Being Human

robin williams
photo credit: emilystepp.com

Okay, I’m a little over it. I’m a little over all the posts and comments on Facebook and the internet about how Robin Williams was a coward and how he made a choice.

Wow! Of course. If only Robin had spoken to these pseudo-doctors. It’s so simple. He could have chosen to live, yeah? No. It’s not a choice. The trouble is depression can take away the very choices being brandied about by these people until there’s only one left that seems to make sense. Suicide isn’t so much a choice when you’re depressed: it can seem like the only option.

Clearly, some people know nothing about depression. Which is understandable because unless you’ve studied it or gone through it you can’t really know what it’s like.

If we wanted to draw some sort of comparison between depression and child birth (just run with it) it might be that if a bloke tried to tell a woman who’s going through labour how easy it would be to get through it if only they had the right attitude he’ll sound like a major dick. And I’m not saying which but in the case of one of these your life might well be in danger. (Hint: not the depression).

Robin Williams is dead. Whatever his personal demons, he couldn’t see a way out.

I don’t claim to be some sort of depression expert. In fact, most of my knowledge is merely anecdotal: I’ve suffered from depression for years and, in my uneducated experience, it’s crap.

I’m on tablets and I’m not ashamed to admit it or fussed about who knows, because it’s not like I’ve chosen this for myself any more than someone chooses to hear a Justin Bieber song over the speakers in Coles.

Let me speak plainly: my life is wonderful.

As anyone who reads my blog would know, I see the funny side of life and I love a good laugh.

I have seven children I adore and a gorgeous wife who makes me laugh and showers me with love. I also have friends and workmates I cherish, and I had a really great childhood thanks to my wonderful parents and siblings.

I seriously have nothing to whinge about.

And yet…here I am.

Depression doesn’t play favourites. Smart, silly, funny, successful, parent, whimsical, athlete, gamer, homemaker, builder, student, banker. It strikes without discrimination.

I don’t know what depression is for other people but for me it’s been the inability to mentally let go of a thought, especially a ‘what if’. It’s a bizarre mix of questions, conversations, scenarios and abuse, all the worse because they’re coming at me in my own interior voice.  These relentless thoughts permeate my every waking moment and refuse to let me sleep at night.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to sleep. I loooooooong for sleep. But I won’t give myself  a moment’s peace. And as any parent knows, a lack of sleep only makes things worse. It becomes a downward spiral of the worst sort of helplessness.

But I’m not seeking pity or sympathy. It just is what it is.

And again, I’m not ashamed of having depression. I’m not at all ashamed to admit I needed help. I’m just very, very pleased it was available.

But what I think is really important is if we can all do our bit to take this sad passing of Robin Williams as an opportunity to talk about depression and lessen the stigma attached to it.It was watching Stephen Fry’s The Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive which finally brought home to me how important it is to be upfront and open about this. I was blown away by Fry’s honesty and openness about his issues. I figured if he could talk about it, so could I. And talking about depression, and tearing down those daft misconceptions, is vital.

Not for me. I’m getting help. It’s vital for the people who aren’t.

The first step is to realize there’s a problem and you need a bit of help. Then to have it diagnosed. Then start treatment.

I’ve been lucky. Treatment seems to be working. I’m on pills and I’ve gone to counselling (pleased to report my counselor said I had an excellent attitude). I tried to work through my issues by myself for years and years, and now shake my head at so much wasted energy. The fact is, I never thought it could help but it does.

I recommend anyone who thinks they might have a problem to go to their doctor and get professional advice.

Sure, for someone suffering from depression it can be a long road to recovery, but it doesn’t have to be all up hill.

Nanu Nanu, and good luck with your journey x

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“Raising a family on little more than laughs.”

38 Comments

  • Bruce ….. A brilliant blog on a very serious issue! My wife lives with depression (like you medicated, and mostly under control) and at times the black dog can raise its ugly head. But how we choose to deal with it defines how it rules our lives. I too mourn for the comedy genius that was Robin Williams, and if one good can come from his untimely death , it will be the prompting of a conversation about depression! Well done Sir! 😀

  • THANK YOU! This is an excellent blog. I have depression, have treated it and come out ok for the moment, still do feel anxious though. I completely understand others reactions of “oh just get over it or come on it’s not that bad”. People need to talk about it – particularly men!

  • If we where in the same location I’d hug you right now. I’m currently off meds (my choice) and doing ok but nothing drives more bat shit crazy than two things
    1. People doing the “oh but your fine now” change topic response if I attempted to talk about my depression
    2. The “stigma” that comes with having depression (medicated or not).

    I sometimes have the urge to say “depression isn’t viral you won’t catch it if I sneeze on you while we’re talking”

    Thanks for writing such an awesome post

  • Thank you for writing this, perfectly said. I have been taking anti-depressants for clinical depression for over 10 years. Without them, I probably wouldn’t be here. As you said, it is what it is. I’m also a diabetic, I treat that illness with insulin. Same same really. I’m devastated that the Black Dog took Robin. From the outside, it looked like he fought so hard, for so long. May he finally be at peace. xx

  • A great blog Bruce. It
    just goes to show though, the really ingrained social teachings of mental illness that we have as a society. I, even as someone who has PND, went “no way?! Bruce too!”
    Mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

  • Virtual hug* it is just a shame that it takes the death of such an awesome man for people to start really talking about depression. When my father committed suicide it wasn’t discussed at all. Robin Williams was a legend and even in his death he will still be doing great work, helping those who just don’t talk about depression 🙂 very we’ll written Bruce, thank you

  • Well written Bruce. My husband has depression and I have high anxiety. I am medicated and my husband is not. Not because he doesn’t want to be medicated but because the medications he has tried have not agreed with him or made him worse. He struggles with sleep and I think the fatigue makes him worse. We live on a small farm and he has found the daily routine of looking after the livestock rather theraputic. We are also foster carers and since having children in our care, we have found a great deal of joy and laughter…along with many tears.

    We are the lucky ones because we know we have a purpose and we cling to that. For those who are majorly depressed, it is a real battle to even acknowledge that they too have a purpose on this earth. I have never thought it was cowardice to commit suicide. I would never have the guts to do it. It is a tragedy that those who suicide feel so low that they cannot find a way to see joy. It is heart breaking as those around them love them and know what beautiful people they are and the wonderful contribution they make to the world. RIP Robin Williams, your genius will live on.

  • For me, writing is therapy. I wrote a couple of books and lots of short stories (just for fun) before a friend suggested blogging.

  • It’s good when you can find an outlet. It may not cure you but it certainly helps get some satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment.

  • I enjoy the humour in your blogs but this honesty I absolutely adore. You have spoken eloquently yet made the issue crystal clear and I sincerely hope that people will take the message to heart & run with it. Thank you.

  • Well done on your post. Although Robin’s passing is a very sad tragedy, the legacy he leaves behind, all of us bloggers talking about what it’s like. The general public talking about it. It’s all awareness and I believe we can never have enough awareness. Stay strong and keep doing what you do.
    From another sufferer

  • Thank you to everyone who is sharing their stories. This is what needs to happen, I feel. There’s no shame in having depression. Lots of people do. It would just be a shame if they didn’t know they could ask for help. Hopefully it’ll encourage others to step forward and see their doctor.

    • Thank you for your absolute honesty – it is so refreshing. I have found Robin Williams’ death absolutely devastating because I too have suffered with depression and last week that absolute feeling of loneliness was almost too much to bear (nothing to do with Robin Williams) I just hope that i always remember that there will always be so much to make me “happy” later. I also could never leave my 5 year old.
      I won’t go on medication but only because I’m at uni and want to be able to think without restrictions.

  • No one deserves to be in that dark hole, I used to call it the “vortex of doom” a person in that place is in real pain and at the mercy of their own insanity.

  • Vee, it can take a few different medications to find the one that suits you best. I am on a medication that takes the edge off the anxiety and still allows me to feel and be clear headed. There are alot of people who will tell you that all medication makes you feel fuzzy or sleepy and that is simply not true. Medications work differently on each individual.

  • Hmm, how do I put this without getting flamed..
    I appreciated your post, but I have to respectfully disagree with the notion of having no choice. Of course there is no choice when it comes to depression itself, and I’m not saying Robin didn’t FEEL like there was no other choice when it came to his suicide (and it must be a very, very dark place to be), but to say that everyone who has depression and is suicidal has no choice, is implying that it’s terminal and there is no HOPE. And when they are at that point, hope is the most important thing there is. If someone was about to jump, we try and convince them to change their minds, we try to remind them they have a choice and that there IS hope! If there was no choice, what would be the point of trying? I definitely don’t think it’s a cowardly act, the desperation someone feels at that point is all-consuming, but I think it’s dangerous giving people who may be struggling the impression that their death through suicide is imminent.
    I do know what it’s like, I have suffered from depression myself, and have to talk my husband through suicidal thoughts daily, not to mention holding him down to stop him from hurting himself when it gets too much. Believe me, in those places, when it’s 4am and I just desperately want to sleep, hope is the only thing we have left and I need to convince myself this as much as him.
    My main point is, while there often feels like there is no choice and no way out, that is not reality. It’s their reality, but a warped and false one. We need to make sure sufferers know we’ve got their backs and that there is always hope.

  • Thank you for sharing. The more people that share their experiences of mental illness the less stigma there will be 🙂

  • I would like to think this whole post is about hope, El. The paragraph you’re referring to has the words ‘can’ and ‘seem’ and ends with, ‘Suicide isn’t so much a choice when you’re depressed: it can seem like the only option.’ Again ‘seem’. I stand by it. That’s the bit you have to work your mind through. To not say these moments happen would be to sugarcoat it. So I think your implying this is in any way a dangerous post is odd, although I agree that reminding people there is hope and something to hang about for is important 🙂 Of course it is 🙂 Having said that, thank you for sharing your story x

  • I have seen so many posts etc over the last few days saying “HE HAD NO CHOICE” ultimatum style. absolute. no ‘seems’ or ‘can’s involved that I didn’t even register yours. So it’s not this whole post that I was referring too as dangerous, just that statement. I guess I didn’t pick the best article to comment on, but it’s one of the only places I’d feel brave enough to 😉

    • Totally understandable, El, there’s been a lot of rhetoric 🙂 And I hope you know you are genuinely always welcome to comment and speak your mind here 😀

  • Thank you for sharing your blog on this. Like you, it really annoys me when people say someone has taken the “cowards way out” by committing suicide. A year ago, the husband of a friend and colleague hanged himself. Nobody in their “right” mind would leave their family and friends like this, and it goes a long way to show just how depression can affect a person’s thinking, when they feel that this is their only option.

    I have suffered from depression and now am on meds for PMS/PMT. Thankfully, I have never felt suicidal, but I worry about getting my depression back.

    I am very sad for the family of Robin Williams, but am grateful for the laughter he brought to my life through his comedy. R.I.P Mr Williams.

  • This was wonderfully written, Bruce, thank you for sharing. Like El, I would only feel comfortable saying or asking this here. Depression is horrible, suicide is horrible. Recently, in my city, a man killed his wife, attempted to kill his son, and killed himself. Neighbors say he had recently lost his job and was experiencing financial troubles. He had suffered from depression and these problems intensified it. Is this still a case of “no choice”? It seems to be a bit of a slippery slope to say it is. What about those who murder someone else, attempt suicide and do not succeed? Is it still murder?

    My next question is are all people who commit suicide depressed? I keep seeing that suicide is not a choice, but I would wonder about those who commit a crime, are cornered by police and shoot themselves instead of allowing themselves to be apprehended. Did they also not choose suicide?

    I’ve really been mulling these points over the past week. I would,love your insight.

    • Hi Amy. I’ve been thinking about your questions since you wrote them up. Avoiding the obvious knee jerk responses is hard because the issues are so fraught with emotional baggage. Like I said in my post, I’m not an expert. Not even a little. My knowledge is merely anecdotal, which is not the best to draw conclusions from. I suspect anecdotal evidence is why societies have had so many strange and awful customs – ‘Oh, the rain started up again after that virgin fell in the volcano. If we get another drought we should try that again.’ That sort of thing. My oldest son is in the final year of a double degree – Criminology and Psychology – and if the stuff he talks about when he’s home has taught me anything it’s that I don’t know much about these things and that they are rarely cut and dry. For starters, depression isn’t the only mental illness, and having it doesn’t mean you don’t have other problems. I do know someone who was the only child spared when his father went on a rampage and killed the rest of the family and then himself. He doesn’t know why he was spared. If he hasn’t found the answers after a lifetime of looking, I won’t presume to. Suffice to say, there is no acceptable excuse for committing these awful acts, but there would be reasons.

  • Well spoken.

    Hate how depression is so often stigmatised & looked down on in a way it wouldn’t be if it were any other illness as if it were so kind of personal failing or choice to be unwell- as if it’s something anyone would ever choose!

    I live with it, it’s in my extended family’s lives & so many friends as well.

    So import we start having the conversations to destigmatise it & let one another know were not alone.

  • Thank you for this great post, I also have the illness of depression and have been medicated for it on and off, as well as seeking counselling. I’ve had suicidal thoughts and have been reasonably close once to following through and I can tell you that it was nothing to do with cowardice and everything to do with trying to free my family from the burden of looking after me, thankfully my fantastic hubby helped me realize that mine was a burden he chose to carry and would do so his entire life! It’s so sad when people just can’t see any way out and don’t feel they can talk to anyone about it. There will always be someone to listen, Lifeline if no one else, there is always someone! <3

  • Amazing post. I am the same, medicated for a few years now but my life has never been better and I do know that. Knowing that though doesn’t stop the depression, it isn’t something somebody can just snap out of. I read it is like telling somebody with cancer to just get better. It is an illness and posts like this that explain it so well to those who don’t understand is how we who do suffer will feel the ability to talk openly. Thank you so much Bruce.

  • Thankyou Bruce and others for your insights, comments and respectful and thoughtful conversation. And Bruce – love your blog 🙂

  • Very eloquently put. What you are in the depths, or teetering on the brink of that precipice, it is difficult to see anything other than the darkness. So far, I have pulled back, but I feat that, one time, there will be no other option visible than to end it.
    There IS ALWAYS the option to stay alive, but you just can’t see it that way. Several times, I have walked along the beach, stopped, and contemplated walking into the sea. The thougt of leaving my daighter is what has prevented it … friends, family, and especially your kids will blame themselves. They will all think … if only I had seen how bad it was …… They are the ones who suffer after your suffering has ended. Don’t do that to them !

  • This is a well articulated content. I am a Bipolar and never medicated, mostly because the necessary, let’s say monetary support, never seemed to agree to my medication requirements. Hence I always had to battle it out on my own.

    I can admit to one thing; the unpleasant, grim, and quite frankly life threatening in a lot of cases, feeling of depression is never a choice. I think me and a lot of others would prefer not having to feel this way if we had any sense of control over it. I mean, who wants to continue progressing through life tethered to a what I would describe as a “dark vortex”?

    Although that part is somewhat difficult for most people to comprehend. They feel it’s something that can be easily shrugged off by a positive thought.

    But I believe no matter how trivial an attempt to better oneself may be, at least it’s a step in the right direction. Trust me, I can say because it never gets any easier if nothing is done about it.

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