Eric Shapiro is heartbroken to learn that the lovable genius lost the fight.
I feel a certain kinship with the mad.
For good reason, a line exists between the neurotic and the psychotic. The neurotic are the ones who worry, obsess, get depressed, and get addicted. The psychotic are the ones who see things that aren’t there, hear voices barking at them, and often have a low to nonexistent degree of empathy. Most of us who know madness fall on the neurotic side. For me, it was O.C.D. I won’t go into what it was like, so just know I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. And though my brain as of now is hardly a model of calmness, overcoming my O.C.D. with alternative medicine was nothing short of the thing that saved my life.
Most of us, I imagine, would rather be neurotic than psychotic — that is, if we have to suffer mentally at all. After all, the difference between the two makes for a marked difference in functionality and credibility. For example, I’d be surprised if my history of neurosis prevented me from gaining new clients, or allowing others to feel safe when they’re alone with me.
That said, because neurotic ailments — depression, anxiety, O.C.D., addiction — are more commonplace than psychotic ones, more “with the people”, if you will, their harshness tends to be underestimated. Even now, in 2014, with nonstop informational tidal waves rolling across our collective consciousness at every moment, there’s a tendency to downplay the potential severity of neurosis. Call it basic human optimism: Perhaps people would just rather not admit that things so bad can be so common. Or call it basic human ignorance: Perhaps people lack the patience, interest, or curiosity to educate themselves on matters that don’t exist quite in plain sight.
‘Cause it’s one thing to hear that someone’s depressed, but another thing entirely to understand what depression feels like…
I for one am thankful to have had limited run-ins with depression. That said, I’ve danced with its ugliness on many an occasion. So in case there’s still anyone who hasn’t found out:
Depression isn’t just the blues. Depression isn’t a gloomy attitude. Depression isn’t pessimism. Depression isn’t a tendency to view life darkly. Depression isn’t gentle. Depression isn’t shallow. Depression isn’t subtle. Depression isn’t off to the side. Depression doesn’t speak in hushed tones. Depression isn’t Debbie Downer. Depression isn’t sleeping late. Depression isn’t keeping the shades drawn. Depression isn’t something we’ve all gone through. And depression doesn’t always respond to medication.
Unfortunately, in reality, depression sucks. Depression’s a monster. Depression’s relentless. Depression’s cruel. Depression has no sense of humor. Depression’s a maze minus an exit door. Depression’s a holocaust in subzero temperatures. Depression’s your mind’s biology asserting its massive imperfections in ear-shattering screams. And depression can shriek. Depression doesn’t take a moment’s rest. Depression floods your blood with poison. Depression exposes the thorns in each instant. Depression’s a fingernail-climb up an ice-carved wall. Depression wants only the worst for you. Depression fights back when you dare fight against it.
And depression doesn’t care if you’re famous. Depression doesn’t care how much money you make. Depression couldn’t give two shits about your gifts or your talents.
For depression, as witness the death of Robin Williams, is a murderer.
Sucks, right? And the last thing we need to do is punish the afflicted. Instead, upon learning that someone’s depressed:
Acknowledge that depression’s a serious thing. Acknowledge that depression’s a soul-cracking trial. Acknowledge that depression’s a reason to skip work, or meetings, or family luncheons. Acknowledge that depression’s a community emergency. And acknowledge that any form of help for depression is worthwhile, while acknowledging that although depression cannot yet be cured — it can be, regularly is, and often has been overcome.
The facts of his case will assert that Robin Williams killed himself. But those who know depression know where best to point the finger. I’m so heartbroken to learn that lovable genius lost the fight. Now it’s up to all the rest of us to go and win it.