Depression Is Not A Dirty Secret
I was beyond saddened to hear the news about Robin Williams. Those who knew him keep saying that his suicide was shocking because he always seemed so happy. The more I hear, the more I feel for Robin. He struggled with addiction and severe depression and often spoke about finding his sense of humor along his way. I can identify so much with hiding behind a case of the funnies to shield my loved ones from the reality of my true feelings.
Depression is tricky, and sometimes pops out of nowhere…in the middle of my happiest times…times that I shouldn’t be sad. So, I have learned how to throw on a smile, and tell some jokes to lighten to mood. I have learned how to appear to have my shit together so that people don’t ask too many questions or “worry” about me. Sometimes talking about my depression gets old, especially if I’ve been stuck for a while, so I have learned how to focus attention on other things.
This is a problem.
If I don’t talk about what’s going on, you cannot know that I am struggling. If depression is my dirty little secret, I’m in danger of falling deeper into it, or convincing myself that you don’t care and isolating. I’m really good at that. I tell myself that you don’t want to hear my sob story, and that you’re better off thinking that I’m happy all the time. I wonder if Robin felt that way, too. I wonder if he didn’t want to bother people with his pain, and instead hid behind a smile, pretending he was “fine.” I wonder if he tried to talk to people, like I have in the past, and was directed to a passage in a book or told to “just pray about it.”
Balancing recovery and depression is not easy. The messages conflict, and it’s at times once again difficult to differentiate truth from lies. Although those who have depression might not want to look into it, it is worth looking to ways that help you, looking at talking to a doctor, talking to family or friends.
The truth is, when I’m feeling depressed, there isn’t always a reason. If I’m not aware of the problem, it’s difficult to find its solution. I’m a “thinker,” so naturally I over-analyze everything to death. I get this idea that if I can just understand something, I can fix it. I have also been taught that there is nothing that certain principles can’t solve. So, I dive deeper into myself to find the answers and figure out what I’m not doing right…and I get more depressed.
When you see me and I’m not hiding behind humor, I can tell that my sadness makes you uncomfortable. You just want me to be happy, and I hear you ask, “What you not doing?” I receive suggestions to feel better. I know you mean well, and that your intention is to be helpful, but if I’m honest, it doesn’t help me. It reaffirms that it’s my fault I feel so terrible, and encourages the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee in my mind to place blame where it does not belong. Maybe if I attend some meetings, talked to someone who’s newly sober, got “out” of myself and helped others more, prayed more or harder…I wouldn’t be so depressed. Personally, these responses leave me feeling weak. They affect my motivation to speak up.
Prayer doesn’t cure my depression. Trust me, I’ve tried. It doesn’t mean I don’t have a relationship with God or that I’m not praying properly. Strangely enough, reading books about what’s wrong with me doesn’t make me feel lighter or less sad either.
While reading some comments from people in regards to Robin’s death, I can hear the blame, even though it might not be intentional.
See what happens when we don’t remain vigilant in our recovery?
Depression is not the result of some failure to take action. It does not afflict only those who aren’t taking care of themselves. It doesn’t make me a less ______ , or mean that I’m lacking in the ______ department. It doesn’t mean I enjoy feeling sad or that I’m not trying to feel happy. It means that it’s really difficult to show up. If I’m in the midst of depression and I’m anywhere but in my house, it’s a miracle.
Depression is a mental illness. PERIOD.
Robin Williams was a human being. He was not the face of depression or addiction, and the purpose of his death is not to serve as an example to us of what happens when you fail. He was obviously in more pain than he felt he could cope with, and his memory deserves respect. While I understand some of you are grateful and sharing, “Thank God that’s not me today,” it is my hope that that sentiment will not end there. There are still others suffering and needing support. There is someone out there right now reaching his or her limit, feeling like suicide is the only way out.
What are we doing to help? Are we reaching out to our friends to offer an ear, shoulder, or at least a hotline? Social media can be helpful in reaching out without having to commit. You can offer friends hope from afar and not even need to connect with them. Please try.
Robin’s suicide will affect people in different ways, but it may hit those dealing with depression harder. Please be aware and kind with your words. Please reach out and let people know they’re not alone. Let them know that you care; that you support them even if they’re sad…that you love them anyway.
It’s okay to talk about depression. It’s not a dirty secret.
If you or someone you love is struggling with mental illness and/or addiction, please visit our resources page and find help. Please also feel free to email me julie(at)sobermommies.com and know that I will do everything in my power to help you to find support in your area.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Julie Maida lives in Massachusetts with her amazing husband and three children. She has been in abstinence-based recovery since May 2, 2000.
Julie is eternally grateful for all the gifts of recovery and fiercely determined to advocate for, and connect ALL women with the appropriate support and resources necessary to achieve their personal recovery goals. She writes about mothering with mental illness at juliemaida.me.