Everyone has been looking at mental illness and psychoanalyzing why someone we all felt had “beaten” the illness ended up succumbing to it.
I look at it a bit differently, and perhaps it is because of my past. Perhaps it stems from my father telling me that “depression isn’t real.” Perhaps it stems from years of repressed emotions that I have just begun to work through, in order to keep myself from waking up on the same road that Robin Williams must have found himself on.
When I was a young teen, “depression” was what they called it when we broke up with our boyfriend of three days. It was a slight melancholy and a penchant for listening to The Smashing Pumpkins and crying into our pillows.
I am a bit of a hipster when it comes to the topic of mental illness and depression. I am skeptical (at best) when I see articles regarding the illness online, most of which are written by well-meaning doctors or students of psychology.
Here’s my rub: depression isn’t a mood. That’s the hardest thing to get across to someone who has never lived with mental illness. It isn’t a slight melancholy—it’s a state of being. It’s reality. The entire mind is altered; you don’t understand that what you’re feeling doesn’t make sense, because your mind tells you it does.
Robin Williams didn’t beat an illness and he didn’t succumb to a murderer. He succumbed to himself. And that’s the real pain in the situation. Depression is your life. It doesn’t ever leave; you might have a good day and you might feel like the elephant on your chest might have moved on, but it’s always there. It’s always in the room, waiting.
Mental illness is a completely different state of mind—one that’s hard to understand if you haven’t been enveloped by it.
We’re all touched by its aftermath, though. There’s a real, sorrowful emptiness that comes from someone taking their own life; especially someone who was so near and dear to us as Robin Williams. Unfortunately, it’s a very real outcome for people who are diagnosed with depression. Some of the greatest minds have had mental illnesses and have taken their life due to the difficulty of living with the altered reality that comes from it.
Anne Sexton, a famous poet (also depressed and committed suicide), once wrote in a letter, “Now listen, life is lovely, but I Can’t Live It. I can’t even explain. I know how silly it sounds…but if you knew how it Felt. To be alive, yes, alive, but not be able to live it. Ay that’s the rub. I am like a stone that lives…locked outside of all that’s real.”
This is the closest I’ve come to finding plain words to describe the heartbreak that comes from living with mental illness. It’s a never-ending battle for those affected, and unfortunately, it’s a battle with a very hefty price.
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Editor: Travis May