My Thoughts on Robin William’s Death

This post has nothing to do with religion, but I thought it was worth sharing here…

I posted this to Facebook, but would like to share it here as well. I hope it helps someone in need. If you are suffering from depression, there is help available! The national suicide hotline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Please seek help if you need it. There is no shame in depression, and it can be treated and recovery is possible!

I have always been very open and honest about my struggles with mental illness. I have never hidden the fact that I have bipolar disorder. My feeling is that the more mental illness is talked about and brought out into the open, the less stigma there will be because of it. I started having symptoms of mental illness after I had a serious seizure when I was ten years old. That was in 1976. The best anti-seizure medicine they had at the time was phenobarbital, and I was on it for six years. My mother’s opinion is that they took me off of it too quickly because I went straight for the alcohol, and so began many years of serious substance abuse. I was seriously bipolar by the time I was in high school, and most nights I was so manic I would have to drink myself to sleep. I would either hit the liquor cabinet, trying to be careful not to wake my mother up, or I would sneak out of the house late at night to go buy beer at a couple of convenience stores nearby that I knew would sell it to me, underage though I was. Back in those days there were not such strict laws for selling alcohol to minors like there are today. It was easy to get if you knew where to go… Anyway, school was not easy for me. I had few friends and I endured a lot of hell for being different. I know now that I was different because I was mentally ill. We all know how cruel kids can be if you don’t fit in… high school was a living hell except for band, a few true friends who accepted me as I was, and cool teachers who liked and cared about me. I have never had the opportunity to go to a high school reunion and I’m not sure I want to. It’s been thirty years, and most of those people back when we were in school wanted nothing to do with me. I participated in band and had great fun doing it, but I was left out of all the stuff the cool kids got to do. I never went to a beach party or hung out with friends at Dunbar Park (they were drinking or doing drugs anyway, so it’s just as well that I wasn’t there… I did plenty of that on my own or with the friends I did have…) or anything else the “normal” kids got to do. I didn’t even know most of this stuff went on until years later…

Anyway… while most of my peers were going to school and building their adult lives and careers, I was absolutely miserable with then undiagnosed bipolar disorder. I dealt with it either with extreme religious belief or with severe substance abuse. I spent many years trying to get through school and failing because I was so mentally ill and usually too drunk or too stoned to learn anything. I spent many years working many dead-end, low-wage jobs, barely managing to scrape by. I never had any extra money and at Christmas, my mother would loan me about $20 so I could go buy some cheap books and cassette tapes to give as gifts. There were many times that I would have been homeless on the streets of Houston, TX if my mother had not helped me out financially. She didn’t like doing it, but she loves me unconditionally and was always there for me.

I’m sharing all of this because of Robin William’s tragic death from suicide. He had money and fame and the adoration of millions, but none of that protects you from the ravages of mental illness. I know what it’s like to suffer from DEEP depression and to have no quality of life whatsoever. I can remember back around 2001, I was so miserable and so depressed that I slept almost all the time. Being awake HURT! My idea of getting out of the house was to go visit the apartment office and visit with the leasing agents. They knew that I was deeply troubled and they cared enough about me to try to help. But most of the time I was in my apartment asleep or wishing that I was asleep or wishing that I was dead so I didn’t have to hurt so bad. Sleep was the only escape I had from the unbearable pain of severe bipolar depression.

I have a great life now in Alaska and my mental health is so good now that I can’t tell most of the time that I even have bipolar disorder. I have finally completed school and I am looking forward to a rewarding career as a health coach. I get the incredible privilege of helping others live healthier and more fulfilling lives! I am looking forward to helping others who suffer from mental illness recover so that they too can truly enjoy living. I know what it is like for life to be a living hell of depression and failure after failure and having no money and feeling no hope that life can ever feel like it is worth living. I KNOW that I can help people who are suffering from mental illness feel better. I also know that many of them will not be able to pay me. But it’s not about the money. It’s about compassion and understanding and empathy and helping because now I can do it and I WANT to do it. If I can recover from years of severe mental illness, I know that I can help others to do the same. Just the other day at the NAMI meeting a woman shared how miserable and frequently suicidal she was. She has had struggles similar to my own. I reached out to her and offered to help and so far I have not heard from her, but at least I tried.

I understand why Robin Williams committed suicide. I understand the unbearable pain that deep depression must have been causing him. Money and fame and the adoration of millions cease to matter when life is nothing but unbearable pain. I wish he had not chosen such a tragic way to end his suffering and I wish he could have been helped. But I understand, and I’ll always remember him fondly as the hilarious Mork from Ork on the old “Mork & Mindy” TV show…

My life has been very different from that of most of my peers. It has not been “normal” by any means. But I’m not ashamed of it at all. Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of. The mentally ill should not have to endure the additional suffering that stigma causes on top of what they already suffer from their illness. The mentally ill deserve compassion, empathy, understanding, and all the help that they can get from those who care about them…

2 comments on “My Thoughts on Robin William’s Death

  1. Well said. I’m new to your blog so I was just getting caught up on some of your postings which have been funny, intriguing and honestly truthful. Former religious individual. It took me almost 20 years to realize what I was being fed was really unhealthy and it caused me to question every human aspect of myself. Thanks for your views, I appreciate them.

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