Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams: When it comes roaring back.

When I learned that Robin Williams had committed suicide, a wave of rage rushed through my brain, flooding away any possibility of rational thought or discourse. I was angry--the kind of angry that leaves you shaking inarticulately, wiping away the useless tears that are clearly rivers of rage themselves, serving no purpose other than to make you a snotty, incensed mess.

Now, a day later, the anger remains. I do not feel true sadness at his loss--for me, I didn't know Robin Williams personally, so I haven't earned that right. I do not feel actual grief, either, although it could be argued that the rage is a close cousin to that emotion. No. What I feel, and what I imagine I'll continue to feel, is a tsunami of anger that has finally found its target and is keeping it in its crosshairs.

I'm talking about depression--that goddamn, pointless, terrifying condition/disease/disorder that those who've experienced before want to avoid ever meeting again at all costs.

Depression, severe, seemingly unremitting depression is akin to horror. Think of Edvard Munch's The Scream. Better yet, don't just think about it, go look at it (pictures abound, thanks to google). Look at that image for two minutes, three. Turn off any background noise and just stare. Breathe in what you see, imprint it in your mind. How does that image make you feel? Is there even a tinge of despair connected to what you see? If so, multiply that momentary feeling by hours, then days, then weeks and months. Now you have a taste of depression.

When in the midst of it, seconds tick by like water dripping from a leaky faucet, each miniscule moment in time suddenly lengthened and highlighted, as if to taunt you. This will never be over. You are stuck in this horror. No one else can touch you the way this new horror touches you. Regardless of medication/psychotherapy/exercise/the kindness of others, you will be locked in this endless, mundane hell forever. This will never be done.

And then, if you're lucky, this horror spits you back out to normal life once more. Perhaps you return to "normal" more resilient than before and eager to embrace the world, but more than likely you have developed a somewhat cautious, not quite so trusting, do-I-need-to-look-over-my-shoulder? mentality. More than likely, you have attempted to shore up your renewed mental health by continuing to utilize the resources that helped you return to normal (or almost normal) in the first place--therapy check-ins, a maintenance dose of psychotropic medication, regular exercise, sleep, a proper diet, and above all, life balance.

If you're like many of us, the do-I-need-to-look-over-my-shoulder? mentality may eventually ebb, at least a bit. Like a new mother, you may eventually forget the extreme pain of labour, and begin to put your focus where it should be--on living your life.

Unfortunately, when it comes to depression, what seems to have receded into your past like an almost forgotten nightmare often comes roaring back. For at least 50% of us, following a first depressive episode, it comes roaring back.

Goddamn it to hell. Fuck. No, please, please, please, please, I'm begging. Please, no.

But there it is, and there you are, stuck once again in The Scream, locked in those thoughts that keep spiraling, telling you that This will never be over. You are stuck in this horror. No one else can touch you the way this new horror touches you. This will never be done.

Once again, you attempt to pool whatever personal strength you still possess to fight this invisible, all pervasive foe. Once again, you pull out the big guns, and if you're lucky, they work, at least well enough to make the monster under your bed slip away once more.

After this second episode, the do-I-need-to-look-over-my-shoulder? mentality may never go away. You are not stupid or naive. You were tricked once, but it'll take a lot more to be tricked again. And, if you're like the majority of those who've experienced at least two depressive episodes, you'll someday get sucked into another, and perhaps yet another.

Goddamn it to hell. Fuck. No, please, please, please, please, I'm begging. Please, no.

Some are lucky and achieve lifetime remission. Some are not so lucky, and yet somehow shore up enough resilience to keep fighting, when their foe appears once more, knowing (even if it's just a wisp of knowledge), that The Scream will eventually leave again, and knowing that it's often a matter of waiting to see who blinks first.

But then.

But then there are those whose cup of resilience has become bone dry, those who have been forced on this merry-go-round too many times, and just cannot take one more ride when they're pushed to the front of the line. They just cannot. Whether the horror they've witnessed is worse than mine has ever been, I do not know. Whether they truly believe that this time the merry-go-round will never stop unless they make it stop, I do not know.

What I do know is that I'm still here and a beloved, genius performer of our generation is not. What I do know is that those who have never experienced the horror of depression cannot truly understand what it means to be locked within that Munch painting. What I do know is that, likely so many others who experience mood disorders, I'm left sitting here with the rivers of rage flowing uselessly down my face, knowing all too well that my anger serves no other purpose than continuing to make me a snotty, incensed mess. Depression be damned.

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