I cried over Robin Williams and his passing. I think a lot of us did. He was one of those gifts to us from the gods.
I never watched "Mork and Mindy." And there were times when I watched him being interviewed when I felt a little uncomfortable with how manic he seemed to be. More than once, the psych expert in me took over and I felt a diagnosis coming on.
Yet, he made me laugh. Sometimes very, very hard. And sometimes there was this window into his spirit that told me that he must be a gentle, tender soul.
When Bing saw me sitting in front of the computer, tears running, she came rushing in to see.
She looked at the page and then frowned, puzzled.
"Why would someone who had so much kill themselves?" she asked.
I turned around to look at her.
"Please don't be obtuse," I said, giving her a withering look. She retreated. We haven't discussed it again because I don't think she gets it. I don't think many do.
Depression is a deep well. I suffer from it. Not just the garden variety of days when I have the blues, but real "black dogs" as Winston Churchill described his depression. But, I am one of the lucky ones. My depression is fairly minor. It wanders into my life about every four or so months and takes over for a few weeks and then dissipates on its own. My Da had it before me and his Father before him. I'm sure the line runs down and further down yet. When I was little, I knew that there were days when my Da didn't feel quite right. He referred to those times merely as those ole blues. In my family, we just accepted it. It was a time when we treated him extra gently. My Da was never mean spirited, never went too deep. He was just very quiet and a little unreachable for a while. He would stand outside and look up at the sky a lot. Once I asked him when his blues started. He looked at me for a long time, probably measuring as a parent how much was prudent to tell me. Finally, he answered.
"I think I was about 14 or 15," he said. That was all we spoke of it.
My bouts with depression began when I was in my early teens. Like my Da, I was not officially diagnosed. Well, not until I was in my 20's and began my psych internship. Then, as part of our program, it was mandatory that we see our own psychiatrist once a month. It was then that I described my own black dogs to my doctor. I told him that the best way to describe it was like in the movie, The Wizard of Oz when everything goes from black and white to technicolor. That my depression days were like those black and white scenes. Like life suddenly went from colorful, rich, and full to bleary, dull, and flat. Worse, I often could feel or sense when the depression would be coming, but I could never sidestep it, no matter what I did. We tried different variations of medications. Some seemed to work, but the price was too high for me. Not financially, but mentally. In order to keep the depression at bay, I had to agree to feel shaky and buzzy inside, as if there were a small nest of bees just under my skin. I didn't like the feeling and frankly preferred the depression. At least it felt more honest, like I was living in my own skin. My doctor reluctantly agreed that I could stop all medications as long as I alerted him if I ever felt suicidal.
I've never been that far gone. Like I said, I am one of the very, very, very lucky ones. I suffer from very minor depression just a few times a year. I can only imagine what it is like for those who suffer deeply and relentlessly from it. And I never will treat it lightly, will never be one of those naysayers who insist that those who suffer from depression just need to go take long walks or stop thinking solely of themselves.
It isn't a choice. No one would choose to feel depressed. It's a condition.
I remember showing some of Robin Williams' movies to Liv. She's seen Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, Hook, and Back to Neverland. And loved them.
I loved The Birdcage, Awakenings, One Hour Photo, Good Morning, Vietnam, and my two personal favorites: Dead Poet's Society and Good Will Hunting.
In fact, one of Robin's lines from Good Will Hunting is written on a piece of paper that I carry in my purse.
"Maybe you're perfect right now. Maybe you don't wanna ruin that. I think that's a super philosophy, Will, that way you can go through your entire life without ever having to really know anybody."
It was a line that stuck in my head and I took it to heart. I still do.
So, yeah, I cried when Robin Williams killed himself. I think that there are those among us who feel the world around them so deeply, so acutely, that it gnaws away at them little by little until they feel cornered and helpless. Many, like Williams and yes, like me too, drink too much or take too many drugs to try to find a way to cope, to sidestep, to manage.
I loved drinking. I still do. I loved drugs. Still do. I just don't take them anymore. I have a daughter and made a promise to myself and to her the day that she was born that I would lead an honest life and would do my best to be honest with her as well. That I would not take drugs because they were illegal and that I would not drink excessively because I never wanted her to see me inebriated.
I have been pretty good at keeping that promise. I admit to smoking weed occasionally when I know that she will never know. And I have never been drunk in front of her. Ever. I've also been honest with her about my drinking and drug use in the past. She knows that while I've never had to go to re-hab, that I was two steps away from it.
She also knows about my black dogs, my depression. She knows, as I did with my Da, that there are a few times in the year when I have to kind of step back into myself for a while to deal with a world that is just too close to me sometimes. That I will never shut her out, though, and that I will always come back in a few weeks. I think this is much better than having her live with me on medication, a false replica of myself.
But, if I ever got to the point where I feared that I would hurt myself or anyone else, I would get on those meds. Lickety split.
Drugs and depression seem to go hand in hand. And what a vicious circle. You take the drugs to escape the depression, but the drugs cause addiction and then you have an additional dilemma to deal with. It can cause a sorrowful life.
I don't know if I've passed on this genetic disposition to depression and/or addiction to Liv. So far, she doesn't seem to be suffering from any form of those black dogs. And I have been vigilant about nonchalantly checking her pupils and smelling her breath when she comes home from being out with her friends. Not even a whiff of cigarette smoke yet.
But, I'm not naive. I'm fairly certain she's tried a few things. Few of us grow up without taking that dare. I just want to nip it in the bud. Hopefully, my honest sharing of my life has given her some perspective. Maybe I'll get lucky and she'll slide through. Maybe.
As I said, I'm no fool. Well, actually I am a bit of a fool, but I like to think that I am one of the brighter fools.
So, I cried when Robin Williams died. Did you?