a robin williams story.

i can’t remember how old i was, but i remember being in my parents’ room, sitting on their bed with a plate full of snacks.  the moment i started watching the movie, i knew that it had been made just for me. and i’ve always been a little bit selfish when it comes to stumbling across a favorite movie, quote, or  book- of holding on to the stories they contain like treasure- trying to keep all the magic they consist of just for myself.  so i can remember my elementary school self not wanting anyone else to know about “Patch Adams.”  i was going to be him, i remember thinking.  i was going to be  person who brought light to the lives of others, who was attentive to other people’s suffering, and who knew what to do to help make it better. i can distinctly remember not wanting anyone to know about Patch Adams because i thought the world would only need one of him, and i wanted it to be me.  i’ve grown up since then. and i’ve learned that having the tiniest impact on the world is about focusing less on one’s ego and more on one’s understanding of the challenges, solutions, and contributors to a problem. but that movie became the spark that ignited my dream to go to college to become a doctor.

 

like many of you, i have my own Robin William’s story.

 

as you may know, i held tight to the dream of becoming a Patch Adams kind of doctor, until my junior year of college. and as you may also know, i chose to become a social worker instead.  this choice has afforded me the opportunity to work with some of the most remarkable and resilient people i could have ever hoped to meet.  and so in the last few years, i have spent time talking with people who are homeless, people who have a severe and persistent mental illness, people who have been diagnosed with other mental illnesses, people who have endured traumatic life experiences, and people who are struggling to make it through the day. i’ve had the opportunity to get to know people whose lives have been very different from Robin William’s, but perhaps similar in their experience of depression and suicidal ideation.

and in the days, weeks, and month following the initial shock over Robin William’s death, i’ve noticed that the conversations about suicide, depression, stigma, treatment, and mental illness have waned. but it has left me thinking about the friends, family members, consumers, Veterans, and people i’ve come to know who have struggled with depression, addiction, other mental health challenges, or thoughts and plans of suicide.  i’ve never personally experienced depression, but i know that it can feel a lot like darkness, like an unexpected blow to the stomach, or like a heavy feeling of dread that you just can’t seem to shake. i know that depression can mean not feeling anything at all, or being numb to everything you are feeling all at once. it can mean feeling withdrawn or withdrawing yourself from the world. and i know that depression can feel a lot like a sinking hole that you cannot climb out of.

what i know is that suicide is often a symptom of major depressive disorder- a  mental illness caused by a number of biological and environmental factors. what i know is that over 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness (including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders).  and for people who experience chronic and recurrent symptoms of major depression or other mental illnesses, suicide or thoughts of suicide may come to feel like a comforting solution or viable option to end the pain that no longer feels endurable. depression is not a choice nor a character flaw, and it is not a decision of someone ‘wanting to feel sorry for themselves,’ or not being able to cope with life’s challenges.  suicide is not about being selfish or weak, but rather, it’s about pain. it’s about loss of hope. and i think we forget that it’s human nature to want to end suffering, to find relief.  to be clear, it is not my intention to encourage, promote, or advocate for suicide.   i am however, challenging you to empathize with another person’s experience before making a judgement or criticism about their character.

 

since beginning this profession, i’ve been collecting other people’s stories.  and these stories- their life experiences- have been guiding and shaping my interactions with others. conversations with people who are both chronically homeless and transiently homeless demonstrate to me the complicatedness of poverty, the challenges of locating affordable housing, and the difficulties of maintaing competitive employment while also living with a mental illness and/or addiction. play dates with children in foster care and with children who have been severely abused and neglected remind me of the impact of abuse on cognitive development, emotional regulation, and attachment. and when working with these children when they later become adults, i consider their childhoods and the traumas they’ve endured. i think it’s important to recognize the number of factors that contribute to a person’s behaviors and perception of the world.  i am also aware that some people-regardless of their upbringing, or despite having a ‘healthy’ upbringing- will make poor choices.  and even then, i attempt to understand.  because what i know is that you cannot reduce people to simplistic generalizations based on your limited understanding of their situation.  it is much more complicated than that.

 

and what i know is that there are still so many people in this world who do not understand.  who choose not to understand. and who continue to blame people for the suffering they do not take the time to understand.  and so if your understanding of depression or suicide is one that blames the person who is struggling with the mental illness, i would challenge that your knowledge of their life and experiences is incomplete. i would challenge you to have one conversation with a person who has had thoughts of suicide, attempted suicide, or who struggles with a mental illness. i challenge you to be curious rather than judgmental.  open minded and open hearted. i challenge you to seek to understand rather than assume that you already know. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and so this post is for you.  for those whose suffering feels unnoticed. for those people who feel quietly stuck inside their mind. for those that feel hopeless. for those whose cries for help are mislabeled or misunderstood as cries for attention or flaws in their being. for the people who feel too tired to continue on.  for people who struggle with depression and for people who don’t.  for people who are having a bad day, a bad season, or a rough stretch of life. and for those people who don’t understand the illness but are willing to try.

 

 

 

It’s okay – whatever you need, wherever you are,  however long it takes – it’s okay.

there is still time.

to ask for help. to grow. to heal. to recover.

there is still time for the sunshine to begin to seep through the cracks. for a flower to grow straight from your heart.

 

 

 

 

 

just in case.

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-273-TALK (8255). They are available 24/7
  • Talk to someone online through the Lifeline Crisis Chat
  • Teens can get text support from the Crisis Text Line by texting “listen” to 741-741.
  • Veterans in crisis can contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.
  • Call 911.
Advertisements

12 thoughts on “a robin williams story.

  1. And what if you do try to understand and the person wants to get better and isn’t progressing? You have to be rich to stay at home and be depressed, so then what? My brother is suffering with depression an he’s been home and on medication for 3 years and he has started to do things like eating better and working out and then wanted to go to school but now he is constantly skipping entire days. Our family is not rich and we have spent a lot of money buying him things to make him happy, work out machines that cost hundreds of dollars then he wants to join a gym, so gym memberships which costs hundreds of dollars and now school. He has no sense of value, the fact that we are puting all this money that we don’t really have and he is just throwing it away. It’s extremely frustrating.

  2. You have stated the case powerfully and with empathetic understanding. None of us can judge another person’s life or struggles; they have their journey, and we have ours. All we can do is extend a helping hand and an open ear. Thank you for this strong advocacy for taking the time to notice and give what we can.

  3. Jessica,
    I remember when you girls were in jr high on 9/11. That day I watched people jumping from the WTC buildings. I remember thinking “how horrible must it be inside that jumping seemed like the only reasonable option.” Suicide, it seems to me, is similar in that an seemingly “normal” person chooses to take their own life….how horrible must it be?

    Every person who kills themselves is someone else’s Robin Williams…..they have brought love and laughter to others but don’t have inside themselves what they need to experience the same.

    Take care sweet girl! <3

  4. Jessica,
    I apologize for not responding to your message that you wrote months ago. But I still have read every one of your blog posts and found a sense of comfort and happiness that I have either buried or ignored. This blog personally hit a little closer to my life and experiences than the other blogs. You are a special person that can make others feel that they are unique and beautiful even though their flaws and pain may make them feel less of a person from day to day. I have went to through anxiety/depression, and I have had family members experience the same. It is not easy or fun, but different and scary. The type of darkness and hopelessness that a person feels when in this mindset is nothing I wish upon anyone.
    But, I must say that when I resumed my want for life, love, and happiness, it made me appreciate life in a different way. It opened my eyes to others pain, hurt, and difficulties that others may not be subject to accept. There is so much suffering when depression/anxiety is present that makes a person change so drastically.
    We need to have more people try to understand instead of try to tell us how to change or that it isn’t that difficult. They need to remind us that we are smart, beautiful, handsome, funny, adventurous, and last but not lease, that they cannot live without us. Also, constant reminder of who we were and what they loved most about us!
    Every person is different, but that is not a bad thing. We all have flaws and problems in our lives that no every person can understand, but that does not make us a loss cause or wrong.
    So many people try and control each person because they do not accept or understand. They inflict abuse verbally, physically, mentally until that person is broke, and cannot find their own happiness through all the negative.
    These people who find enjoyment in causing another person loss of interest in themselves or life are the troubled ones that need help. The controlling people need to re-evaluate what brings them happiness.
    Every person needs to be happy with themselves, and their choices in life. We must help others when we see confusion, hurt, pain, and loss of happiness. Helping others will bring joy and fulfillment in so many ways that can help not only that other person but yourself in the process. There is nothing wrong with putting others first when they need a friend to ask them if they are okay and if they can do something to make them feel better. Let’s help prevent people from depression! Because no one deserves to lose their want to live!

  5. I sympathize w everything u have written. I am bipolar. I first was diagnosed w depression and anorexia when I was 14 yrs old. Then I turned to bulimia for many yrs. I tried to attempt suicide 2 times in 4 yrs. Most doctors only prescribed me an antidepressant. Well of course you know the procedure. When you feel better you go off. That I what happened to me. It was a vicious cycle. Between all that there was alcohol and drugs for several yrs. When I was 23 yrs old I met my now husband. We married when I was 25 yrs old. He knew about me being bulimic and tried to help. One day out of the blue I said “No more I can’t do this to him anymore” and I stopped. But the urge was still there. Something was missing. The drinking got worse and so did the drugs. I will say the happiest times I remember were when we got married and a few months after. Then it went sour. My husband tried to help in a way that he felt was right. He just wanted me to be happy. Drugs did that for me. I did work at the time so I had the money to buy them. As the years went by, I once again tried to commit suicide. You would think that after all I had gone through or was going through there would be this huge red flag but nothing. They sent me to out patient rehab. And put me on antidepressants again. No psychiatrist was assigned to me just out patient counseling. Well that didn’t last very long. Finally, I was about 34 yrs old and my brother and sister started having children and all my maternity clock went off. I wanted a child. But how could I like this. So I cleaned up my act and straighten out. We tried to get pregnant but I had some difficulties so I had to be put on fertility drugs. It took us about 3 months and a good $15,000.00 to get pregnant. I was so very happy. Another time in my life I remember what happiness felt like. I had a great pregnancy. I ran everyday. I didn’t even look like I was pregnant. The beginning of my 9th month I went for an ultrasound they found my amniotic fluids were very low. So I have to come back that evening to have the baby. Boy was I scared. I remember praying to God to make sure I would have a healthy baby. Luckily, I had the babies room already. I remember it be 1130 and they gave me something to induce labor. Well it wasn’t working. So they gave me another one. Well at 200am I got the most horrible cramps. So they didn’t think much of it because they didn’t expect anything until closer to morning. They gave me a sleeping pill. Wrong move. The cramps got worse and closer. The baby was coming. I was half out of because of the sleeping pill. We called my parents and they came. By 315am, I’m screaming for a epidural. They gave me it then at 327am I had my baby. I asked what it was the doctor responded “a baby” a girl or boy I said. He said a girl. I was so very happy. I wanted a girl so badly. For months after that I was on cloud nine. Nothing could bring me down. I breast feed and continued running. I had a great year it seemed like. Then I started drinking wine. By this time, she was only breastfeeding at nap time and before bed. I didn’t think it would hurt. But the drinking got worse. I stopped breastfeeding I knew better. Then I went spiraling down. Things in my mind starting spinning out of control. I tried to commit suicide again. This time they sent me to a rehab near Philadelphia. Here they finally diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. Some answers to questions would start to come to light. My daughter was 3 1/2 yrs old at that time. It was very difficult for me. She came to see me and she cried and so did I. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was there for 1 1/2 weeks. When I got out I tried my hardest to stay on the meds but I felt like they just weren’t doing any good. Down I went again hard. She was 6 yrs old when I tried commuting suicide again. I told everyone that I took to many pills because I just wanted to sleep. That only went so far. My husband didn’t even want to see me. My mom who has always supported me said she doesn’t know what to do anymore for me. I couldn’t see my daughter. I cried. I was there for 3 days. Finally my husband said that he will take responsibility of me so I wouldn’t have to go to a rehab center. They gave me the name of a psychiatrist I had to see right away and he would start me on my meds that were suited for me. I sat my daughter down and said to her “I promise you this is it, NO MORE, I want to see you grow up. I want to have fun with you and enjoy our times together.” I went to every doctor visit and went to therapy. It was very hard. There were times when I thought they would never get my meds right. Up and down. Happy then sad. I felt like a yo-yo. Finally, one day I felt good. The meds were working. I was thinking clearer and the voices weren’t yelling and screaming at me. Actually the voices were quiet for once. It was a great feeling. They now have me on Lamictal 400 mg, Tegrotol 600 mg, Klonopin 2 mg, ambein 10 mg, ability 10 mg and extra klonopin if or she needed. I also take 1 Tylenol pm. For some reason I need that extra sleep aid. Really I shouldn’t with all I take. I take it all before bed. If I took it during the day I would be asleep. The stuff knocks me out. Mu daughter always helps. I open the bottles and she counts out the pills. I recount just to be on the safe side. Then I swallow them all at once. She asks me how I do that. I said you just drink the water and down they go. She has a problem w taking one pill at a time. I have been sober for 5 yrs and on my meds the same amount of time. I am proud of myself. I think more so the drinking. That was a hard thing to stop cold turkey. After drinking 1/2 gallons of vodka in 2-3 days stopping was a distant thought in my mind. But I made a promise to her and I wasn’t gonna go back on that. She means to much to me to do that to her again. As for my meds and seeing the psychiatrist/psychologist I see him every 3 months or if he feels I’m doing good sometimes 4-5. But I prefer the 3-4 months. And my meds I always have to call in to get them refilled from the doctors office. That is fine with me. Better safe than sorry. As for me and my family, I kept up my bargain-promise-and feel good about that. I still don’t believe they really understand what I really go through or have gone through. My husband really never sat down and talked to me about my bipolar. My parents really never ask about it. And others in the family, well it seems as though it’s taboo. Even the friends I do have, which isn’t many at all, don’t ask. I post quotes and articles on Facebook but never do I get a comment or a “Like” back. I was told it could be because they really don’t know what to say or how to respond. I guess if they were truly my friends it wouldn’t be hard to find something to say. So truly I have no idea who really are my friends. I believe the majority of them are just acquaintances. I’m a loner and that’s how it has always been. I like to be at home. And do things by myself. Of course, I do alot w my daughter. But she is now 12 yrs old and is starting to want more indepence. With that comes responsibility. Something she has a real problem with. I guess in due time. Maybe it will click one day and she’ll own up to what she needs to do. Of course, things do get taken away. But anyhow that’s a little bit of my story. I think I could write a book. There is so much more to talk about. Isn’t there always. Thank you for reading and understanding.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s