I wasn’t planning to post again until next week, but the recent death of Robin Williams changed those plans.
I was saddened to hear of his death. His movies and comedy were such a big part of my childhood, as they were for most people. He was funny, charismatic, and attention-grabbing on screen. I suppose that’s one of the reasons why so many people find it hard to believe that he struggled with depression and committed suicide: it’s hard for people to believe that funny, happy-looking person can be sad, have depression, consider death to end that sadness, numb it with substances or alcohol. For me, it’s not too hard for me to imagine. Those who can’t understand how a happy-looking, funny, successful, and talented person can struggle with depression are those who have never really understood what that particular struggle is really like. The people who say: “just snap out of it, find a hobby, you don’t have anything to be depressed about; really, what do you have to be sad about? you have everything!” or any combination or variation of those lines are people who don’t understand it because they’ve never been through it.
One doesn’t just “snap out of it.” A person with depression can’t just “happy up.” “Finding a hobby” or “focusing on other people” isn’t going to make it go away. It’s not that people with depression “don’t have anything to be sad about” because they “have everything and no reason to be sad;” it’s because something is wrong. It’s something others don’t see or understand. It’s something they’ve never felt or thought. It’s something one has to experience. A person with depression is a person who is going through something that may even not be completely understood by him/herself.
One blog I read recently said that all depression is a spiritual issue. A professor in college once told my class that depression occurs when someone doesn’t have control over something in his/her life or perceives that there is no control over a certain area of his/her life. Others say it’s all chemical. Others say it’s only situational. Others say grow up.
Frankly, the cause doesn’t matter until a person with depression is at a place to think clearly enough to deal with the cause. That means until the person is in the right frame of mind, is ready to deal with it, and is safe from potential self harm, whatever caused the depression is on the sidelines for a while. Only when a person is ready to deal with it and others are ready to help can the cause be found out and dealt with in the manner that is best for that person. For some people that is spiritual, for others it’s medication and therapy, for many it’s a combination. Regardless of how it’s treated, the focus shouldn’t be on getting that person fixed, but rather on helping that person find out how to make him/herself better. The focus should be on genuine understanding, compassion (not pity!), caring, and listening ears.
I happened to stumble upon the following video last night and thought it was The Best Description of Depression in the History of Mankind to explain what depression is really like.