“You are only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”
– Robin Williams
Even as I type this fear grips me, I am breaking out in a sweat and my fingers shake. Getting out of bed this week has been harder than it’s been in three months. The horror that depression won this week rattled me. I know I wasn’t alone. Those suffering from depression all had the same selfish thought at the news of Robin Williams’ death; the monster won, the disease won. It doesn’t matter if you have fame, fortune, love, adoration, success; depression will eat you alive.
It is hard for those that don’t have depression to understand. I have heard people talk of his selfishness –
“How can someone leave all their family behind?”
“How could someone do that to the people they love?”
I am so glad that those of use with mental illness are speaking up and letting our vulnerabilities shine this week. Those of us suffering are your best friends, mothers, daughters, sons, fathers, and neighbors. If we all speak up together, those that think they are better off in hiding will know it is okay to show themselves and get help in their fight.
Here’s the skinny for those still struggling to understand depression:
Our brains don’t work the same as everyone else’s.
Our brains tear us down from the inside out.
We feel alone in a crowded room full of people who love us, even when the crowd is there to celebrate us.
We are terrified to get out of bed in the morning, even on the best days because each day is a battle with ourselves.
We logically know that sounds crazy.
We logically know you can choose happiness.
We logically know that there is medicine, hotlines, doctors, friends, and support groups.
But when the deepest, darkest days of depression hit none of the logical thoughts matter. The logical side of our brains aren’t winning those days. The part that presses us down; the part that devours our goodness and light; that is the part of our brain that is winning those days. That part of our brain thinks we are a drain on those around us, that the world is better off and no amount of logic outweighs the feeling of worthlessness that consumes us.
Even when you are winning the battle against depression; it still whispers in the corners of your brain. It hides on the edges of your happiness. It is never really gone.
Lately, my battle with depression has been easier, but I am literally scared to death of the day it isn’t easy again. That the dark days will come roaring back. They do that, you know, sneak right up on you out of the middle of nowhere. The news the world heard this week only made that fear more tangible. I have actually felt depression in the air, breathed in its thick venomous fumes.
There was some relief for support and awareness that depression is what caused a great man to lose his life this week. The relief that the stigma of mental illness is easing a bit. However, in the conversations and opinion articles I have also heard that stigma and misunderstanding that has existed for eons still rearing its ugly head. I wasn’t going to weigh in on this topic this week, but I think the more of us that show our faces – the faces of depression, OCD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post traumatic distress disorder, postpartum depression and mental health disorders; the more the world will begin to understand. The more acceptable it will become to get help; to take that step away from fear and reach out into the world for assistance.
I have taken my Lexapro this week like it was a life saving elixir. I have thanked the gods of medicine over and over. I have never been more grateful for those few milligrams of magic brain saving goodness.
Looking forward 30 years though, when my house is quiet and the pattering of little feet filled with joy have moved on with their lives and I will be left to my thoughts more than ever is unnerving. When my book still sits unpublished or even if I am surrounded with success, but I still feel alone in a crowded room, I pray that my demons of worthlessness are not greater than me. I pray that every day. I pray that my own inner spark of madness does more good that harm.
The best way to honor the man who lost his battle this week is to speak out. To remind those still suffering and fighting the fight that you are not alone. To help one other remember that you can seek help; even on your darkest days. There is a safety in numbers my friend and there are a mighty good number of us in this fight against depression. We have each other if nothing else.
Getting help was the best thing I ever did. Please get help if you need it. If you know that someone needs help, gently offer it. We can help the world recognize that mental illness is just that, an illness. It is an illness that takes lives like any other illness. Be kind to each other because after all that matters most.
Letting my spark of madness shine today,