Depression. Mental Health. Today's buzzwords. Often misused. Frequently misunderstood. Ignored. Mocked. Brushed aside.
Yet today, because of the sad loss of Robin Williams, those words are plastered every where. Once again for a short time people will talk about depression. Get on the band wagon for mental health awareness. Advocate for it. And the outspoken will be heard.
But what about her? Or him? What about the ones without a public voice? What about the ones whose cries will never be heard? The ones whose inner turmoil is so great they often can barely breathe. The ones who don't have an advocate. Who don't know where to turn…how to get help. The ones that feel as if there is no one. The ones being swallowed up. What about them?
What about me?
I laughed to myself last week as I picked up my medication. My antidepressants. My protection drugs. Three dollars and fifty cents. $3.50. Life saving. Life changing. Three hundred and fifty pennies. Yet, it is infinitely more important than the quad grande americano I purchase after I leave the pharmacy. But really. $3.50. Is it really medicine? Is someone playing a trick on me. This tiny little fraction of a cent pill that controls the wild dark beast of depression that lurks inside. Seems "crazy".
Yet each day…at 9am…for the last two years my phone reminds me to "take my medicine". I dare not forget. I've been there…I don't want to go back. Ever. But what if?
If someone like Robin Williams…someone with every avenue of help available to him. With no worries of expense. With rehab and counseling at the ready. If someone like him can be swallowed by the beast of depression. Defenseless. Helpless. Incapable of fighting. If him…what about me…or him…or her?
So today I find myself stuck in my head. Thoughts spinning. Heart racing. I panic…human. Then I don't…faith. Maybe this is why I continue to tattoo myself with messages of hope…reassurance…guidance. Verses that point out my path, seeking God's direction. Maybe.
I know me. I won't publicly cry out for help or seek attention for myself when I'm sinking. I look up. I trust my faith. My relationship. My God.
But what about the others? What about Robin?
Living with mental illness is a dance. A lifelong dance. I will forever be peeking around corners of my mind. Because the beast lurks in dark corners. Ready to pounce. Seeking weakness. Exhaustion. Disappointment. Fear. It feeds on those emotions.
I am not given cause to write this because Robin Williams was my favorite actor. I loved him as many loved him. The very thought of him causes me to smile. It is the tragic fact that he was overcome by the darkness. He could no longer fight. The pit swallowed him up and he gave in to the sinking. He wasn't weak. The siren of depression is so strong. He wasn't incapable…but the weight of the world is just too much to bear on your own. I know this. And my heart hurts. For the ones he left behind.
Again. I'm terrified.
Earlier this month a dear friend lost her father in a similar inner turmoil. A man I remember for his smile…his wit…his compassion. A man who would speak about art and his whole being came alive. But when pain is too much. When life seems too hard. The voices….
I can generally feel the icy fingers of depression when they begin to emerge. First they grab your hand. They comfort you as you feel sorry for yourself. But somewhere the deception creeps in. The cold fingers tighten their grasp, they fog your vision, the cloud your thoughts. They no longer grab your hand, but clasp your throat, press against your chest, cover your eyes.
Evil. A beast. Uncontrollable.
Depression is real. Mental illness is not our fault.
In light of the loss of a brilliant, funny, joyful human being I shudder with fear. Then I look at my tattoos…
Who do I belong to?
Who holds my hand in the darkest pit?
Who directs MY paths?
Grounded. Stable. Strong. Not. My. Own.
And for now…I wander in the kitchen and pull out my tiny-fraction-of-a-cent-pill. Lift. Drink. Swallow. My routine. I am okay. Protected. Today.