I spent a good chunk of yesterday watching episodes of “Mork and Mindy”, and not knowing whether to give in to laughter, or give in to the tears that have been threatening to fall since Monday afternoon when I heard that actor Robin William committed suicide.
On a personal note, when I was a kid I used to watch reruns of Mork and Mindy with my mom, and each time a tragedy happens that reminds me of some memory I shared with her, I take it hard. She’s been gone now for 14 years, but these tiny things are sweet memories of the time I had with her, and each time one goes ( Robin Williams, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson) it cuts into the sweet end of the bittersweet and it makes me sad.
But the other thing that prompted the sadness in me was thinking about the discussions I’ve been having lately about how being a creative, artistic person means that at times it can become easy to wander too far into the dark side of your inner, artistic light, and how the feelings that enable you to share so richly, and deeply, can allow you to stay in that space for far longer than you really should.
I read a piece on Slate.com from a writer who suffers from depression who said that “knowing how much you are loved” doesn’t allow depressives to shake the diseasse. And that was the other thing that horrified me about the passing of Robin Williams. He has three kids, a wife, and it didn’t stop him. All of that love didn’t stop him, couldn’t stop him. When I try to grasp the amount of pain he had to have been in, the air is taken out of me and my heart hurts.
Robin Williams’ death has put a public face on it, but depression is lurking all around us. Invisible, because it hides inside of the psyche, undetected to most human eyes. It is a pain that gives way to a sense of tiredness and feelings of just wanting things to stop, and it festers because no one really talks about it.
As a society we have not really been taught to face depression. We try to mask our pain with a happy face. Our culture is saturated with platitudes such as “buck up,” “think about the good things” “ get it together” and that makes space for shame, not healing. We are not raised to take our mental health seriously. We aren’t raised to listen to the voice inside, and to get still to see what it’s saying. We’ve been raised to shut it down, and shut it out.
Originally I wanted to write about listening to your voice when it is telling you to try something new in the spirit of believing in yourself. A piece about not listening to the little voice inside that tells you when you can’t do something, or asks who are you to attempt something great.
I fear it is also this voice that echoes the feelings of worthlessness and pain that rings through when depression takes over. It is this particular voice that needs to be battled.
But please remember, it can’t happen alone.
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