I was so incredibly saddened when I found out that Robin Williams had died, worse that he committed suicide. This post is in no way a detriment to his tremendous career he spent on earth making people laugh and be joyful. However, in light of his death I discovered many comments and encountered many remarks regarding his depression that were just plain, outright incorrect. The thing about depression is that it is very hard to fully comprehend if you have not endured and suffered through it yourself. So in light of Robin Williams’ battle with depression and the sudden urge I have felt to share my personal story I want to share what I know and have experienced. All I want to do with this post is give hope to others who may be battling with this illness and give others a better understanding of what depression truly is.
What is depression?
First off I’ll tell you what depression is not. It is not feeling “under the weather.” It is not feeling down. It is not the feeling you get after flunking a test or getting stuck in traffic. It is so so so much more than the innocuous things in life. Depression is a disease. It is a mental illness, which I believe people should not be ashamed of having or asking help for. You wouldn’t be ashamed of catching the flu-an illness, so why be ashamed of getting depression-another illness. But I’ll dive more into that later.
Depression is a state of being, or rather the lack of being. When I transferred schools during college I became depressed. The loneliness I felt became so deep I was just lost in darkness. It was as if I had an ocean on top of me with no light, no warmth. I forgot who I was. I wasn’t me anymore. The always happy, laughing, making others laugh self was gone. I wasn’t even human anymore. I was just a body. A body that couldn’t get out of bed except to go to school. A body that felt constantly fatigued. A body that would go to school, make no physical, emotional, or spiritual contact with any other human being, not even a conversation enough to lift my spirits. A body that couldn’t even realize I was crying on the bus or in my room or that I was still lying in bed. That was it. That was my life.
Depression is unbearable. It’s a constant weight pushing you down in every way. Spiritually, emotionally, and even physically. The worst thing about my depression was the loneliness which triggered it all. Because just in sadness you have someone to go to, to share the emotion with. I felt like I had no one. No one to share that emotion with and lift some of the pain. When something good happened I had no one. When something bad happened I had no one to lend the pain to, share it, lift the weight. That was the worst part of my depression, feeling so helplessly and utterly alone. Just a constant disappointment, a constant sadness, loneliness, defeatist state of mind. The sun never felt warm. Voices around me just felt like reverberating echoes. That was me for about eight months, the worst of it.
There’s no going around it. I thought about it. Suicide. Death. I thought about dying during my worst times. How much easier it would be. Because I didn’t feel alive. I felt like I was already dead. The only reason I am still alive today is because I knew that God didn’t want me to die, which I’ll touch on later. So that’s what depression truly is, or at least what it was like for me during the hardest time in my entire life. I’ve been through many hard times growing up and in my childhood but nothing compared to depression. Because in my depression I just felt utterly alone.
What NOT to tell people who are depressed.
The most offensive thing to say to a person who is truly depressed is “Just be happy.” I think saying that is worse than not saying anything at all. When you are depressed you can not be happy. Your body, your mind, your emotions are chemically imbalanced but more than that this sickness is so deep it can not just be fixed by forcing a smile on your face. And frankly telling a person who is likely going through the lowest point of their life to just stop it is insulting.
People who are lucky enough to not have gone through or been close to anyone who has gone through depression need to understand that depression is not something you can turn off. When you are depressed you are powerless. Waking up and getting dressed is a battle. Getting to your job or school is an even bigger battle. And for a person who is depressed to be brave enough to try and help themselves in some way should be praised not diminished, never mitigated.
Depression is a serious disease. It’s biological and emotional. It steals your identity. It just takes over. When you are in it you feel like you can’t escape it. People need to realize the gravity of what depression is. Because that’s what it is, its own gravity. A gravity that is so heavy it keeps pushing and pushing you down further and further until you feel nothing. That’s the worst of it really. When you don’t even feel sad any more because all of your emotions have been so numbed out and anesthetized. You feel dead. Lifeless.
What you SHOULD do for people who are depressed.
The greatest thing you can do to help someone who is depressed is, as pure and simple as it may seem, be with them. Not the cliche part of the sentiment, but physically be by their side. When I was depressed I wished and prayed that someone would be there for me. A simple ask of how I was doing, I yearned for it so very much. But I never seemed to get that from people, even when I felt like I begged them for it.
Be with them. Be by their side. Talk to them. Have conversations with them. Ask them how they are doing. These things may seem so easy but it’s crazy how even these tiny miniscule things, people don’t seem to do anymore. Don’t just call them, see them in person and invite them out with you. Drive to their place and bring them over to yours. Invite a group of people to just hang out. Do something fun with them and include them in everything. Being a good friend to those in need is the greatest thing you could do for someone else who is hurting. Talking does such a great deal. Letting that person tell you how they feel is a blessing for them.
Don’t ever forget them. Take care of them. Love them because love covers all.
Advice to those who are depressed.
You are not alone. I’ve been there. I’ve felt it. Every painstaking second I’ve felt it. I’ve been to the lowest point where I thought about taking my life, where I thought about cutting myself, starving myself to manifest the pain. But what you have to remember and say to yourself over and over again is that life is worth it. Life is worth it. You are worth it.
I know it feels like there is no way out. I know it seems like death would be so much easier. But it’s not. That voice in your head is feeding you lies. It may be hard now, in fact it is hard. It’s the hardest life has been and maybe ever will be. But there is still hope. There is still a tomorrow to improve, to work hard, to do the work, and to get better. Life does get better. It’s been over a year and a half since the worst of my depression and I tell you honestly that there have been times when I have felt true joy and happiness and peace again. Those times have been rare, but they happened. It is possible to feel alive again.
You have to heal yourself.
It sounds terrible to say but the truth is that no friend or family member or significant other can truly save you. You are going to have to save yourself. I went through such a horrible disenchantment, disappointment, and realization but to heal I had to learn this for myself. No person is going to come to your aid and fix you. You are going to have to fight for yourself. So do it. Fight for yourself.
What does that mean? It means waking up every morning and getting out of the bed. It means going to school and to work. It means you are the one who will have to start the conversation and be the one to put yourself out on a limb and try to make contact with people. You are going to have to make yourself feel even more vulnerable, awkward, and uncomfortable because people are only going to care so much and people worry about their own lives first and foremost. It’s harsh but 99% of the time in this world it is true.
If there is a club meeting for something you are remotely interested in at school, or a social event at your workplace, church, even a local city event, go to it! Your goal is to say hi to the person sitting next to you. Then, to ask for their number and add them on Facebook. Then, to meet them in person. Even if everyone already seems to know each other and get along, even if you still feel alone, go outside and be with people. Not by people, with people.You have to try and get better because no one will do it for you. Don’t wait for others to save you. You have to save yourself right now.
Call an acquaintance, or a friend, or your best friend and make plans to have lunch. Call your mom or your sister. If you feel the urge to (even if they don’t ask) confess how you have been feeling. I promise you that it will help. Being social even when it feels like there is no point will help, in the long run. Talking about it will help.
Another powerful thing that can help you cure yourself of depression is pursuing your passion in life. For me that is and was writing. It’s ironic but some of my best writing was produced while I was depressed. Writing for me was one of the few outlets I had when I just felt free. It felt like I had a purpose, that I had something I still needed to give to the world. I could feel an ounce of self worth after I written something I was proud of. Whatever your passion is, whatever used to get you excited, the thing you got lost in, do it! It’ll help you regain your sense of identity. Your passion will ignite again and it’ll spark little pieces of yourself back to life again.
If you are depressed you need to know this. Getting better is going to be a very long process and you must prepare for it. Healing is not a switch, or a light bulb, it is a day by day slowly feeling whole again. Some days you’ll fall back into the same way of life, but you need to break that and consciously decide to not go back there. Things will eventually get better. And if you try to heal yourself I promise you that one day you will smile unconsciously and that smile will be real.
When you know you need professional help.
If you have felt any of the things about depression I have written thus far that means it is the best thing for you to seek professional help. I waited way too long and looking back I wish I hadn’t. Talk to a counselor! They don’t all cost you a fortune. Licensed counselors at universities can cost just five bucks an hour and sometimes that’s all you need to save yourself for that day, plus you get to talk to someone about how you feel and they actually listen! If you still can’t get out of bed call someone like the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Counseling does help. And don’t ever be ashamed of reaching out for help. You should feel proud of yourself for being so brave and loving yourself enough to want to get better. People should be giving you a round of applause but unfortunately we live in a society where mental illness is looked down upon. But fuck those people. If you have an illness, any illness, the logical and safe thing to do is to get treatment.
If you are so deep as to thinking of taking your own life, medication is a good thing. But the important thing to know about medication is that it can not be your only savior. I’ve heard of cases where people take medication but they just get the zombie effect. The don’t feel the sadness any more, but they don’t feel happiness either. They are sterilized. That led me to not want to take medication at all, but looking back I think medication would have sped up my healing process a great deal. Just make sure that if and when you do decide to take medication to continue using your own efforts to heal yourself as well. Don’t think that medication is an excuse for you to not try and get better on your own still.
I know that many people will just want to skip this part. Words like “religion, faith, God, and Jesus” these trigger words will just make you want to stop reading now. When you are depressed it is so easy to hate God, and if you don’t believe in God, depression can further confirm your convictions. If you’re depressed it just feels natural to blame God for it and wonder in anger why God would do this to you.
Many of you may be searching for an answer. Why does depression exist? Why would God make me suffer like this? What have I done to deserve this? To be totally honest, I’m not sure myself if I have the answers to those questions. The only thing I know is that God was with me during my depression. He was with me. And he was the one who told me not to kill myself. He was the only thing in my life worth living for. He was the only one who never left my side.
God is good. God is a good God and through suffering we obtain hope and righteousness and growth and strength. We become warriors. Through pain we become new and better human beings.
Please do not lose hope in God. You can lose your hope and faith in the world. In fact, you should because man will always fail you but your God never will. When I was hurting I felt God feel my hurt with me. I felt him tell me to reach out to sisters in Christ. I felt him push me out of bed to go outside for a walk and feel the sun’s warmth again.
This depression is and will be temporary. And there will be a day when God will wipe every tear from your eyes. Please don’t lose your faith. Please survive for God. He wants you. He wants you to feel joy again. I just know it. He wants you to live.
You’re not going to understand everything. Why me, why now, what good can come from this? I think there was a point in my life as I was healing when I was just so upset that I was a changed person, that I couldn’t go back to who I was before it all. But the fact of life is that people change tremendously from beginning to end. The more change one undergoes the better, wiser, more mature and grown that person is. As for any other good that may have come out of it, when I see others who are deeply saddened I now feel compassion. Now, I feel like it is my duty to share my experiences and make my depression worth something. I feel like I know more about life. The dangers of it. The joys of it. The weight of it. And now more than ever I know that life is a battle, it’s a war, but I can fight and I can win because being alive is the greatest thing we have.
Please don’t give up. You are not alone. I have felt the pain that feels like no one else around you understands. And let me tell you that it is endurable and I do understand. You must survive. And you will. The sad truth is that most people aren’t going to try and help you. But you can help yourself and God will never leave your side. That is my truth. That is the truth. Life is going to get better. You won’t ever be the same person again but you will be a survivor after this. Heaven and its angels and God and Jesus are going to rejoice and cheer every time you smile and laugh as you heal.
For those who know someone who seems depressed, what better way to live your life than to help save that person’s life. Stay by their side physically, emotionally and spiritually. Hold them up. Cry with them. Do everything in your power to be a companion to them and try to make them laugh and smile. Don’t ever forget about them. Lend them help and advise them to seek professional help as well because you can only do so much for such a serious problem. Love them. Love one another.
Death is not the answer. Life is the answer. Life is the only answer! What freedom can there be in death? No. Many have said that Robin Williams’ suicide was his freedom. It was not. It was an escape from the unendurable into the even more unendurable. Life is the answer. Choose life. Live for tomorrow, and I promise you things will get better. If no one has said it, if you don’t believe it I’ll say it. I love you. And more importantly God loves you. God loves you. That is worth living for.