We’ve all been rocked this week by the “sudden” passing of Robin Williams. But I’m betting for him it wasn’t sudden. It was a long and tiring road for the man who made us laugh.
So I figure this week I would forgo my own journey of weight loss and vanity and talk about the thing that is on everyone’s mind.
Mental health and depression.
It’s pretty obvious that it can take anyone no matter what their personal or career success is. Robin Williams was a wonderful actor, comedic genius, and generous person with the financial gain of his success. So it has taken everyone by complete surprise that someone who was so well-rounded in all aspects of his life could even remotely be depressed about life.
But here’s the thing about depression: It doesn’t give a shit who are. It’ll laugh in your face and take you no matter how hard you try.
I do not have depression, but I have been depressed. It lasted for close to a year and then I decided I wasn’t going to let it define my own life and take down peg by peg what I had already built. I wasn’t going to let it rob me of a future. THAT is not depression. Sure, it was bad. But I could get myself out of the hole with the simple decision to BE out of the hole.
Depression is a whole other beast. It’s endless. It’s not a fight to the finish but it’s a fight. I have friends (plural) with depression and I can shine the light in their eyes, I can spend hours, days, months, etc, trying to make them see what their lives are and how much they have to be grateful and happy for, what they have to live for, but I can’t be there all the time holding their hands and telling them it’s going to be okay every minute of the day. (And who the hell would want a chipper asshole doing that in the first place? I would punch me out if I did that to me all the time because when you are depressed the last thing you need is someone telling you how good you’ve got it and things could always be worse.)
I can even tell them to “Buck up mother fucker!” (Which I have.) And it makes them laugh sardonically for a brief three seconds.
Depression is the worst of the worst because people think that is really does take a ‘Buck up mother fucker’ to get the person “motivated” to change their lives. Doesn’t work like that.
I kind of want to talk about all aspects of it but that would take 75 years and there are enough people voicing their opinions and concerns about what it is to have depression (yay for the informed! Keep it up!), but instead I would also like to talk about the people who aren’t depressed who have people in their lives who are and what you can do to not completely help, but to alleviate things a little bit.
First off: Don’t become a fucking cheerleader. Nothing is more irritating than someone sitting there being like “You can do it! You can survive this! You are better than this!”. No. Just no. Because you know what is going through that persons mind?
Nothing. They will tune you out because you don’t understand what the fuck they are going through. Depression isn’t something you can will away. It’s an endless dark pit that they are laying in where they can’t see the top and can’t even see the rope you are lowering down to pull them out. It’s like being upside down drowning in the ocean and you have no idea which way is up.
The hardest thing to understand is that they lose most of their emotions. It’s just a deadened feeling of nothingness. And no matter how much you try to make them laugh or point out the good, they will just look at it as though it’s the colour grey and blink at you.
What you can do is one of the most important things I think everyone in the world needs:
Be a friend who listens. Don’t suggest things, don’t tell them they should exercise or eat better or stop reading depressing books about the Holocaust. (Which all humans should totally be doing all of these things anyway, but it still doesn’t do shit.) Suggesting things is making them feel like there should be a solution for this, and there just isn’t. It’s a mental state, yes, but it’s also a chemical/biological/sciencey thing in their genetic make up that they really can’t change.
So let your people know that they are your people. That you are here for them. That you are listening to the words coming out of their mouths, taking it to heart, and carrying it around for them for a little while and are not just concerned, but caring about them. LISTEN. Really fucking listen, because that’s what most people want in life anyway. Someone to just hear them.
Understand is the next thing. Understand that this comes in waves, the waves can last as long as they goddamn well feel like and sometimes that’s going to be hard not just on your friend, but on you. You know that thing on airplanes that says for you to put on your oxygen mask before you help anyone else?
Don’t fucking pass out on your friend. Take care of you, deep breath, and go help. Even if helping is laying on the floor next to the person while they stare deadened at the ceiling. And if you can’t take it anymore after a period of time? Just think about how they must feel because long after the hour where you get up and go get a churro that person is still laying there staring and not feeling a fucking thing for days on end.
I was a dick to my friend this week because I wasn’t taking care of me. I picked a fight like an asshole because I was stressed out and needed a friend and they have other social anxieties that I wanted to wish away for my own selfish reasons. Obviously, that can’t happen. And somebody with social anxieties like myself, should really know better. But because I didn’t put my oxygen mask on first, I was a Grade A dickhole.
I’ve read articles, I’ve read books about depression, and that’s the dirty little secret they don’t tell you in books:
You need to be relatively stable to be stable for someone else.
As for Robin Williams himself, I’m going to miss the shit out of watching his movies. That man makes me pee my pants with laughter like nobody else. And not even just that but his thoughts on life have kept me going when all hope was lost for me. (I even semi-quoted him in last weeks Keep Moving Forward because what he said means so much to me and I have held onto that quote for years when people have been shitbuckets to me.)
Here’s to Robin, a beacon of light and love even when he couldn’t feel it.
This is my favourite Robin William’s thing ever, never fails to make me laugh really hard.