Please Let Robin Williams’ Depression Be His Real Legacy. ~ Ben Ralston

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on Aug 12, 2014
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~

Depression is a miserable f*cking thing.

It’s up there with tics and cancer on my list of “If there’s a God why did he make this?”

I’ve been depressed, quite seriously, twice in my life. Both times there was a fine line between sanity and mania, life and death. Both times I nearly didn’t make it.

Those who aren’t depressive simply cannot know what it feels like.

It feels like you’re not really alive—just a shadow of a shadow. The world loses all meaning, color, depth, purpose, light. All that’s left is a hollow monochrome shell and all around you people are living their lives in full glorious technicolor.

You feel like an aberration. You can’t help but feel that the world would be better off without you.

Robin Williams touched me deeply in two ways.

Countless moments of laugh-out-loud joy, always tinged with such a deep, rich humanity. He affirmed you even as he made you belly-laugh. That’s why we loved him so much.

As an artist, few will ever come close to him.

But I’m hoping that his legacy will be more than just his art. I’m hoping that in death his life means even more than that. I’m hoping that his impeccable artistic genius was just the warm up act—and that the punch-line of his life is to make mankind a little more compassionate.

Wouldn’t that be something? Wouldn’t that be fitting?

Last time I was depressed one of my closest friends told me something I’ll never forget. She said: “I don’t know why you can’t just pull yourself together.”  That moment highlighted for me the reality that people who are not depressive will never understand what it’s like.

But now the whole world understands that one of the funniest and most warm-hearted men felt so bad that he took his own life. With all his success, his family and kids, and his acclaim, he felt so bad, so low, so down, as to take his own life.

Everyone you meet is fighting a tough battle. But some of us walk the razor’s edge from time to time. Be kind, and don’t judge another’s pain. Because you never know how deep it can go.

And if you know someone that suffers from depression…

… love them.

Touch them, buy them gifts, call them, surprise them, stroke them, hug them, whisper to them, tell them jokes, watch a movie with them, take them out for dinner. Your reaching out is a bridge back to life.

You can break through that shell and let a little light in.

Reach out.

“At it’s worst (depression) is about being devoid of feeling altogether”:

 ~

Relephant:

Depression is a Highly Intelligent State of Being.

 

Robin Williams was Family.

 

A Life to Remember: Robin Williams.

 ~

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Editor: Renée Picard

Image: Fanpop 


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About Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston is a therapist, healer, advanced Sivananda Yoga teacher, and writer. His writings have been read by millions of people and can be found on Elephant Journal, Rebelle Society, and various other portals online. He has been teaching Yoga for 16 years in hotels, ashrams, beaches, gyms and rooftops worldwide. And he runs a busy international therapeutic practice from his home in rural Croatia. Offering sessions in person or via Skype, his therapeutic work is based on healing trauma, and the tools he uses for this are varied – mainly RPT, Shamanism, and energy work. He has also developed some of his own methods, particularly in the area of abuse trauma; ‘resource state’ awareness; and boundary reconstruction. He regularly runs retreats combining Yoga and other energetic exercises with his therapy. He would love nothing more than to see you on one of these retreats, since he believes that this approach to personal development is really the only effective way of bringing love and peace to global human society. Connect with Ben on Facebook. Read more of his writing on his new website with integrated blog! Yes, he's excited about that :)

Comments

33 Responses to “Please Let Robin Williams’ Depression Be His Real Legacy. ~ Ben Ralston”

  1. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Please leave a comment – I'd really like to start a conversation here…

  2. Linseed Roy. says:

    hard to comment on zero content

  3. Michele says:

    Hopefully the light his life brought will bring more light on depression and alternative treatment for it. I have suffered from severe depression for 20 years and have tried everything reccomended and as well as not, to fight it. Traditional and western medicine has no real answers for us. Depression is deeply and soulfully painful. I am debilated and ashamed because of my inability to overcome this pain. I have no doubt that Robin felt this way. It's hard to believe that such a lovable man could feel this way, but maybe his death will bring more answers to this horrible thing called depression.

  4. Veronica says:

    A couple of things in your essay really struck me. First, "Those who aren’t depressive simply cannot know what it feels like." As someone who survived a suicide attempt, I agree with you. There's nothing like that nothingness caused by depression. It's not like just being sad one day. It's much, much blacker than that. Second, "The world loses all meaning, color, depth, purpose, light. All that’s left is a hollow monochrome shell and all around you people are living their lives in full glorious technicolor." Again, you hit it right on the head. I've always described it as seeing everything in black instead of color. Had it not been for friends who found me in time, I wouldn't be here. My depression was finally diagnosed and I was prescribed antidepressants. For the first time in my 40 years, I felt "normal." Depression is so much worse than people realize, especially people who have never experienced that "black" feeling. They should thank their lucky stars they've never known such a hopeless, helpless feeling.

  5. Lori says:

    I was speaking to a friend this morning, explaining how there are many of us who have been fighting so hard for so long to keep our lives from ending tragically, that we make it look easy on the outside, even unnoticeable. Like Ronda Rousey – part of the reason she's able to make her fights look "easy" for her, is that she Trains So Hard. Some of us have been doing that kind of Emotional Training in response to what we have suffered – growing self-awareness, self-control, self-regulation, etc., – and so, when it comes to stepping into the Ring of Life we can take many of Life's Challenges almost without flinching, or "hardly breaking a sweat". Very few people understand that such strength, such perseverance against the odds has its price, and for those who must pay it, they pay year by year, day by day, hour by hour, and sometimes even – moment by moment. So I agree with you, Ben, it is always best to err on the side of compassion rather than judgment, as you never really know the internal battles that some people are fighting just to Keep On Keepin' On, nor the point at which they might actually lose the will to fight any more. Imagine spending 63 years in prison. We were all lucky that Robin Williams fought as long and as hard as he did to give us the gifts he had to give.

  6. You're absolutely correct, people who've never experienced it have no idea. And yes, even though the depressed person often doesn't engage when reached out to, the thought and gesture of someone caring enough to try can make a difference. Sometimes 'the' difference. Thanks Ben. :) xo

  7. Joanna says:

    Thank you Robin for giving us a voice! Now let's use it! Thank you Ben for articulating this perfectly! <3

  8. Beth says:

    Ben, thank you so very much. The more pieces such as this I read, as well as the comments that follow, the more the pain in my heart eases. Much of what you've said resonates with me and in some way mirrors what I myself have said since I heard the terrible news. I too have struggled my entire life with depression and there have been times the only thing that has kept me alive was knowing what the alternative would do to my family. Yay, (former) Catholic guilt! So many times I've heard "snap out of it" or equally helpful advice, even once from an incredibly horrendous psychiatrist who pushed every button and left me at the end of every session wanting to just off myself in my car in his parking lot.
    All of that aside, Robin's passing, at this time in my life when I am on a very different path and seeing things differently than I ever have before, has brought into clarity a number of things which I will now think of as his final gifts to me and anyone else open to receiving them. He has reminded me to not only be receptive to joy and laughter and beauty and compassion in myself and others…but to be fiercely grateful for them. He has reminded me that with all the darkness in the world, no amount of news-following, activism, Facebook-sharing or general angst-filled fretting will solve anything if we feel we must repress our own need for that joy as well as a communal sense of grief when such a bright light has been snuffed. He has reminded me that even when I'm in self-preservation mode and working to maintain the upper hand on my depression, I need to find ways to be compassionate with those who are in the throes of their own battles. There must be a way to be supportive while maintaining my own health. But more than anything else, I'm just overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for, as was so eloquently stated above by Lori, how lovingly and selflessly he remained in his cell of depression all those years to give people he would never know pure joy.

  9. @RoksanaLiam says:

    Awesome article. We do need constant reminders about this condition called depression… It's kind of like we know…but not really… I've been through three major depression episodes in my life… and from time to time it's lurking back in my life… my ways of coping…is spirituality, maintaining real/deep friendships, learning to feel my feelings and striving to live a life filled with sense of fulfillment and purpose (that one is the hardest for me to experience)…oh!! and gratitude is a big one.. again thank you Ben for your awareness building article (and great choice of videos).

  10. Beth says:

    Ben, thank you so very much. The more pieces such as this I read, as well as the comments that follow, the more the pain in my heart eases. Much of what you've said resonates with me and in some way mirrors what I myself have said since I heard the terrible news. I too have struggled my entire life with depression and there have been times the only thing that has kept me alive was knowing what the alternative would do to my family. Yay, (former) Catholic guilt! So many times I've heard "snap out of it" or equally helpful advice, even once from an incredibly horrendous psychiatrist who pushed every button and left me at the end of every session wanting to just off myself in my car in his parking lot.

  11. Mel says:

    Thank you for sharing! While many may not understand depression, the more we talk about this and other mental health issues, the more compassionate our world will become. To those who think that suicide is selfish. think about this: would you blame someone who suffers from depression? Suicide is no more a choice than depression is.

    Spread a little joy today, like Robin Williams did for so many of us.

  12. Rob says:

    Thanks, Ben. That was beautiful. I used to be like that girl who said to "just pull yourself together" until I had a bout of depression myself several years ago. Needless to say I am now as compassionate as I can be and am working to be more so with each daily meditation. It is truly laughing through the tears that I listen/watch clips of Robin Williams giving us the gifts of his talent.

  13. Lee says:

    I'm not posting here to take anything away from Robin William's tragic death. But rather to share my experience with depression. I'm struggling through my longest bout ,over 5 years in my third major depressive episode. I know what its like to hang on by a thread, suicidal thoughts flit in and out of on'e mind throughout the day – it's a constant battle, it wears you down, I'm tired, physically worn out. When one is so disabled that you find it very difficult to work or rather find an employer willing to accommodate – that's what I really mean. Partners leave (her life coach told her "you have a right to be happy – leave", and she does, and so she did), new relationships don't last when they get a taste of the darkness, but you hope she is the one that will tough it out. I'm 57 and it hasn't happened yet. Friends and family disappear, they try to help with encouraging statements like "just get off your ass", "we put up with you because sometime you can be fun to be around" or "your so intelligent why would you want to live this way". But my favorite comment came from my employer of 21 years "why are you so lazy, why are you throwing everything away, and you need to change your attitude" – this was the most devastating!. So do I know the head space Robin Williams was in when he made his decision, maybe not, but I think I do and it crushes my soul to think he died alone in his despair,

    I wish I was there to hug him, he will be missed!

    Lee

  14. Amy E says:

    One of the best EJ articles I have ever read. I would love it if his legacy would be to create more understanding and compassion in the public at large. There is so much ignorance about Mental Health in the public at large.

  15. Dawn says:

    A couple of things. You're right about depression. If you've never dealt with it, you don't know. Having struggled with it, sought help, attacked it from different angles and using different tools, gone into denial, become a shell of my former self, I know. I know first hand. You're right about what you said in one of the comments, it is typically a result of trauma, "Heal the trauma, and you can conquer the depression." That's really oversimplified, but a core truth. Where I feel you're wrong and incredibly selfish is wanting Mr. Williams' depression to be his legacy. NO. Just no. He was so much more than that. He fought too hard and too long against his depression for THAT to be what he is remembered for. This man was an altruistic, empathetic, kind soul. He was an actor, comedian, writer, performer extraordinaire. He was a husband, a father, a son, brother. He made it his life's work to make the world a better place. To plaster his face on suicide hotline posters is doing him a disservice. No, it is nothing to be ashamed of, yes we need to raise awareness. On the other hand, I knew, even in the depths of my darkest days that if I didn't seek help that's where I'd be. And if that is what had happened, I sure would not have wanted to be remembered for that, I would have wanted my family to remember me for the good I had done in the world.
    Think about how his family is suffering. How great their loss is. Try, for just a moment, to consider what seeing Mr. Williams face on PSAs for mental illness is doing to them. Have some compassion. Please.
    Lori is correct – many of us are very practiced in putting on the happy face and sometimes we do live moment to moment and no one is any the wiser… I too am grateful that Robin Williams fought as long and as hard as he did. He gave so much to so many. We've lost an icon, may he rest in peace, or move on, whichever the case may be.

  16. clongershort says:

    but don't annoy us. please. that just makes it worse.

  17. It has been a pale horse that I ride. Theoretically, strangled by “You can not heal others unless you heal yourself first.”

    When you wrote “Those who aren’t depressive simply cannot know what it feels like.” You said it all in one simple sentence. There is a place that one goes, it’s not known by anyone other than me. It’s tangy, it’s sweet but darker than night. It lures the

    waverly soul. Fighting the beast of “I am not worthy” it a tangled web.

    Knowing where I have been was f*¢ཀing great. Is there anything after that? That is the unknown. It is where we carry the hourglass.

  18. Janis says:

    What;s up with the question "How come God made this?" WE MAKE our own choices in this life. WE CHOOSE to either believe in a loving, caring FORGIVING, God or we CHOOSE to strive to handle life's tragedies, regrets, whatEVER, all alone or turn to so-called specialists for answers to our deep rooted issues. Who the hell knows WHAT caused Robin's depression? Was he molested and never told anyone? Was he beaten down or scorned in childhood? Did he choose comedy to hide his real feelings or simply to appease his inner pain? One thing for sure, is he obviously did not ASK His Creator to heal him. And the pain became so unbearable that he saw no other way except to physically end it. So sad.

  19. catnipkiss says:

    It's so sad, such a loss. But a part of me was a little wistful, having known that kind of deep, endless despair. That part whispered, "Good for you, you got out. Your suffering is over." His fame makes this a huge statement, and you are right, Ben, that it should help bring light to this issue. As a side note, I loved the black dog video. Really awesome. – Alexa M.

  20. Kathy says:

    Thank you so very much for writing this article! You are quickly becoming my favorite writer:). I just wrote to you regarding the "3 steps to healing article you wrote and was too embarrassed to say that I also suffer from depression on top of having a cancer diagnosis. I honestly didn't think someone that wrote that article could understand depression.
    Robin Williams always touched my heart and his death affected me deeply. His passing will bring about more compassion :)
    Namaste:)

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