It’s hard to talk about depression with people, but especially with people you know. That’s because the first thing out of their mouths is, “But you have so much to be thankful for!/ so many blessings!/ to live for!/ such a great life!”
It makes me want to reply, “How do you know? And don’t you think for a minute that I don’t realize all that – you know what? Forget it. You’re right. I have so much to be thankful for, so many blessings and such a great life. That must be why I have this overwhelming panic and grief and helplessness welling up inside me, huh? Like I don’t have the right to feel down, because you’re so convinced I have it all. Never mind. Tell me again about your vacation in the Bahamas.”
No, you can’t talk about depression with people you know, at least not very easily. There’s also the folks who say they are listening to you, but they’re going to tell YOU all about how much more THEIR life sucks.
“Oh honey I know how you feel, I just get so down sometimes -” and off they go. Then it’s up to you to try to cheer them up, which I suppose can get you back on track at the same time, but it doesn’t last for long. Their problems aren’t your problems. Even if the problems are similar, PEOPLE aren’t. I’m not talking about feeling down, as if having to go over a little speed bump on an otherwise smoothly paved road. I’m talking about a disquiet that is hard to put into words but is present and hanging just over your shoulder, ready to descend into active thought. Even if you get them back to feeling chipper, you’re still stuck with your own Black Cloud.
The Black Cloud descends at any time, and the trigger could be anything from a growing frustration with a minor setback, to a poorly timed event that coincides with already present doubt, to an intentionally mean comment from some judgmental asshole. (You might even be aware that this certain judgmental person is an asshole, but even so a ton of feathers still weighs a ton.)
All the pep talk in the world cannot prevent a downward spiral, given the right trigger. If I’m down because my every effort to improve my life fails, being told something positive – “but you raised three great kids!” – sometimes lifts me up, but other times only serves to make it worse. Yes, I am proud and delighted to have raised three wonderful, beautiful, fabulous children, but that fact serves as a trigger pointing out yes, and they deserve a parent they can depend on and of whom they can be proud, yet here I am struggling to get by on a dead-end low-paying job and going nowhere fast. I’m such a Loser. Wait, wait. I raised them to not give up and to keep trying. I’ve got to keep going.
“But you’re a published author!”
I am, and sales are lousy. Nobody’s reading what I write. Fuck it, maybe I’m just a hack. Or maybe I just need to try harder and find other ways to get to where I’m going.
“You’ve got your health!”
I am in constant pain. You don’t notice it because you’re not the one with joints that feel like they’re being squeezed in a vise. Every day above ground is a good day. Keep it up.
“God won’t give you what you can’t handle!”
God? You mean the jealous, demanding, capricious Abrahamic God who once ordered a man to murder the man’s own son and then stopped him in the nick of time as He said wait wait, nevermind, just testing you! No. That kind of God sounds like a dick. The God I believe in doesn’t play like that. God may hear prayers but ultimately He leaves it up to us to face the music, sometimes with angels involved. God gives us strength. Uh, okay.
When you suffer from depression, that “music we face” is not the pleasant tuneful kind but instead is a strident, discordant tune that grows louder with each progressive note. Depression events are like a really awful game of Musical Chairs, and you are desperate to grab that last chair. It’s crushing, it’s mind-invading, it’s a helpless feeling as if your hands are tied down at your sides. You might look at the world and see the beauty and colors and sounds, but at the same time you want to cry because you simply don’t know how long it will take you to scratch your way out of that invisible bag of misery you’re in. If you’re lucky, eventually you do and for a while, the colors and sounds and beauty of the world is back and you can enjoy them again.
“Saying ‘depression’ is just a cry for attention, you’re not really depressed! You have a great smile, so just smile!”
I can’t believe you just said that. Fuck off.
Three disjointed statements that some assclown thinks link together (and yes, I actually heard that once.) You ask what’s wrong, I say I’m depressed. Then you tell me (after having to ASK, right?) that NO, I’m not really depressed, as if you can crawl into my mind and know that for certain. Well while you’re up there in my mind, you can plainly see that I think you’re a real shitheel for your casual dismissal of my stated concern. And then you tell me I have a great smile. ?!? What has THAT got to do with anything? Suppose I had no teeth, would you still insist I have the greatest looking gums of anyone you know, and would that still somehow negate the fact that I have something weighing on my mind which makes me want to curl up in a ball?
It’s the people who seemingly “have it all” who shock us when they attempt or succeed in taking their own lives but the sad truth is, “all” might also include Black Clouds.
I don’t know what all Robin Williams had to deal with. I never had a drug addiction, so I have no idea how hard he had to struggle with that. I’m not an alcoholic either. And I don’t work in an industry where everyone around you wears a false face and scrambles to claw their way over your carcass to get on top. I have no idea what other problems he faced. Hell, most people who know me, don’t even know I get depressed from time to time, so how do I know what kind of demons he faced? Whatever the case, it’s done.
Be at peace, Robin Williams.