I have been pretty quiet about Robin Williams’ death until now because I didn’t feel like he was mine to grieve. I never met the man in person and my only relationship with him had been through the characters I loved as a child and a young adult. But as of late, the discussion has turned to depression and suicide, two things I am intimately acquainted with. I’ve “come out” to some of my friends and all of my family about it.
I use that term, “come out,” because there is still a social stigma that surrounds depression. When I decide to tell a friend or loved one, it’s still very difficult and I have had people leave me behind because they didn’t understand my illness. I still haven’t told any of my coworkers for fear that I will be discriminated against or that I will be given less opportunities just because they “don’t want to burden me.”
The truth is that I struggle everyday regardless of how much or little is on my plate. Getting out of bed is a challenge, most days the thought of even leaving my apartment is so daunting I get tired just thinking about it. It’s not that I’m sad all the time (although I do cry, a lot); the truly overwhelming sensation in my life is numbness. I am often disinterested in what is happening around me and I get into a negative thought spiral that I’m a burden to my friends and that they really don’t want me around. I isolate myself and it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of loneliness, numbness, sadness and feelings of hopelessness.
I was diagnosed officially when I was 16. This was after a conversation with my mother in which I quite rationally said, “I don’t think there’s anything left for me to learn in this life.” I attempted suicide for the first time shortly after saying that, by trying to hurl myself out of a moving car. At this point in my life I had been having suicidal thoughts for years. I’ve found the notes I would write out to family and friends in journals going back to the 4th grade. I had taken steps toward suicide many times, but never truly attempted until that moment, when my mom was driving me home after what had been a very dramatic depressive episode.
I didn’t know who to talk to about my diagnosis outside of my mandated therapist and my mom. At that time I wasn’t aware of the wonderful support networks available to me as a teenager struggling with mental illness. I just started isolating myself and things just seemed to get worse. And then my uncle passed away very suddenly. I think I’ve talked about this before, but he had a brain aneurism and we as a family had to make the life support decision. It was after that that I attempted again. I didn’t want to live in a world that would take someone who had worked so hard to change his life and end their life before they had a chance to finish their transformation.
But, it’s now been about 8 years since my last attempt and I can honestly say that I’m happy I survived, despite still having to live with the disease and all it entails. I am writing today about my illness and about my attempts to help wash away the stigma. I know I am but a tiny voice in the vastness that is the internet, but even if I can help one more person feel more comfortable, it will be worth the bit of cyberspace this is written on.
It’s not your fault. And no matter who you are, you are loved. You are no less of a person because of your diagnosis. And if you need help, reach out, someone will be there to help. And if you’re feeling suicidal, please call the folks at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-8255). They’re great people who will listen to you no matter what.