Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams and Me

Robin Williams has been found dead of an apparent suicide

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 not sadness.

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
Today has been a gray day for me. Perhaps because I've spent it doing work that is very hard for me (formatting a book for publication), which makes me feel incompetent and causes me to doubt my ability to succeed professionally in the one area in which I most excel, and which gives me the most joy. Perhaps it is because my birthday is tomorrow. Or perhaps it is merely because the sun's going down, and we've all just blown another day without finding a way to get along.

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.

Have faith.

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3 comments:

  1. Faith is a key of sorts - makes much of this depression/BPD stuff almost tolerable. Without my bridegroom, Jesus, I am a thing of many sadnesses and miseries. WITH my bridegroom, Jesus, I am companioned and comforted. By the Maker of the Universe. Is that not beginning to be enough? OF course it is. WIthout Jesus, the place is a lying, thieving, maddening sadistic freaking desert. Why doesn't someone come out and say it? Jesus saves.

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  2. My worst hours of depression, I had lost my faith to the pain. I allowed others to help me find my way back. Everything in me was out of balance. It has been 18 years since then. On my worst days, I remember and am reminded. On a day such as this, I am grateful for my sobriety and the courage I have to survive.
    Love and apple pie for you, Josh.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Noelle. And I'm so glad for your sobriety, courage, and health.

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