Depression Is An Illness: A Guest Post

I never comment on the news on here and I do try to keep this quite an upbeat place but yesterday, after the news about Robin Williams my best friend, Hannah, wrote something that she posted on Facebook that I found really touching. So, I’m passing the reins over to her on this one.

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Last night at bedtime I turned Breaking Bad off (2 episodes in, still waiting for it to get good) and the news flashed up on my TV. Robin Williams; funny, lovely, happy Robin Williams, had been found dead. Suspected suicide. I literally went to bed and cried myself to sleep.

I woke up this morning and it was the first thing I thought of. I wearily scrolled through page after page of tributes on Facebook and Twitter. I wasn’t shocked about that.

I’m not claiming to be Robin Williams’ biggest fan. I adore loads of his films and a good few of them helped shape my childhood. Whenever I’ve seen him interviewed I’ve thought he was funny and charming and if asked how I felt about him, I imagine I would have said something along the lines of “I fucking love Robin Williams, me.” But I don’t have a picture of him under my pillow or a tattoo of his face across my back.

I couldn’t shake the sadness though and so I decided, like a lot of other people, to share my feelings on the internet. I wrote a little mini blog. Which later my favourite blogger in the world (who also happens to be my best friend) asked me to elaborate on.

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2 and a half years ago I attempted suicide. So many people (including mental health professionals) would say to me “You’re a young girl. You have your whole life ahead of you.” Robin Williams was 63. He was admired the world over, had success and wealth and a wife and family who loved him. He had achieved more than any of us ever dream of.
Depression is an illness. It can affect anybody. It’s not choosy, and it kills. It doesn’t care if you are a bin man or a king.

Please don’t ever presume anybody is above being struck down by it. Please don’t ever brush a person’s depression off because you can’t see what they’ve got to be sad about. But mostly, if you are depressed, please get help. Save your own life.

As a manic-depressive, an equal part of my problem is that I have elevated moods as well as my low moods, so often when people find out about my severe depression they are shocked and will say “but you’re such a happy soul.” I think I had a similar feeling when I saw the headline last night.

There will be things about Robin Williams’ life that we don’t know. Problems he faced every day that people like me can’t imagine, but depression can surface from nowhere. Not everybody who gets lung cancer is a smoker (see, I told you I watched Breaking Bad!) and very similarly, many people who suffer from depression don’t appear to live outwardly difficult lives. It’s a disease. An infection. There’s been times during my own bad phases when I’ve thought “things would be ok if I had money in the bank” or “imagine what it’s like to be admired by millions of people”, but in reality, none of that would cure me. It didn’t cure Robin Williams.

The road from early stages of depression to a genuine suicide attempt is, in my opinion, a long and rocky one. I’m so grateful now that I never reached my intended destination but sometimes, in my very, very dark times, I forget that. I wonder if Robin Williams had been found on time would he feel that same gratitude? To see the reactions of his family and friends at almost losing him. For me, that was enough to make me want to live. I never wanted to die because I thought that people didn’t love me. I wanted to die because I didn’t love me and it was the most exhausting feeling in the world. But, difficult as it was to come home from hospital and see the hurt in my most favourite people’s eyes, seeing my niece and realising there would have come a point where she’d have asked where I was, it’s all been enough to make me want to fight.

I consider my personal journey as a lucky one, even given the point I got to. When I was first diagnosed with mental health problems I was in a relationship with a very good person who supported me, and I had another amazingly lovely partner at the time of my suicide attempt. My current partner is one of the most caring, loyal and loving souls on the planet. At the start I worked for the Home Office and they moved Heaven and Earth to support me and get me treatment, and the people I love have spent almost 10 years rallying round me (including this wonderful Lojo bastard) and I imagine Robin Williams received a lot of various treatments too. What scares me is the amount of people who are not receiving help or treatment, because they’re too scared or embarrassed to open up about the fact that they are struggling mentally. Nobody wants to appear weak. Sometimes, even now, I will put off telling people when things are bad because I’m scared there will be an element of “oh here we go again…” There never is.

I don’t know who is reading this. I don’t know if you think I’m chatting absolute rubbish, but I do know, if you are feeling depressed, even if you feel that it’s silly, it’s not. Please don’t suffer in silence. Speak to a friend, a doctor, even your boss. Reach out. It isn’t your fault.

Robin Williams, in my opinion, was a fucking great man. An inspiration and a joy to watch (except in 1 hour photo where he was just brilliantly creepy!!) and the world is a little sadder for having lost him, but in the last day I’ve read more links to mental health helplines and websites and seen more encouraging messages to sufferers than I’ve ever seen in my life, so if we can learn anything from his death let it be this:

Nobody is wrong for feeling depressed. No matter who you are or what you do. Don’t be ashamed of it. Stand up to it. Talk about it. If you do find yourself on that rocky road, ask somebody for a map and change direction. You deserve a better destination.

Rest in Peace Robin Williams, you fought a baddie much worse than Jafar for a long time, and for that, and many more reasons – you are a hero.

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I don’t really know what to write after that apart from to second what Hannah had to say. That day two and a half years ago will be forever etched on my mind. If you are suffering, please don’t keep quiet the lovely people at Mind can help and so can The Samaritans (08457 90 90 90)

Kisses,

lojo

One thought on “Depression Is An Illness: A Guest Post

  1. Very well said Hanna – and thanks for sharing Laura. If we could create a society where people could talk more openly and honestly about mental illness without fear of judgement then life would be easier for those of us who suffer. RIP Robin, you wonderful funny sad man.

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