Who am I to think I can add anything relevant, new or eloquent to the tributes, obituaries and respect that have flowed following the sad news of the death of Robin Williams this week? The short answer is that’s impossible. I have seen Jimmy Fallon and Adam Hills paying tribute to a great actor and star. I have read messages from Jason Manford in particular,and others too, about the curse of depression and the impacts it can have on individuals and their families and friends.
I have never been one for hero-worship. I’ve watched sportsmen/women, actors and musicians and admired their talent and achievements like lots of people. Have I ever felt the urge to meet them or get their autograph? Not especially. They’re just human like me but they are good at something I’m not and have a public profile. If I was on a night out and met any of these people I’d love to have a chat with them and see what they’re like but if they’re knobheads, they’re knobheads! Why would I spend any time with people I don’t get on with just because they are famous? I wouldn’t.
Because of this mind-set, I’ve been surprised at my own reaction to the news of Robin Williams passing this week. In my humble opinion he is a wonderful actor and genuinely funny man who doesn’t need a script to be funny. I say is because his performances will live on for a long time in our memories. I grew up alongside some of his great films. From Aladdin to Patch Adams, Dead Poets Society to One Hour Photo, Hook to Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting to, my personal favourite, Good Morning Vietnam I have laughed, I have cried, I have enjoyed and I’ve been impressed by a wonderfully talented man.
However if I was to be asked, is he a hero of mine? I would’ve had said no but I can appreciate his greatness. The reason his passing has resonated with me is the fact that he battled and fought with Depression for a long time, perhaps right up to his last moments. Depression is my common link to this great man and to so many people, famous and unknown around the world who fight Depression every day of their lives.
I would be lying if I said I never think about suicide during my darkest days. These thoughts can be fleeting or they can last a little while. Either way they are thoughts; no bigger or smaller than dreaming of winning the World Cup or what will tomorrow bring. I’m not being facetious about the battle I fight against Depression, I am merely admitting it is a part of my everyday life and accepting that it is always there. I think it is better to acknowledge my darkest thoughts rather than denying them and hiding from them which allow those thoughts to fester and possibly became greater than I can cope with.
This summer my Depression has been greater than it has been for a long time. It has coincided with the worst period of arthritis and auto-immune illness I’ve ever had. Of course they are linked as I’ve felt even more restricted than ever and so motivation and self-worth have taken a battering.
I was asked a question on Wednesday. ‘Which is harder to live with the physical or the mental problems?’ My instinctive reaction was to say ‘physical, of course. I can’t work, I can’t train as hard as I like and I don’t know how bad I’ll be in years to come.’ But as I spoke and then considered the mental difficulties I have. The depression I battle each day and the 2 traumatic brain injuries I’ve experienced in my life (meningitis at 17 and TV landing on my head at 25) have had and continue to have just as much impact on my life.
I take medication to help manage my Depression. I exercise and I eat well to manage my Depression. I talk about my life to manage my Depression.
This last point is very important. Depression hates being talked about and challenged head on. I take part in Psychoanalysis treatment each week where every little detail of life and every emotion and feeling is open to discussion. Talk, talk, talk!
I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it; if you have a sore leg you go to the doctor so if you have a sore head please go and see a doctor too. Tell them what’s going on your life, talk about your emotions. Reach out to your family and friends because chances are they’re going through or have gone through their own shit at some stage.
If someone comes bouncing into work or into your home you might say ‘you look in good form today, why’s that?’ If that same person comes into work or your house and doesn’t look in good form ask them why too. They may just have been waiting for someone to ask and listen to them.
So let us all remember Robin Williams and the wonderful films and characters he has left behind but let’s take something else too. So many people live with Depression or difficulties in their mental health, therefore let’s keep the conversation going because as I’ve been told many times;
Depression Hates Being Talked About