Sometime during the first semester of graduate work in psychology, our clinical practice professor made an interesting observation. “The funniest people I know,” she said, “have all deeply experienced sorrow.” Her words came back when I heard we had lost Robin Williams.
They say he suffered from alcoholism and depression, both progressive, fatal diseases that can be arrested. Interestingly, the media has done much to remove the stigma from both conditions. Ted Danson, as bartender, Sam Malone on Cheers, helped normalize an alcoholic abstaining and going to meetings. And the constant din of TV antidepressant commercials has probably primed millions to “Ask their doctor” about this oh so modern affliction.
Untreated depression, like untreated alcoholism, puts a person at risk for suicide, accidents, and poor health choices that end too many lives far too early. It’s futile to speculate on why some people reach out for help and others do not, but no individual, not you nor I, is a statistic. We are not bound by any kind of odds.
In this world where information is so easy to come by, it is my hope than anyone who sees in themselves the conditions that took Robin Williams from us may hit google and check out the mountains of information on what they may have and what can be done about it.
I, too, am grateful for the media normalizing these illnesses and bringing them out of the hidden corners of peoples lives. It can only help. My mother was bipolar. It is an insidious disease. What a great loss Robin Williams is.
It’s tragic in any life, but especially poignant with Robin Williams. He had so much to give others, but in the end, could not give to himself.
I think the same experience of the heart makes for good writers too! So often the co-morbidity of depression and addiction come hand in hand. It becomes so hard to feel that only the most extreme emotions are processed. Sad and true.
I’m simply unsure. Since younger days, when I subscribed to the romantic notion of the suffering artist, I’ve met too many good writers and artists who live (at least outwardly) very ordinary lives. We certainly do have to be open to what is painful and broken inside ourselves and others, but I don’t think it is necessary to get stuck there. On the other hand, I guess what we see of everyone is just the tip of the iceberg – much, much more lies below the surface.
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Why do some people seek help and others don’t? It is said that it’s not that some have will power and some don’t – it’s that some are ready to change and others are not.
No, I don’t think will power has anything to do with it. Readiness to change and/or a belief that change is possible. I’ve read several accounts this week of personal experience with deep depression and one recurring detail is the “What’s the use?” feeling at the depth of it, so strong, said one person, that he believes a fortunate and intervention by a friend may have been the deciding factor for him.