When the Laughing Stops

Again, we have lost another celebrity to the hopelessness that is a part of depression. The torture that a person lives with, and believes that suicide is the only option left to escape the pain their brain is held captive.

There will probably be “experts”, and a call for the stigmatization of mental illness to end.

And then we will carry on.

My husband was watching a show about prisons this past weekend. I half listen, and pick up statistics and comments here and there. Of course, the statistics go right through my mind, stopping for a brief moment, and then they’re gone.

The program was talking about solitary confinement and what it can do to the mind. They discussed the mentally ill who commit crimes. The percentage of mentally ill people in the prison system kind of shocked me. A comment was made about prisons becoming the new mental asylums. Sad. The prison employees aren’t trained to help a person with mental illness.

To be quite honest, many years ago, I mistakenly believed that most suicides were committed by people who could not afford help. No, mental illness doesn’t pick and choose who it wants to destroy, rich or poor.

As a young woman, a huge fear of mine was that my boss would find out that I had filled a prescription for antidepressants. Somehow, I believed my insurance company shared information with the company I worked for.

The entertainment created by Robin Williams has been a part of my adult life. We would laugh over the show, Mork and Mindy, and the quirkiness of Mr. Williams. My roommate had a cat named Orkan. There was a night my sister was watching one of his stand-up comedy shows, and I sat to watch it with her. We laughed until we were crying and snorting. I will never forget his gig about Mr. Happy–also, it’s a memory of my sister’s life that I cherish. My husband resembles Robin Williams–he is told that all the time. I suppose, one could call him his doppelganger.

While some of his humor was lost on me, and he made me nervous watching his erratic behavior, he also had a serious side. But we all know that. Most of us know that he had a problem with substance abuse.

In my unprofessional opinion, I believe there is a connection between substance abuse and mental illness, however, I had no clue that Robin Williams suffered from depression. A man with money to get the proper help needed.

So, where did the system fail him? Was he like me and figured that a pill, or pouring out feelings to a therapist would be the cure? Did he not see the role he played in his recovery? Are we still in the dark ages in the understanding of mental illness? Will we ever understand how the human brain works so that we know what is going on in the mind that makes some of us crazy, and others left to scratch their head because they don’t understand?

Seriously, I believe that someone coming across my blog may think I’m creating a story about what I suffer through. I use humor to help me through most things. There are times it takes quite a bit of torture to live through, but eventually, there will be humor to be found.

How can a person who enjoys laughter be plagued with mental illness? Doesn’t that make them a happy, confident person?

Apparently not.

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About April

I'll come back to this when I find out who I really am. I've been through some extremely rough patches but they have made me a better person. I blog if my brain is functioning first thing in the morning.
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20 Responses to When the Laughing Stops

  1. As I stated in a comment I left elsewhere, I think his death (and often the stories you share in your blog) is/are a reminder that every challenge we face shapes us, every obstacle we overcome strips a part of us away and it’s not always a weak part that gets lost. Our environment is like a hammer and we are but malleable steel waiting to see if we will bend, break or be shaped into a stronger substance. Sometimes steel can only be re-shaped so many times before it can no longer be fortified, can no longer bend…at that point even the strongest steel will break. It is the very nature of life.

    • April says:

      Oh, I hope not. If I choose to believe that eventually I will break, it only feeds the hopelessness I fight through each and every day. What would I be fighting so hard to overcome if I knew that in the end, depression will win.

      • Oh that isn’t what I meant. Ugh sometimes I have a hard time conveying my thoughts. Steel, if maintained, can endure for ages…when combined with other elements can create almost indestructible substances…its ability to bend helps to allow it to be shaped and used in numerous ways…but if you don’t take care of it, if you combine it with the wrong things than it loses the ability to endure…thus it would break. Does that make more sense?

        • April says:

          Ah, yes. Pretty much what I always “preach”. To stay strong, we must take care of ourselves. Sometimes that means being unashamed to seek help.

          I didn’t take offense to your first comment. I see what you are saying.

          • I’m glad you didn’t take offense, I just have a history of improperly conveying my intent sometimes. If I can, I usually try to clarify, after all what’s the point of having a degree in communication if I can’t communicate clearly lol.

  2. April, your points are well made and expressed. To those who say just take a pill, or snap out of it, brilliance is not immune to the severe effects of mental illness. There is no dignity in death, but if Robin Williams’ passing brings attention to the need for better mental health care accessibility in this country and the extent of its ravaging, it will not be in vain.

    • April says:

      How many have to die before we realize that we aren’t doing enough?

      • Cathy Bohlae says:

        No good answer there……think people are paying attention to the abuses he did and not the underlying problem. I have to think this is one of the hardest diseases to identify and treat, if not the hardest.

  3. mewhoami says:

    I believe, and could be very wrong, that depression is a hidden darkness within a person. A darkness that people may be able to shine a light on every now and then, and it may even hide its appearance from those on the outside world. But, it’s a darkness that cannot be fully penetrated from the outside. No matter what an outside person and/or meds does to try to help someone affected by depression, the person affected is still ‘alone’ in their world, in many ways left untouched. People may be able to help to a degree and meds may be a good band-aid, but I think that that type of consuming darkness can only be ‘cured’ from within.

    As far as Robin Williams goes, I’m like you. I’m not caught up in celebrities, simply because they are no different than you or I. They have a job, just like anyone else. However, out of the many sad stories we do hear, his saddened me more than all the others. His tragic ending was not something I, nor most, would have ever suspected to happen. He was always so happy….on the outside.

    • April says:

      It is a darkness from within, but where my opinion differs from yours is that without outside help, a person will not be able to manage their disease and live some semblance of a “normal” life.

      The brain of a person suffering from an episode of depression or anxiety does not function the same as a “normal” persons–or as it would when their disease is manageable.

      The only thing I can remember thinking is how to get out of my head. Does that make sense? Without outside help I may have chosen the same method to escape the torture–eventually. Many turn to drugs and/or alcohol to dull their torment.

      Medications may not be for everyone, but they aren’t a band-aid either. However, a person can’t expect to take a pill and they will be better. A person can’t go to a psychiatrist/therapist and the doctor will cure them. A person can’t be left alone with their darkness without some sort of help–outside help. Also, in my opinion, the person suffering has to recognize and help themselves as well.

      The topic I seem to return to over and over is that people hide their depression. Just as Robin Williams did, with his humor. I do the same–I’m just not as funny. There are millions of people walking around today with some form of mental illness. Hiding it from their friends, co-workers, neighbors–because they are ashamed or afraid that they will be judged.

      Outside help is a huge part of the equation to manage depression, but the individual has to acknowledge they need help, and they have to be willing to fight for their lives. To do that, it takes a lot of courage because depression doesn’t go away. It’s always tapping on our shoulders waiting for a weak spot, and then attacks.

      • April says:

        Oh, and am I shocked because such a “happy” person hid their disease? No.
        Am I shocked that a depressed person chooses death over life? No.

        I enjoyed the entertainment of Robin Williams, but I didn’t follow his personal life. Apparently, he has been interviewed about his addiction and his state of mind. I didn’t know that.

        So you see…even a person suffering from mental illness can’t even recognize another person hiding theirs, and it takes more than personal work to manage depression.

      • mewhoami says:

        You’re right about outside help. I certainly don’t think that they can or should have to manage it on their own. There needs to be resources. But even still, the person has to be accepting of that help. I feel that many aren’t. Instead they hide away their pain and try to deal with it on their own. Then they end up like he did. I know it’s unimaginably hard to live with depression and meds I’m sure do help. I used to be on some myself. They calmed me, made me a bit happier. But they weren’t the cure. The cure came from inside me, from my choosing a different life, to better myself. To allow myself to get what a I needed. Granted I didn’t have full scale depression, but that’s what worked for me. everyone is different though. That’s why the proper resources need to be made available – to help everyone in all ranges of mental health.

        • April says:

          I totally agree. Sometimes the depressed or psychotic don’t realize they need help. There is no cure for depression, only management. We hide it to avoid people coming to the wrong conclusions.

          I recently recognized that I played a major part in my mental health. It took medication and therapy to get here, and a lot of hard and dedicated work.

  4. Depression is a beast. And it is an equal opportunity disease. My heart aches for anyone who hurts so bad they believe that ending the hurt in this manner is the only way they can be set free. And my heart hurts for those left behind with an entirely new hurt. Even ‘help’ does not always keep the disease at bay. Like cancer, it eats away, goes in to remission, flares again and again. I just think of the pain he was in at that moment. There is no ‘celebrity’ when it comes to depression or other illnesses. There is only humanity. That man and his family suffered.

    • April says:

      More than a family who does not have depression in their family knows. The thing is–the “thinking” isn’t a part of the end for sufferers who decide to take this action. It’s an action for solace. The feelings they are having are beyond hurting.

      Living with my disease, both mental illness and lung cancer, I have a couple of sneaky rat bastards lurking around, picking at me–but I will continue to seek ‘help’ to keep me from falling to these two diseases.

  5. Gallivanta says:

    I don’t really know what to say. I’m sad that Robin Williams felt so helpless. Apparently suicide rates have risen dramatically amongst men in his age group in the US, so he is one of many who will take this drastic action. But I am also a little bit mad with him (betrayed perhaps) which means I am making a judgement which is not good on my part.

    • April says:

      Because I have been at the depths of despair, I understand that he made us laugh until we cried..until he didn’t have the strength, mentally, to keep fighting for his life. I have been at the point where I had to make a choice to leap or to find another way. I had help (my family) and I found another way. I hope I can continue to manage my disease because what he did takes away my hope. Will I eventually succumb? I don’t want to.

      • Gallivanta says:

        That’s sort of what I mean about being betrayed (by taking away hope). Actually, maybe, I don’t know what I mean. I feel bad about it all, that’s for sure.

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