When I heard about Robin Williams’ death my heart sank. Like so many others, I felt as though I had lost a piece of my childhood. It seemed tragic that a man who made so many people happy was so sad. But it also hit me in another way, a way that only someone who has been depressed can understand. I am well acquainted with the dark recesses of depression and the suicidal thoughts that litter one’s mind. Luckily, somehow, I managed to drag myself out of it, but I know that I could easily slide back in given the right circumstances.
My twitter feed was full of comments and hopes that Robin Williams had found peace. Somewhat surprisingly, I did not see the tweet that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sent out that said “Genie, you’re free” until I came across this article.
When I was battling depression social media was only in it’s infancy. I didn’t have to worry as much about “copycat suicides” or romanticized accounts of high-profile deaths. I didn’t even realize that this was a thing. Upon reflection I can see how these issues could be worrisome and that perhaps, suggesting that death is a positive end to suffering, might be problematic for those who are still suffering. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that these thoughts didn’t come to mind for me.
One thing that did raise my spirits despite the tragic circumstances: the number of positive messages. 10 years ago I mostly kept my depression to myself. Most people I knew thought depression was just being really sad, or that I could “cure” myself if I tried hard enough. The notion that it was a chemical disorder was not widely accepted and people who were depressed were considered weak. This past month I have seen some negative comments, but they are so tremendously outnumbered by comments from people who seem to be getting it. We have a long way to go, but I’m starting to see the light at the end of this tunnel.