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Welcome to the DebiLyn Smith blog site. If you like what you read here, check out her website at

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Just Like Robin Williams

My heart goes out to Robin William’s family on the recent passing of someone I much admired and related to. With his seemingly manic ups and reportedly lowest of lows, I always figured we were alike:  classic ADHDers. Robin's People magazine obit labeled him with my nickname “whirling dervish” but it was hearing how he had suffered for years from depression that clinched it.

Depression is such a BIG word in so many ways. My experience with it has opened my eyes to many facets of the disorder, because that is what depression is: a DIS-ORDER; something out of the ordinary and in my case (and I suspect in Robin William's) a chemical imbalance in the brain that can swirl emotions and thoughts into a Helter Skelter world where nothing makes sense anymore. 

Depression is not a disease that you catch. It can develop after a devastating or shocking incident like the death of a loved one, a post-partem blue, the loss of health or self-image. For others of us, it is hereditary. My mother was prone to depression and as I unconsciously scratch my wrist into bloodied shreds, I often think of her with the same scabs on her arms, the highs and the lows we followed her through, the whispering about her "bad nerves." My brother committed suicide three years ago: an unfortunate result of abruptly stopping his anti-depression medication. Add to that my breast cancer ordeal through two surgeries, chemo, radiation and reconstruction and you have a recipe for despondency.

Whatever way it comes, depression can be all-consuming and it can take your life.

To the outside world, Robin Williams, comedian/actor, was as large as life. He had everything, or so it seemed. How could a man so FULL of life, turn life down?
Reports state that Robin was a happily married father of three adult children with many blessings that I am sure outweighed any troubles on the outside. A person without this infliction knows that and has that to reach out to when things get too far down. It should be enough to pull you forward.

With depression, you can know that everything in your life is amazing and still be "depressed" or feel abysmally lower than dirt for no apparent reason. Even without the physical symptoms of pain, living can be painful enough for you to want to end it.

 Let me give you some insight into a moment of depression: You are standing on a ledge between life and death with such despair and grief for yourself that the world outside of your own perceived horror is a mere haze standing behind you. At that moment, nothing else matters- not family, loved ones, thoughts of consequences, of the after math if you do leave. You do not think of the future that is still to come with its promise of rich memories, of a possible resolution to the emotional nightmare. All that matters is ending the hurt of it all: silencing the voice in your head that speaks of your worthlessness, inadequacy, of never getting anything right. You beat yourself with any image that proves what your mind tells you of your failings. You flog and writhe and commiserate until you beg for the peace you know must exist somewhere.

When a person gets to that stage, if they are not backed away from the ledge by a rational thought, by someone else recognizing their call to self-destruct, then that person might succeed in ending what might have been alleviated by counselling and medication. 

I stress the words might have.

Anti-depressants can alleviate the imbalance and a person can achieve harmony. But life doesn't always work the way it should.

Drugs and psychotherapy are well touted in their success rate but sometimes good things come with a price. Anti-depressants can also cause depression for some and like all drugs, these pills come with a list of possible side-effects. The ones that worked the best for stabilizing me were also creating havoc with my health in other areas- enough that I had to start weening off of them. This was much more difficult than I thought it would be and as I approached square one I found myself getting weepy again. Unless I am purposefully exercising, I have no energy to start something new. I have lost interest in any on-going projects, of things I used to love to do. And I am experiencing past flare-ups of temper, of unexplainable rages before crashing into the basement of despair again. It's all so unfair- to have glimpsed peacefulness only to have it taken away. Back to the drawing board. Sigh. I will get through this. 

Not everyone does.

I want to help you understand that people who are depressed need help. Professional help. A slap on the back or a reminder that things will seem better tomorrow can sink them further into oblivion. Depressed people can have blocks that prevent them from seeing things rationally. Simply being depressed depresses them further.

If you know someone who suffers from this dilemma, help them to see that they need help. Realizing one has a disorder is half the battle. The other half is seeking aid. If they're not already doing it, they need to be assessed by a health professional who can point that person in the right direction for the next steps.  
If they're a loved one, take the time to tell them what they mean to you or how they have positively impacted on your life. A hug can be an amazing gesture but at the very least, encourage them to reach out for help.

Severely depressed people can be open targets for their own missiles so you should never blame yourself if the missile manages to hit its target. You can only hope that the need to push the button is contained by whatever helps us to remain. For me it's a will to see the future. I honestly want to stay here for my children and their's. My body and mind may be failing me, but my desire to hold and smell and nurture my descendants, and my need to help reduce the world's number of patients facing cancer will hopefully tether me for some time to come.

But sometimes, there are those days. Days when the drag outweighs the buoyancy to stay afloat and you begin to sink.

Unfortunately for his family, no-one was able to save Robin Williams before he drowned, choked to death by a belt around his neck.

May he finally be at peace.

When things are at their worst, it means they can only get better. Ain't no way but "up" from the bottom. Or so I tell myself.

If you are depressed, I strongly urge you to seek professional help. Your local Health Clinic can offer you more information in your area.