On Robin Williams and depression.

Like millions, I was shocked on Monday when I heard the news that beloved comic actor Robin Williams had taken his life. I wound up in tears over my iPad, my nephew Justin offering a brief but heartfelt, “I’m sorry”. 


I grew up watching reruns of Mork and Mindy on Nick at Nite, and I’d still happily dawn a pair of rainbow suspenders today. My favorite Disney movie is Aladdin, and of course I watched HookMrs. Doubtfire, and Jumanji. I even liked his decidely creepy turn as a villian on Law & Order: SVU. 


It was actually that one episode guesting gig that popped in my head as I emailed my friend Aja on Monday night. She wrote that he “seemed like such a sad person” despite “all of his comedy and shenanigans” and I have to agree. There was definitely something dark there, and his sudden death shone a bright light on it.


It- I’ve read online that “it” was depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, spiritual darkness, demons, fears, failure, addiction, or maybe some brain jumbo of all the above. “It” was driven by liberalism, according to Rush Limbaugh, or maybe an ex-girlfriend’s abortion years ago, according to Lifesite News (H/T Rod Dreher). By the way, tre classy on using a man’s death to promote your own politics. Or your views on food, which I found out about when I checked my email this morning and saw this from Christian vegan food supplement company Hallelujah Diet:


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Notice all those scare quotes around the words like disease, obesity, and inflammation. So diseases are new? Obesity, too? Yeah, the high rate of obesity today is, but obesity altogether is? Like things of this millenium- smart phones, the popularity of all things Kardashian and obesity. Okay, sure.


While the HD story does, to it’s credit, not delve into whether Williams had a relationship with God (this even came up on Tuesday’s episode of Hank Hannegraff’s The Bible Answer Man radio show– I was surprised to hear Hank talk about Williams not being a friend of Christianity), it does summarily dismiss mental illness, scare quotes and all, as a “theory”. They then offer up toxicity as an explanation and expound on plant based curealls, which, of course, they can provide. Sigh.


Setting aside all the politicking and product pushing, I wonder why so many people seem to reject mental illness as being an actual illness. They search for anything to blame- whether it’s laziness, Satan or yes, one too many stops at the Golden Arches.


 I’ve written on how mental illness has effected my family. A few times about my mom’s forty year battle with severe, disabling depression, and repeatedly about my sister Joscelyne’s. I’ve had periods of depression, too. After having Z, I know without a doubt I had postpartum depression for about six weeks. My mind would race uncontrollably, anxious that I’d fail as a mom at any moment, terrified that in becoming a mom, I would no longer be myself. With a new little person depending on me for *everything*, the pressure would build in my head. I remember sitting in our bedroom, Z napping on our bed, while I had the cups of an electric breast pump working to pull milk out of my left nipple. I looked down and sobbed. I said aloud, “I feel like a cow”. Nothing felt familiar and it terrified me. I thought my life was out of control.


Dealing with CIDP has made me feel depressed,  but not nearly as intensely as those weeks as a new mom. People have questioned my mental state in terms of being disabled. I am far more lonely and isolated now. When I’m having a down period, I may not leave the house for two weeks. I’ve quietly cried while I laid flat on the floor because my lower back hurts so horribly. I have spent hours on the couch with an ice pack on my head to numb the migraine. And still… still… I DO NOT feel as down as I did during the postpartum period. 


When I think of my sister and mom, or Robin Williams, or Sylvia Plath or Virginia Woolf, I do so with those scary weeks in mind. Viewing them- and depression as a whole- through those lens, has filled my heart with empathy and compassion, and I’m now thankful for that trial in my life. I’m reminded of the first chapter of 2 Corinthians, in which St. Paul wrote: 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.







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