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    Posted August 13, 2014 by
    Judemeister
    Location
    marin, California
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Living with a chronic illness

    Chronic depression ain't no secret: The tortured soul of Robin Williams

     

    According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about  14.8 million adult Americans experience clinical (severe) depression in  any given year—or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population over 18.  [source: NIH Depressive]

     

    I am one of them.

     

    You  can feel it coming on. An overwhelming level of hopelessness churning  deep within your psyche, the origins of which you can’t possibly explain  to anyone who hasn’t been there.

     

    It has  little to do with outside influences. If I drum up the nerve to tell  people I suffer from depression, they’re like, “Look at all the  wonderful stuff you’ve got going for you!” And of course they’re right.  I’m healthy. I’ve got a great kid and a loving family. I’m in damn good  shape for a 55-year-old broad. I’m smart and creative. I’m  self-sufficient. I’m funny as hell. I’ve got a nice house, a decent job,  a hot girlfriend, a cool car, and a pretty decent cadre of friends who  have my back.

     

    I know all this stuff, and I  thank my lucky stars Every. Single. Day. The problem is that, rather  than being comforted by these warm fuzzy truisms, I contemplate how  ‘lucky’ I am and go, “You know, they nailed it. I got a pretty fucking  good life. I have every reason to be happy… Then why am I so miserable?”  Which is why I don’t tell people about my weird condition in the first  place, because I know they’ll never really get it.

     

    All  the good stuff doesn’t hide the fact that the nasty little voice  residing within your omnipresent brain is constantly telling you there’s  something fundamentally wrong with you for feeling the way you do. It  doesn’t have anything to do with love, money, job, family, education,  health, or lack of any thereof. Sure, failure in those areas may  exacerbate the problem, but success rarely improves it.

     

    It  doesn’t come from having a low self-esteem or having delusions of  grandeur. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are or what’s going  on around you, whether you’re in a solid relationship, whether you make  boatloads of money, whether you’re speaking to your siblings, or whether  you love what you do. The incessant derogatory voice comes from  somewhere deep inside your soul and overrules your sensibilities,  ridiculing and berating you for missing the obvious. It doesn’t mean you  want more. It doesn’t mean you want less. It means you can’t handle it  either way.

     

    Look at Robin Williams. Three  kids and a loving (as far as we know) wife. A stellar career. In damn  good shape for a 63-year-old dude. Beloved by many. Healthy for the most  part. Smart and creative. Funny as hell. Two nice houses, a fleet of  bicycles. Friends. Family. Wealth. Fame. Yet he couldn’t live with  himself.

     

    Maybe they changed his meds. More  likely he was self-medicating, as many people with our level of  depression do. The meds help, of course, but who wants to admit to  anyone—including yourself—that you’re dependent on a cocktail of psych  drugs just to be able to maintain on a daily basis? Not me. Or him, I’m  sure. It’s another slap in the face, another derision that can't be  reconciled.

     

    I mean it’s not like I take  blood pressure meds. I’m not on insulin, or cholesterol meds, or  arthritis meds, or anything that has to do with chemically regulating an  uncontrollable physiological condition. No ma'am, I take meds because  I’m fucked up in the head. I’m a psycho. I see my glass half empty, even  though it's overflowing with luck, happiness, and something akin to  karma. But none of it matters. I can’t control my emotions without  gulping down a bunch of stupid little pills. And therein lies a huge  part of the problem.

     

    The drugs are an  endless double-edged sword. You can’t live with ‘em, you can’t function  without ‘em. You hate the dependency you have on them because it makes  you feel weak and dysfunctional. It's shameful to have to rely on  prescription medication to get you through the day without breaking  down.

     

    Yet the Catch-22 really happens when  the drugs are doing their job. You start feeling pretty darned good.  You might actually go a couple three weeks in this pseudo-euphoric  state. Then the cockiness kicks in and you go, “I think I finally licked  this thing. I’m doing kind of awesome right now. Why am I taking this  fucking crap?”

     

    So you stop, or cut back (I  never stop), and within a few days the despondency creeps back in like a  slow IV to the jugular. You feel like a total failure—again—as you dole  out your daily doses. Then you wonder—again—what’s the point… You  deride yourself for being unable to cope on your own... And your  tortured thoughts plummet into an abyss that you really don’t care if  you ever pull out of.

     

    There's definitely a  genetic propensity for depression. My dad was clinically depressed and  tried to end it numerous times. He used to sit in his big easy chair in  the living room watching Ed Sullivan with tears streaming down his face  for no reason we could fathom. He’d randomly swallow a bottle of pills,  and at least once tried to slit his wrists. I remember when I was a kid  he gulped down a fifth of vodka like water, after consuming a handful of  pills, and announced to me and my mom he was going to the bedroom to  die. That was memorable.

     

    I’ve hit that  spot a few times, way before I understood my dad’s history; tried to  slit my wrists in high school and once took a bottle of OTC sleeping  pills that didn’t work.

     

    I somehow  continually managed to snap out of it and function, thanks to 75-250 mg  of 2-3 different psych drugs each day for the past 15 or so years under  half a dozen psychiatric evaluators. But you’re forever at the  precipice, upping the dose for awhile and then backing off, upping and  backing off. Wondering if you’ll ever be able to wean yourself off  completely, knowing you never will, and sensing a simmering level of  despair that never completely disappears.

     

    Is  that what happened to Robin? Did he finally decide enough was enough?  Did he chuck his meds down the john like I did once, maintaining until  he absolutely couldn’t anymore? Some will say his marriage was on the  rocks, he wasn’t satisfied as an actor, he fell off the sobriety wagon,  his heart surgery changed him.

     

    People  speculate because that’s what they do. I’m no exception. But I’ve  visited the dark place where his mind dwelled and can say from a  first-hand perspective that it’s ugly as hell, and I’d do nearly  anything to never go back there again.

     

    His  was a deliberate conscious act that he knew he’d never come back from.  He clearly got to the point where he’d do whatever it took to finally  end the agony. Those of us who have felt that level of pain gasp, not so  much from the shock of the event, but from knowing how close we’ve been  to being there.

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