This morning I awoke to the news that one of my ultimate actors and favourite people had chosen to leave this earth by taking his own life. Robin Williams has to be one of the funniest and incredibly talented people of my generation and my heart broke that at 63 he just could not continue. I have read so many comments regarding his state of mind and people expressing shock that someone who had the ability to make everyone around him happy could suffer so much that ending his life was the only answer.
This is where it stuns me that so many people do not understand depression and the black hole that you find yourself in when you are ill, because yes, contrary to popular belief depression is an illness. I do not write this from a place of research or thumb sucking but from a place of someone who has been there, and who is there.
I was diagnosed with severe depression at the age of 19. For those of you who know me (but do not really KNOW me) this will be a bit of a surprise. I am always referred to as such a happy go lucky, positive and bubbly person. The shock for me was incredible. Depression was still a bit of a taboo subject back then and without access to social media people were not so aware of just how serious depression was. I spent 6 months not talking to anyone. I wanted nothing but to be left alone which was not an easy task considering I was working in the hospitality industry at the time. I was put on medication which, I believe, made me worse and I suffered the most severe panic attacks it felt like I was going to die at any second yet that didn’t bother me too much.
Needless to say with the massive support system I had I managed to crawl my way out of the black hole but not before self harming. After that incident I will never forget someone looking at me and asking me why I would be so stupid and what did I have to be depressed about.
Advice people, those are possibly the worst things you can say to someone who is ill. Over the years I had my months of blackness but because of my first experience I refused to go back on medication and most times I got myself out of depression with the amazing strength of the people in my life.
The problem with being diagnosed with depression is that you never really recover from it. Not entirely anyway. Yes you get better and have spells in your life where everything is sunshiney and rainbows but there is always that tiny little part of you that is always weary of things going too well. Dark and twisty is the candid way I describe myself. I have spent many years since 19 on a rollercoaster of great and awful, mediocre and just cruising.
Then last year a series of very tragic events happened; the worst being when I lost one of my best friends in a horrific accident. I thought I was coping as well as could be expected in the circumstances but it took an incredibly strong friend of mine sitting me down and basically telling me I was trying to kill myself in order for me to see how bad things had got. I was out all the time and drinking yet it never felt fun. I was surrounded by people and I laughed and smiled but I was empty on the inside and my boss once described my eyes as dead.
I was permanently exhausted and sleep was something I no longer knew the meaning of but I refused to seek help. As I had been told, life couldn’t be that bad. You have so much to be fortunate for, you are so lucky to have what you have… It made me feel guilty and I had to stop watching or reading the news because I felt worse when I saw the tragedies going on in the world yet here I was feeling “sorry for myself”.
Once my friends made me see just how bad things were I visited my GP. I could barely breathe whilst sitting there waiting to see him and I felt pathetic and silly. Why was I making such a fuss over something so ridiculous. I will never, as long as I live, forget the words my GP said to me that day: “Angi, if you came into my office with bronchitis or flu would I not prescribe medicine? You are ill, you are sick and you need medicine to get better.” The relief I felt that day made me sob, to know that I wasn’t being silly or foolish, that depression had become something that was recognised worldwide and that the medication had come a long way from when I was 19 and that the side effects would not be as severe as before.
It took about 3 weeks before I started to feel myself again. The biggest relief was sleeping through the night which I believe is the biggest problem when you are depressed. Yet there was a part of me that still felt embarrassed to admit to people that I, the happy go lucky, ever positive Angi was taking medication.
Today I write this to make people aware that depression is not something people choose to have, the same way no-one chooses to get cancer or even flu. The brain is attacked and you have no control over the feelings of despair. Do not try and avoid help. Do not pretend there is nothing wrong and never ever feel like you need to hide the truth from those around you. For those who have never suffered from real and true depression please be aware of those people around you who, although they may seem incredibly happy on the surface, you know that deep down something is wrong and no matter how many times they tell you that they are okay, if you suspect that it might be something more severe, help them. Let them know that there is a way out if they get the right help and if they have the support.
Suicide is a real last resort for everyone, if you can be there for just one person you suspect may not be all sunshiney and rainbows you may just be the reason that person carries on living.
Rest In Peace Robin Williams and thank you for allowing me to have the courage to write about something that is so close to my heart.
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