get triggered by seemingly unrelated events or an innocuous statement someone says.
A friend who knew about my depression innocently asked me, “Why can’t you just be happy? When I’m sad I just stop focusing on the negative and focus on the positive.”
I wish it were that easy. However depression can consume its victims in an inescapable way. And it’s impossible for someone who hasn’t suffered from depression to truly understand — much like it’s impossible for males to truly understand the pain of birthing a baby. Yet it would be considered socially unacceptable to tell a woman in labor to just “get over it” and “focus on the happiness of a new baby!”
Another misnomer is that one can tell when someone is suffering depression. Robin Williams — considered one of the funniest men in the world — is a perfect example to counter that claim. People are often surprised when they hear about my battle with depression. I’m generally considered outgoing and relatable, have a successful track record at work, have no addictions, am financially stable, very involved with my church and community, and have a beautiful wife and three sons. By most definitions, I am living the American dream. But I still struggle with depression.
Hopefully Robin Williams’ suicide will be a wakeup call to those with depression. Several weapons are needed in one’s battle with the disease. My arsenal is filled with a very supportive family, helpful medications and consistent therapist and psychiatrist visits. I know it’s a battle that will likely be with me until my death. But I am determined to not be like Robin Williams, and let depression be the death of me.