Monday, August 11, 2014

Depression, Robin, and me

(to whatever god there is, I pray that I eventually have the strength of mind to post this as an in-text facebook post)

I don’t think I’m alone in this regard, but the apparent suicide of Robin Williams has hit me far harder than any celebrity death ever has. It is a horrible, brutal lesson of just how powerless the world still is against depression. The most beloved man in the world, who brought more pure joy and delight to more people than perhaps any figure from history ever has, was nevertheless powerless against depression’s pull. If it can claim Robin Williams, who did so much to redeem himself from its hold, is there any hope at all for those of us who struggle with it every day yet have nowhere near his platform to disarm it?

So it’s far past time to talk about the ravages of this illness publicly in my most public forum where I post 12098572039485 times a day: on Facebook. How can I stand for anything on my own two feet if I don't stand up for myself and those like me who suffer so greatly - this illness which made me a C and D student and bully fodder in a parochial school that amplified its effect exponentially, even though it was perfectly clear to so many that I was more intelligent than nearly every A student they'd ever met (modesty is not one of its inherent traits, but mania is :) ), which forced me through the ‘troubled adolescent’ system, in which thousands of cynical or (still worse) fanatically concerned professionals make a quick buck by giving bad advice on how to handle teenagers of whom they clearly have no understanding; which delivered me for three years to a boarding school where depression was thought of as nothing more than a character flaw, and where extreme mental and physical pressure was exerted every day to ‘correct’ these flaws on all of us in manners that resemble the slimiest tactics of Guantanamo - which in turn delivered me to nearly a decade of psychotic delusions and mental hallucinations which only a decade of consistent therapy was able to address; which in turn led me to years of inability to work a steady job, which of course lead to still more horrible depression. It’s led me to acts against others which, however objectively explicable they might be under the circumstances, I will and can never allow myself any forgiveness. Physically, it may have already aged me far beyond my years - causing me a battery of physical tics and uncontrollable tremors,  vertigo, dehydration, insomnia, along with massive food binges that cause all the predictable chest and stomach pain and rapid heart beat that goes along with it. Romantically, it has prevented any semblance of a long term relationship in my adult life. Socially, it has given me all sorts of difficulty with my (thankfully) many friends. Familially, it has caused more strife than any family should ever have to go through, and I worry has bequeathed a small (though far too large) bit of my infection - a contagious illness if ever there is one - to my closest family members. In many ways, it is the cruelest of all possible illnesses, because it can strip all who suffer from it for decade upon decade of the ability to recognize any way in which we are still blessed. I’ve written in detail about this plenty of this on my blog, where, I’m well aware, I’m quite safe because nobody actually reads it.

Here is my message: Whenever you look down on someone for publicly advertising their depression online, I want you to remember to look down on me too. Whenever you see an unhappy person as an inconvenience ruining your good time, I want you to remember to view me as a similar annoyance. Whenever you view someone with contempt for burdening you with their mental problems, I want you to remember to have contempt for me too. Whenever you accuse someone experiencing mental anguish of simple emotional manipulation and self-pity, I want you to accuse me of it too. If you become suspicious of becoming friends or dating or working with someone because of their depression, I want you to become suspicious of me too. If you decide that you have no time for people who bring you down, I want you to have no time for me. I want the enemies of depressed people to become my enemies, and I want to take pride that I stood for something that may one day make the lives of those who live with depression not be defined by it, even if it may be too late to define my life by anything else. I have done what I could to conceal this illness (which ultimately is, of course, very little). I tried for what I think is the best of reasons - it was nice for once in my life not to be completely defined by it. And yet the concealment did so little to lighten the burden that I have to ask if it is at all worth the rather superhuman effort it takes (and nevertheless I still dread the thought that it is still very much worth it). This illness has led me to many, many mistakes in my lifetime. But this will no longer be one of them. Some people simply can’t live with the horror of the mistakes which this illness causes them to make, but insofar as it is ever in my control, I will always opt to live with mine. I’ve not done particularly well against it, but I’m nevertheless damn proud of the fact that I’ve done as well as I have in the circumstances. Realistically, I may one day be lost to this illness, either by suicide or by delusion or by physical strain, but so long as this illness is not me, I will choose life, rationality, health and hale every day, and never, never, never give in to it.

1 comment:

  1. I read & was moved by yr words. And, as someone who has been driven down by depression & sometimes been lucky enough to be strong enough to serve as a shield & a comfort to friends who struggle with depression, I appreciate these words.