Robin Williams and depression

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Your partner is depressed or you are depressed, what do you do? I grew up with a very simple mantra for depression, “Knock it off.” You feel bummed out? Sad? Depressed? Knock it off. If one of the kids started moping around, they’d tell us to just stop it.

How do we deal with depression? Some communities believe in talking things out. And I don’t mean therapy. I mean talking to other people. Women sitting around talking with other women. Kids sitting around talking with other kids. Men going to a baseball game to talk over their problems. Going to the hairdresser for hours.

My son has had two close friends who lost their fathers in tragic circumstances. He and his teenage friends did what they thought best to deal with trauma. They went on a very long hike and then they camped out under the moon and barbecued, they ate bloody raw steak barely charred and drank beer; they played music and reminded each other that they are alive and that they have friends. Not a bad way of dealing with depression but this isn’t chronic depression, which is a whole other thing.

I had a partner once who had chronic depression. I believed, wrongly, I might add, that my own thick wild happiness would overcome his depression. I believed I could cheer him up. Just being around me was going to erase his depression. That is not how it worked. Dark is stronger than light. He did not cheer up. Depression doesn’t just go away when you’re around happy people and I’m not so much a happy person as an energetic one.

My partner needed drugs and therapy. Just therapy by itself would not have been enough.

We all experience sadness once in a while, sometimes deep sadness and what makes us sad is very different. I know people that get depressed if they gain a couple pounds. Seriously? Or if they wake up with bad hair. Get out of here. Money issues bum me out for a few minutes at a time but I can quickly cheer myself up by just not thinking about those issues.

Depression is a big deal. Millions of people take antidepressants and there are probably more who need them. I do not understand depression and just saying that means that the wiring in my brain does not tend toward depression. Constant depression is a wiring issue.

We all have messages that we hear; there’s a voice in our brain talking with us and informing us of who we are and that information infuses how we move in the world. George Saunders has a story about a man who’s under the influence of Darkenfloxx and under that influence, he is paranoid, suicidal and homicidal. Change the brain chemistry, change the person. We are all at the mercy of our brain chemistry.

Robin Williams seemed to be pretty lucky. He was a comic genius, had a loving family. One would assume that there was nothing out of his reach. Some of my dreams may never come true. I don’t have money and access, power or fame. But Robin Williams could have had any experience he wanted. So why wasn’t he happy? The human brain is complicated and it tells us what to do.

If I had a friend who was depressed, I would encourage them to seek professional help immediately. We do know what causes depression although the solutions are complicated. I no longer try to help people solve depression. I have a few skills and therapy isn’t one of them.

Like many of us, I will miss Robin Williams. I remind myself every day to breathe deeply, to find time to read and to do creative work. Captain, my captain. What we say to ourselves matters. And what I say to myself is this, I am my shepherd. I shall not want. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me every day of my life.

And I am grateful for every grace given me. Captain, my captain.

Published in: on August 15, 2014 at 5:40 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Reblogged this on Random Lines Working.

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