Depression is insidious. It’s a dark tunnel from which seeing the light is difficult. And when depression grabs you and holds you in its clutches its very hard to escape. When you’re a victim of depression you may find time and again reasons to carry on. But usually you’re only saved by the end of the day, or by a phone call from a friend. Getting through the day becomes the top priority, and a considerable challenge for those with depression. But time and again you do it. Time and again you overcome. And then…the next day comes.
Robin Williams couldn’t get through the day, yesterday. The end of the day or that phone call from a friend never came. He was trapped in his despair as he apparently had been many times in his life. But this time he failed to make it out alive. From what we know about this brilliantly talented man he successfully overcame his demons time and time again. But they kept returning. It’s like he gave us all so much; so much of his energy and his joy that when left to himself he had none left, he had no reservoir from which we all tap into in our souls, our minds, our hearts, our faith. From wherever Robin Williams achieved the self-preservation instinct to check himself into substance abuse rehab repeatedly, including last month, he couldn’t find it yesterday.
For those like myself who had stared the blackness of depression in the face it represents a particularly scary event. I found myself asking “If this universally loved man can be taken by depression what’s to happen to me if my despair returns?”. And I asked,”If this man feels unloved, insignificant, or in some way a failure…what about me?”
Prior to eight months ago I didn’t know depression or understand it. I thought it was equivalent to sadness, which like everybody else I have experienced many times in my life. I thought depression might just be sadness x 2. It’s not. It’s sadness x 1000. It’s sadness on steroids with a jet rocket pack strapped to its back. It’s not what I thought. It’s so much worse.
When first depression hits many friends and acquaintances are curious and perhaps caring enough to lend an ear. But usually that’s about it. It’s an ear. After the depression lingers even close friends drift away. They don’t understand and they don’t want to be dragged down by the depressed person’s mood, darkness, troubles. It takes the truly compassionate with a degree of understanding to provide assistance. And it takes professional help. Friends too often think a kick in the butt, or a pep talk should be sufficient to help the victim of depression. And when that proves insufficient they move on. A professional has the education and understanding and hopefully the compassion from which help can be supplied.
As I emerge from the darkest period of my life I can thank some truly helpful people. They include a family counselor from my parish, supplied to me and other church members at no cost. She has been a God send for me. I hired a business coach to keep me on-task with my company knowing my personal troubles might make the business falter or even fail. He has been tremendously effective in exactly what I needed from him. A single individual long time friend who has experienced that which I experienced has never failed to be there for me. Unlike so many others…he never faded away. Lastly, my son. He has seemed to sense my challenges, though I never revealed them to him and did my best to protect him from my shadows. His love and compassion, his hugs, and smiles have been beyond what I would have expected from such a young man. I miss him, since he’s out on his own building his own life, tackling his own challenges. But he pops in and never fails to lift my spirits.
I know Robin Williams felt unloved, unsuccessful, insignificant, and as he grew older perhaps he had a fear of his future, of aging. I don’t know specifically. But I know these are the issues that trouble the depressed. Even someone who is as loved and successful as the comedian and actor who blessed our lives for 40 years. But I have turned away from my initial fear. I can’t accept that his fate is my fate. I’m a different person. Unlike him I don’t have a substance abuse problem. I will overcome and live in the moment, for my future is scary. It’s scary because its unknown. But I will climb on that roller coaster and forgo the merry go round.
You can help those who face depression by making them feel significant, accomplished and loved. That’s what they need. And if they need it more than others…so be it. Give it to them. You are never diminished by holding someone up. Know that you are enhanced. And you too are significant and loved.