Saturday, August 16, 2014

Words Don't Help

Robin Williams, quite possibly one of the most intelligent comic geniuses to walk this planet, died this week. In the aftermath of the news that he took his own life at the nadir of his long battle with depression there has been a slew of information about depression and suicide prevention.

Forgive me if I'm more than a little cynical about this surge of newfound "concern" over depression. These platitudes anger and frustrate not only those who suffer from this condition but those who love them. It will be all forgotten when one of the willfully stupid celebrities society worships pulls another bullshit stunt.

Because that is part of what this disease inflates: the sense of futility, hopelessness, and despair that nothing will improve as long as the world worships moronic behavior and stupidity. From Honey Boo Boo to Kim Kardashian, the Westboro Baptists and ISIS, to every polarized self-serving jerk in Congress, the idiots are glorified, worshiped, adored--and emulated. Apathy runs rampant among those who could potentially change the world because they see the majority of people choose to love stupidity and refuse to change.

Perhaps there was a subliminal reason the Genie character Mr. Williams voiced in Aladdin was blue. They say most comedians are in psychic pain; it allows them to see how inane and ridiculous the world can be. His death hit me hard. If someone as funny and amazing as Robin Williams couldn't manage to see his way through, how in the world will I?
This video illuminates a little of what depression feels like. It's different for each individual, of course. But one thing missing is the comment that aggravates depression and often drives sufferers into total silence about how much agony they are experiencing. If you truly care for someone battling depression, never EVER say this to them:

"What do you have to be depressed about?"

No aspect of depression is logical. Get that? It makes no sense when the darkness descends and the light hurts. There are no steps to follow down or up, and you can't just "snap out of it" by thinking cheery thoughts. It's a spiral into an abyss of despair that generates self-loathing because you can't pull yourself up, you can't do what everyone wants you to do, and you hate yourself for resenting those who are only trying to help but making you feel even worse.

Sometimes writing allows you to climb up from the depths. Sometimes even words on paper are acidic and sour and the screen is too bright. And yet, sometimes--most of the time--it lightens the heavy psychic burden and makes it tolerable to breathe again. It's an outlet only you can access.

Words, platitudes, cheerful intentions, and slogans from well-meaning friends don't help. Being there, silently supporting, making an effort to understand, does. I sympathize completely with Mr. Williams and his frustration with treatment. There are no easy answers. My heart goes out to his family who have suffered for decades with him and his efforts to keep going. They are heartbroken now and yet, surely they understand that at last he is at peace.


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Well put, Jude. I've always enjoyed Robin Williams as a performer. His frenetic energy was contagious; his ability to adlib, wondrous and brilliant.

Sad that his depression and genius were his RED SHOES, out of control, dragging him through life at breakneck speed one day and dashing him into the rocks the next.

Big Mike said...

Hey JJ

One of the many subject areas I dip into time to time is the workings of the brain. I remember a video I watched on the role the synopsis play in our approach to our surroundings. The difference between normalcy, depression and psychosis is determined by the delta in the gap between the connections in our brain. Minor differences in the junctions can cause perceptions to vary big time. My point? It's not a choice rather the nature in the way our neurons share information. Thus even with loving support, without meds to try and establish the linkage, the cause for low spirits remains. Yet many won't take 'em because of the stigma.


Jude Johnson said...

Thanks, Julie. And Big Mike, that's exactly the problem--the stigma of mental illness keeps many people from proper diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately, chemistry being as individually diverse makes it difficult to come up with a medication that works for everyone. As the song says, "We have no choice but to carry on."