R.I.P. Robin Williams
DEPRESSION: A Serious Illness
In memory of the very tragic, shocking and sudden suicide of Robin Williams, I am re-posting the following article because I find it fitting for the moment. This was written in April and in my article Are Your Feelings Running Your Life, I provided a list of comedians that I learned had suffered or suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, or some form of mental illness. And yes, Robin Williams was apart of this list.
In this below article, I was attempting to be strong by boasting that I was trying to go organic without medication by juicing and eating a vegetarian diet. I seriously tried everything. But, since I finally had to come to terms with the fact that I might need to get back on anti-depressants. Despite my attempt to be positive on this blog, I have suffered from depression my entire life and I am now on a low dose of Effexor. There is a very real stigma behind mental illness, especially depression. Everyone wants to say that they are happy, and no one wants to be around someone that only brings them down. Depression is often very embarrassing, especially for the one that is depressed.
We want to put on a happy face and usually can. At the very least we can fake it when out in public. I can be very extroverted, talkative, and positively ambitious. So much so, sometimes, that I am manic. I have a master’s degree at one of the top communication schools in the nation. And yet, I found myself battling with the worst bouts of depression. Everyone would remind me of how attractive, talented, educated I was but none of it mattered because no one understood just how debilitating depression is.
Depression is a disease. Depression can care less about your looks, money, fame, degrees and or bourgeoisie lifestyle. It’s a serious illness that is so stigmatized; it’s no wonder Robin Williams and others that have faced the same battle feared reaching out to get help. When you don’t feel like being alive, it doesn’t matter how much money is in your bank account or what movie deal you just signed.
For the better part of this evening I wept and I wept hard for the loss of Robin Williams. I wept not only because this world lost an amazing and talented and loved human being but because I understand the horrific pit of hell that those of us that suffer from depression can often be dragged into. It’s a spell of hopelessness and utter misery where there seems to be no way out. I have been there and wouldn’t wish my worst enemy to endure a single night of the type of depression that can often convince us that it’s better to control when we die because those of us in pain cannot seem to escape it.
Some of us that have been diagnosed with this unfortunate, terrible disease understand all too well the kind of pain that perhaps Robin Williams was in. I had to get help. I got back on medication and I hope that others experiencing the same type of chemical imbalance or genetic predisposition do the same.
April 11, 2014
The Road to Mental Health Awareness is Not without its Potholes
Mental health is one subject that tends to stir up controversy, as medical professionals and holistic practitioners debate over ways to heal our afflicted “mind” sickness. The most influential people in our lives can be family, friends and even strangers. Some people may agree or disagree on the course of action to take when it comes to a loved one who is mentally ill or suffering from a mood disorder. To some extent we are all searching for a way to cope with life, regardless of our mental and emotional fitness level.
As I said before, it is not easy to wake up in the morning and make an effort to find that glimmer of joy in life. While it comes easy for some, staying positive doesn’t come easy for others. Especially those who are afflicted and diagnosed with clinical depression or any other type of mood disorder; the inability to feel joy comes down to a chemical imbalance or a number of other factors (trauma from current circumstances, from childhood or major life-changing events).
Mental health awareness is climbing the ladder of priority for community leaders who need to ensure the safety of innocent lives from random acts of violence. Many times perpetrators of violent acts are linked to mental illness, but not always. Various studies and claims from the U.S. Surgeon General states that “the overall contribution of mental disorder to the total level of violence in society is exceptionally small.”
Mental illness, for those famous or not, find it challenging to even admit to it. Having lived in the military community for some time growing up and during my last relationship, I know firsthand the stigma of admitting to PTSD, depression and any other type of mental health issue. To this day it remains taboo among our military men and women. It is the same fear that most of us have when “coming clean” with mental illness, that we are somehow unstable, unreliable and even un-hireable.
However, like anyone else — regardless if you are perfectly happy and have never suffered from any sort of mood disorder or you have battled it — finding stability is possible by starting with the fundamentals: proper nutrition, plenty of sleep, exercise and getting some sunshine. It sounds overly simple, but these basics really do help. They are not a total cure, but if you don’t get the right amount of sleep, maintain healthy eating habits, exercise or get a nice dose of vitamin D from the sun then your body, mood and self image can be affected in negative ways.
All of these things are mood-boosting activities and habits for any who want to live happy, balanced lives. They are not just for those who deal with depression. It is much more difficult for any of us to control our emotions and feelings when our lives are off balance and we aren’t taking care of ourselves. Any healthy and positive person can feel symptoms of depression when sleep deprived or if they’ve gone hours without eating. We’ve all experience altered moods and crankiness.
My article yesterday, Are Your Feelings Running Your Life?, ended up offending someone. This is the risk one takes when writing to the public. This person wrote that the article suggested that people with mental illness can choose to be happy. This person went on to accuse me of “living in a bubble” and that “you’d have us believe that suicidal or people who ‘snapped’ could’ve just decided to get out of bed and be happier that day.” Judging by her Facebook profile, she’s in high school or a college student. She obviously lives with depression, and I wish her the best.
Still, to answer the claim that I have been misleading, misinformed and “living in a bubble,” it was not my intent to minimize those who are diagnosed as mentally ill, or who are living on the edge. I do not disagree with traditional therapy, psychology or psychiatry. At the same time, I do not agree that popping pills is the only answer. I do not agree that one solution is right for everyone and instead believe that a holistic, organic and alternative approach works for some people who are tired of being dependent upon psychotropic medication. Not everyone is the same. Not everyone’s body responds similarly to treatment, so you have to find what works for you. My personal belief is that we all hold much more control over our situations then we realize.
I am not tossing around pop-psychology and self-help mumbo jumbo for the hell of it; I first tried it on myself. As I write in my About page, I am not a psychologist nor have I ever claimed to be. To the individual who assumes I am judging mentally ill people and expecting them to simply “wake up happy,” that’s not at all the case. What I am saying is that we need to take responsibility for our own actions, behaviors and lives. We can’t keep hiding behind our diagnosis or making a disability an excuse to fail or to commit insane acts of random violence.
It’s a fact of life that there are psychologically unstable people in the world. But most are able to live somewhat normal, productive lives. For those who can’t, does their condition make it okay for them to act out in violent ways? Absolutely not. There needs to be some sort of accountability for our actions, behaviors and moods and how they ultimately affect our own lives or those around us.
I know what I’m talking about because I have lived with depression my entire life. It wasn’t until I was well into my adult years that I was finally diagnosed with clinical major depression. I was also diagnosed with adult ADD and PTSD from trauma I experience through childhood and into early adulthood. So, no, I most certainly do not live in a “bubble.” And I have worked very hard to not let any diagnosis, label or learning disability stop me from writing several screenplays, directing an award-winning short, obtaining writing awards, getting my master’s degree at one of the top communication schools in the country, producing a reality TV show pilot, finishing the edits a completed novel that I am currently attempting to publish, or writing another.
I do not hide behind my diagnosis; it does not define me, and my past experiences are no longer my current story. People want to hold onto their narrative of pain, hurt, victimization, mental illness, abandonment and abuse. Not me. One theory is that those that don’t feel better don’t want to, because consciously or unconsciously they’re addicted to the hurt. Some people want to feel better, but they are not even sure how to.
It takes daily effort and courage to not allow a condition to rob you of joy and permanently disable you from living the happy and fulfilled life you deserve. Mental health awareness needs to be promoted with further public education and made a social priority. Mental illness, like any other condition does not have to be an excuse or a reason to not take personal ownership of your life.
It is my belief, agree with me or not, that we can find the right treatment that works for us. Regardless if you choose medication and traditional therapy — or my personal preference: an organic, holistic, and metaphysical approach — it is possible to sustain a balanced and mentally stable life regardless if you have a diagnosis or not.