Yesterday I was heartbroken to learn that funny man, Robin Williams, age 63, died in an apparent suicide. It was reported asphyxiation, and my mind already knew it was a hanging. This afternoon, the graphic details of Robin Williams” suicide were released. My heart is still breaking.
To the world, Robin Williams was an actor and comedian. He was many things to each of us. He also had a private life. A life with children and a wife. Their hearts are breaking, I’m certain. There has to be a process of grieving where privacy is permitted.
We have heard Williams spent decades tormented by demons. He suffered drug addiction and was tormented by depression. I admit I was shocked when I read about his wife going to bed at 10:30 pm the night before while Williams retired to another bedroom. She then left for work at 10:30 am the next morning, thinking her husband, Williams, was still asleep. He was discovered by his personal assistant.
I am shocked because we have learned that he was suffering from a deep, dark depression. Surely his wife knew this. And maybe this is where my heartbreak hurt most. I’ve struggled with depression. It is a deep abyss that seems to engulf its victim.
For me, that darkness was twelve years ago, and yet, as I sit here, I still feel shame. I still am frightened you are judging me as you read this. I am going to stare that fear in the face–I’m not going to say, “it gets better.” I am going to say that people love you and they need you. They want you in their life today, tomorrow, a week from now, a year from now.
My coping skills crashed shortly after 9/11.
I worked for Delta, and after three years, we bit the bullet and flew to Hawaii as a family of four on standby. Why not? The flights were wide open. We arrived in Honolulu Monday afternoon, expecting to return Wednesday.
We were on Eastern Time so the time change was crazy and we found ourselves unable to sleep. We went for a stroll at sunrise to the pier where a woman greeted us with, “Isn’t it just terrible what just happened to those planes in New York?”
We were stranded; nearly twelve days would pass before we were able to make it to the mainland.
The stress of 9/11, trying to get my family home and the reality that life in Hawaii was expensive and quickly draining our savings and that month’s living expenses took its toll. I went through anxiety and panic attacks that drained me.
In June 2002, I gave birth to The Beauty Queen. It was a joyous celebration and the beginning of something new and wonderful. Within a few weeks of her birth, I was living the horror of depression, while still trying to manage my panic and anxiety.
My grandmother, who lived two doors down, spent days with me and my family spent evenings with me. I was afraid–terrified. I couldn’t control what was happening in my life.
By mid-September, my medication wasn’t working and one night wrote a note telling my family how much I loved them, but it was too much for me. That I was haunted by something that was bigger than I was. I took a handful of ALL of my medication, laid my baby on my chest and went to sleep.
My husband found me, called 9-1-1 and my stomach was pumped.
I vaguely remember the bright lights in the hospital. I remember a voice of a woman telling me something about a tube. I remember heaving and this disgusting taste in my mouth.
From there I went to the hospital to learn coping skills, find a medication that would help. I met a great group of people, all who were suffering from the beast called depression. My roommate came in late my first night there after throwing herself in front of a semi-truck.
My family came to visit me every day for the five days I was there.
I came home to learn that my dog had been put to sleep while I was in the hospital. She was 12 years old and in pain.
My oldest just entered Junior High and was in a gifted program that was very demanding. I remember his report card went from A to F. His counselor called me in to talk about the situation. In that school office, I was faced with the reality of my depression. My 13-year-old son was so worried about his mother that it consumed him. His mind and heart were always with me. I was ashamed when I had to tell the counselor that I had tried to commit suicide.
Slowly, I tried to get back on the circuit of my life.
I wasn’t better. I was drowning in medication that was numbing me. I cried a lot. I couldn’t remember one moment to the next. I cried more. I felt alone. I saw myself as a burden to my family who was now watching me night and day.
I went to counseling. Ironically, I felt you went to counseling to remove the stigma and yet there seemed to be a stigma about seeing a counselor.
Slowly, I challenged my fears. I left the house. I worked my way to a few blocks away. Against my judgment, I boarded an airplane and went back to Hawaii with my family and came home again to prove to myself that it was possible.
There were days when it was easier just to let depression win. To sit and waller in my pool of self-pity. To cry until the tears dried up. Those days were dark.
When those dark days started ganging up on me and becoming the norm, I knew I needed help. My thoughts of suicide were returning. I voluntarily checked myself back into the hospital.
Every day I fought to be stronger for my family. I experienced mood swings that were insane. I battled demons that tried to take away my self-worth, my joy, my love, my hope.
I still struggle.
Please, if you or someone close to you have any of these symptoms, seek help. Talk about it!
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very, very seriously. Do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately. Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) — or the deaf hotline at 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889).
If you need someone to talk to, please reach out to a family member, friend, neighbor, church representative, me. Just let someone know, please!
Depression doesn’t care about gender, social status, or age.
I care about you.
While Robin Williams death is heartbreaking, don’t let the tragedy take away the laughter. Keep on laughing and living life. You’re worth it!