Robin Williams would have turned 64 today.
Perhaps our society tends to glamorize the deaths of celebrities, but it’s because we feel like we somehow know them, right?
I still recall the class I was in when the sister sent me a text message that Heath Ledger had overdosed. I remember feeling sick over it and thinking, why? Why, why, why? So unnecessary. So sad. Paul Walker’s car accident. Brittany Murphy’s pneumonia. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s overdose. The list is long, and it’s terrible, and it’s sad.
Robin William’s suicide hit me a lot harder. It seems silly to say. Of course, I didn’t know Robin Williams and I wasn’t personally affected in my day to day life after his passing. But it hit me in the gut.
Because one thing our society does not glamorize is anxiety. And another thing is depression.
People, in my experience, do not want to discuss anxiety and depression or seek help if they are suffering because there is a terrible stigma attached to all mental illnesses in this country.
I, personally, battle depression and anxiety every single day of my life. I have been to counseling and I have been on medication before and I have triggers and I have good days and bad days. I have always been this way. Always.
I wish it wasn’t that way for me, or anyone. But that’s the hand I was dealt and thankfully I have a support system that acknowledges and respects that I suffer from depression and anxiety.
Everyone knows that that must check in with me, constantly, while traveling. Because what if the car or plane crashes and they all die?
Everyone knows that I overreact to any type of medical issue. Because what if it’s serious?
Everyone knows that I hate ordering food for myself. Because what if I say something stupid?
These are small, little, tiny examples – basically small nothings – in my tornado of depression and anxiety, but these are real small nothings that affect me every day.
In the spirit of honesty, I must admit that a while ago I started a post that detailed my every anxiety-driven thought and action, but I didn’t finish the post. Because I thought: it’s not like 1 million people read this blog, but can I deal with everyone that does knowing that’s what I think every day?
The answer was no, and that answer is a problem.
Robin William’s suicide was such a shock to his fans, to the people who grew up with him, because did anyone really know he was that depressed?
Guys, if you’ve got someone with depression and/or anxiety (or any other mental illness) in your circle, talk about it openly and honestly and check-in with them and straightforwardly ask about their mental illness. Are you feeling depressed today? How’s your anxiety? How was yesterday? Does any part of our weekend plans make you anxious? These are all totally acceptable questions.
And keep this in mind:
No one with a mental illness actually wants to suffer from a mental illness in the same way that no one with a stomach virus wants to have a stomach virus. The difference is that when you have a stomach virus, people will ask how you are feeling and they will excuse you from their, let’s say, dinner party, because you’re sick. They will ask where you got the virus, how long you’ve had the virus, what your symptoms are, and if you’re taking any medication. They will tell you when you should seek care from a doctor and bring you soup and crackers and support you until you feel better. They won’t become angry if you’re still throwing up and they won’t tell you to just think about something else to stop the vomiting.
When you suffer from anxiety and depression, in my experience, people become uncomfortable around you and they get shifty and don’t call and check on you and don’t make sure that you’re seeing a doctor and that you’re safe and they don’t understand that you’re too anxious to go to the bar with them. They get frustrated that you can’t just get over it and they don’t acknowledge your symptoms and they won’t bring you soup and crackers. When you’re depressed, you feel alone. When people find out you’re depressed, some of them will want to just leave you alone. And that’s not okay.
Break the stigma and talk about depression and anxiety and any other mental illness you can think of. Talk about it openly and if people are uncomfortable, talk about it so much that you force them to be comfortable. It may save someone’s life. It may save your life.
I am no expert on mental illness, or the correct way to handle someone else’s mental illness (everyone’s struggle is different), and I’m still figuring out how to handle my own issues.
But Robin Williams should have turned 64 today. Let’s keep the conversation going. Let’s never forget.