I’m not the sort of person who usually posts these "RIP" tribute photos on Flickr, because I think that whatever my personal beliefs may be about death, the soul, a possible afterlife, etc., the fact of the matter is that there’s not a lot that I can add to that conversation. Death is eloquent enough all on its own. And besides which, this is the internet, and people aren’t exactly lining up to hear my opinion about things.
Here’s my opinion on things. I read this quote on a Ravelry profile page late last week, and it’s stuck with me and has been rolling around in my brain for days, although I wasn’t really sure why until now: "The prettiest smiles hide the deepest secrets, the prettiest eyes have cried the most tears, and the kindest hearts have felt the most pain." It seems to me that it’s a tragic, ridiculous, incomprehensible, but undeniable truth that the people in the world who are the most dedicated to making other people happy, or bringing beauty into the world, or pointing out the beauty that already exisits, or trying to figure out how the world works, or are working to improve the living conditions/health/education/what-have-you of others — in other words, the people who are trying their damndest to lessen all the PAIN in the world — are the ones who are hurting the most themselves. I have seen it over and over and over again. I have seen nurses who suffer from chronic illness and keep working anyway. I have seen missionaries who don’t know what they believe in but spend all their time and energy teaching values. I have seen artists who don’t know what beauty is but keep on making beautiful things. I have seen actors who think they’re losers and then go on the stage or the screen and show people what it means to be a hero. And I have seen the person who can’t find happiness turn into the class clown, making anybody and everybody around them laugh their heads off and feel a little bit better about their day.
And that’s the pertinent point; that’s why I’m posting this picture of Robin Williams. Because that last sentence, in the previous paragraph? I wasn’t describing Robin Williams there. I was describing me. Robin Williams has always reminded me of me. After his suicide, especially so. Because I’ve seen the Black Gate. (I’ve nicknamed my suicidal thoughts "The Black Gate of Mordor", it’s an adorable little affectation of mine.) Nobody likes the Black Gate, but many people have seen it. Some cross through. Many of them don’t come back.
This is the part where I mention The Word. The Word that, when spoken, either earns me friends, or loses them, instantly. Depression. And here’s a bonus, two more Words that are even scarier: Mental Illness. And to prevent any unpleasantness, I’m going to try to make this as simple as possible: If someone you know comes up to you and tells you that they’re depressed, believe them. They are drowning, and are asking you to throw them a life line. Now, I realize that this can be hard. I realize that it’s scary. You may not know what to do. You may not even believe that depression exists (some people don’t. In order to spare any hurt feelings, I will refrain from telling you my opinion about them). You may have some opinions about this friend that lead you to believe that they’re faking it, or being a drama queen, or aren’t viewing their situation realistically, or somesuch.
I don’t mean to devalue your opinion here, but to be frank, if someone you know tells you they’re depressed, it doesn’t really matter what you think about the situation. What matters is the situation itself: Someone you know is asking you for help. You may have to think about or talk about unpleasant things for a while, but wouldn’t that be worth saving somebody’s mind?
I consider myself a fairly blessed person. Not necessarily because I have depression (oh, believe me, I have had days where I beat my own chest and rend my garment and shout up at the heavens and cry at God to explain why He’s cursed me with this neurochemical monstrosity), but because I’ve been on both *sides* of depression. Namely, not only have I seen The Black Gate, and not only have I been blessed with loving family and friends who have drawn me away from the Gate, but I’ve been in situations where I helped other people away from the Gate as well. That gives you an interesting perspective.
So I know that dealing with friends or family who have depression is hard. It’s hard as HELL. But so is having depression, and the real curse of depression is that it makes the depressive feel completely, utterly, alone. For whatever reason, biological, psychological, whatever (and there are LOTS of ways to have depression and lots of causes for depression, so you can’t pigeonhole every depressive into one kindergarten cubby), the depressive is working much, much harder than a "neurotypical" person. Working harder to feel happy, working harder to get out of bed in the morning, working harder to carry on a conversation, working harder at everything that looks like it comes so easily to everyone else. And believe me, we *want* to be doing these things. We want to be able to get out of bed, we want to carry on a conversation, we want things to come easily to us. Everybody’s chasing after happiness, but we’re running on all fours. And that is why, I think, why artists, comedians, writers, photographers, etc., etc., etc. tend to be more prone to depression than people in other lines of work…they’re chasing after happiness on all fours.
It’s pretty exhausting.
I remember once, in my second year of college, I mentioned to some of my schoolmates that I had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder. (I had had it for years, but it was the stress of my *first* year of college that really brought it to the forefront and made me realize that I had to go see a doctor.) One of my schoolmates gasped in shock and said, "But Jules! How could you have depression? You’re always joking all the time!"
I bet Robin Williams got that a lot, too.
SO. Here is the part where I get to a point. I’m tired of people being in pain, and I’m tired of brilliant, wonderful people killing themselves. I’m tired of geniuses dropping like flies. Sylvia Plath. Virginia Woolf. Vincent Van Gogh. Kurt Cobain. Robin Williams. That list is just off the top of my head; if you go to Wikipedia and look for lists of "Musicians Who Commit Suicide", "Writers Who Commit Suicide", and so forth, you’ll find plenty more. The lists are long. Did you know that the Singing Nun committed suicide? I just read that on Wikipedia. Holy crap.
So here’s the thing. If someone you know comes up to you and tells you that they’re depressed, believe them. I know it’s scary. I know there are other things you’d rather do. But. If you stoop down into the mire for a little bit to help a person with mental illness, you pull them back up a little bit. Believe me. Since the real curse of depression is that it makes people feel alone, we need to show each other that we’re not alone.
We’re not alone.
And finally…if you know me, then you’ll know that I’m a big, big fan of anything connected with The Wizard of Oz. Well, did you know that I’m a big Peter Pan fan, too? I think I’ve seen, or have tried to see, every movie version of Peter Pan ever made. And believe me…Robin Williams IS the Pan.
Tagged: , RIP , Robin Williams , Some anvils need to be dropped. , You are the Pan.