So many times in my life, Robin Williams has made me happy. Now I am sad, but I will not lay that at his feet. Instead I will be sad on his behalf, attempting to feel some of the sorrow he could not feel, himself. I will be sad on his behalf as I have been sad for many of our great comics and artists who have struggled with depression, and have succumbed to the temptation to do something - anything - to make the pain stop.
Depression is, conversely, an inability to properly vent sadness (or any other strong emotion), and it is a condition that often goes hand in hand with great artistry. To create work that plumbs the depths of human experience, a person must dive deep into all of what it means to be human. Life is beautiful, yes, but it is also fraught with tragedy, and there are few great artists who do not see that tragedy with painful, consistent clarity. Many are overwhelmed by it.
I would like to say that I have figured out how to maintain a healthy, ongoing tension between beauty and tragedy. But the truth is that even before I saw the news about Robin Williams' death, I had already been on my way to this website to write a post about depression.
I used to think that depression was sadness, but I have since learned that depression is nothing of the sort. Rather, it is an unhealthy inability to vent sadness, or anger, or any other strong emotion. Sometimes it is an affliction of the mind - a failure of chemistry. I do not wish to downplay that, or to diminish the experience of anyone for whom this is a legitimate issue.
But because I do not divide my life or my world into distinct categories of the "spirit" and the "material," I have no compunctions about saying that I think depression is also an affliction of the spirit.
I do not know how to "fix" depression, or if that's even a worthwhile goal. But if this is also your cross to bear, I would like to take a moment to share with you three of the things that have helped me, to some degree:
- Exercise: I make no mind/body/spirit distinction, here. You were made to move. Movement will align you with who you really are. It will help you physically, and it will also help you spiritually. At the same time. Because you're not a freakin' tackle box - you're integrated.
- Eat: Prepare some healthy food, and eat it. Do not do this alone. Your depression is lying to you when it tells you that others are better off without having to be in contact with the Poison of your Gray Experience. In fact, many of the people you know are struggling, themselves. You more than anyone know how much that hurts. So show them you understand by making them some food, and then eating it with them.
- Communicate: You were made to commune. You are not an island,. You are struggling and you are in pain, but you are not alone. Do what you can to share what is inside you. Drop your guard and allow someone to love you. This is sometimes the hardest thing to do. You can do it. You don't have to use words, but you will have to be courageous. You are afraid that proximity to others will only increase your pain. I get that. But you have to try. You are too important not to try.
Robin Williams' death sobers me.
It reminds me that I am not alone, and that there is more to life than my own little pain. It reminds me that there are others who suffer far worse than I, and that my own sometimes-inability to feel something does not mean that I cannot love someone else enough that they can feel safe and loved enough to share their hurt.
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