Robin Williams

When Robin Williams Died, I Realized the Greatest Lie Depression Had Told Me

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As someone struggling with depression, there are many lies I tell myself to get through each day. I tell myself I believe things will get better. I tell myself I believe life is worth living. I tell myself I believe someday I will be happy. All these lies I tell myself in the hope they will eventually ring true and I will come to believe them. But there are some lies I tell myself without even being aware, and it wasn’t until the suicide of Robin Williams that I discovered I had been telling myself the greatest lie of all.

When I learned Robin Williams had died by suicide, I was devastated. Not because I knew him personally or because of some mistaken sense of starstruck familiarity. I knew I would never have to carry the burden of grief his close friends and family would bear. His sudden absence would not alter the course of my daily routine and I would not mourn the missed intimate conversations we would have otherwise engaged in. The truth is, I was devastated because he was 63.

Robin Williams was 63 when he killed himself. After all that he had accomplished, all that he had challenged, survived, learned and conquered, it appeared to me that he couldn’t move beyond the ghosts that tortured him. Success, no matter how you measure it — whether by money, fame, accomplishments or family — none of it seemed enough to chase away the nightmares that doggedly pursued him throughout his life. It seems he never discovered the secret to conquering his inner demons so they would remain in the dark and let him live unencumbered. I was devastated because if Robin Williams, with all his age and experience, could not beat the odds, what possible chance did I have?

Somewhere in the back of my mind, in the fragile, sheltered box of light I keep tucked beneath the oppressive darkness that is my depression, I realized I had been falsely clinging to the desperate notion that some day, perhaps with the help of medication, meditation, self-awareness and therapy, I would eventually get a handle on my own demons and, once in control, I would sweep them aside to live the rest of my life in a fiercely negotiated peace. I wasn’t so naive as to believe I could erase my depression completely, but I would build a cell strong enough to keep it bound, cornered, out of sight and literally out of mind. Once I had paid my dues and learned my lessons, my life would be mine to live as I pleased.

This was the greatest lie I told myself about depression. I had believed that some day I would find a permanent solution to my plight, but I realize now that no fortification can bar its return and hold it at bay while I live the idyllic life I deeply desire. There will always be a need to maintain vigilance, like a keeper at the gate. I can build a cell but from time to time, but when it is least expected or I am least prepared, the despair inside me will leach through the cracks and force me to drive it back or lose myself forever. Just as I imagine it had done with Robin Williams.

It is not my intention to suppose what had been going through his mind in his final days or to make assumptions regarding the inner workings of his life. I have no privilege to information beyond what was presented in the media and I will never claim to personally know who he was or understand his unique struggles. But I know depression and I find myself thinking about him almost every day. I can’t help but imagine his loneliness and the heavy heartbreak which likely traced his every step. Whether in fact or only in my mind, I can’t help but feel connected as only someone who has experienced the hopelessness of despair can, and at the same time, I thank him. He will never know the impact he has had on my life but I like to think if he did, it would bring him some peace to know he had helped someone — he helped me. He opened my eyes to the lie I was harboring and gave me a chance to find a new truth for myself.

I try to lie less and less these days. I still tell myself what I need to in order to survive, but I also look for reasons to prove myself wrong when I can. I try harder to recognize the things that make my life worth living and I pursue the things that will make me happy. I don’t always catch them but sometimes, just the chase is enough. Most of all, I look forward to the day I turn 64 and I can raise a glass to Mr. Williams, sharing with him my gratitude, as I blow out the candles on my cake.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo via wikimedia commons.

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The Symptom of Depression We Don't Often Hear About

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One symptom of depression I don’t think is talked about enough is guilt. There are many reasons a person who is depressed might feel guilty. Here are a few of the reasons and why you shouldn’t feel guilty.

1. Feeling guilty for being alive.

You may truly feel the people around you are better off without you. You may feel like an inconvenience or a burden. You are not a burden. Anyone who says you are doesn’t deserve to be in your life. Everyone has their own individual needs. Yours may happen to be needing a little extra emotional support when you’re depressed. You shouldn’t feel guilty for being alive. There is no one out there like you. There is no one with the same talents and interests and personality. Only you can be you. There are things in your future for you to accomplish. There are things in your future for you to stay alive for.

2. Feeling guilty for getting help because you’re not “depressed enough.”

There is no scale. There is no measure of depression. There is no point where you can say, “OK, now it’s bad enough. Now I need help.” If you feel you need help, then you deserve help. Don’t wait for it to get worse. Don’t feel guilty for getting help because everyone needs a little help sometimes.

3. Feeling guilty because you believe you “shouldn’t be depressed.”

You may feel like you’ve had a good life. You may feel like other people have it much worse. You may not understand why you feel depressed. You may feel like you don’t deserve to be depressed. You may feel like since your life has been OK so far, there’s no reason you should be depressed. There are two reasons why you shouldn’t believe those things. The first is it doesn’t matter if someone else has it worse. You’re hurting, and your feelings are valid. There’s a quote that says, “Telling someone they shouldn’t feel sad because someone else has it worse is like telling someone they shouldn’t feel happy because someone else has it better.” The second reason is there doesn’t have to be a reason you feel depressed. Some people know their triggers. Some people don’t. Some people don’t even have specific triggers. Depression affects everyone differently. Although it can be triggered by outside events, it is not dependent on something bad happening. You are allowed to feel depressed for no reason.

As for getting rid of the guilt that comes with depression, I’m still working on it. The important thing to remember is none of this is your fault. Guilt implies you have done something wrong. You haven’t done anything wrong. Therefore, you have nothing to feel guilty for.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via marcogobbi0.

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We Need to Help Black Women Struggling With Depression

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What the hell do you have to be depressed about?

You don’t need no therapy. Telling white folks all our business ain’t gonna help nothing!

After all our people have been through! You don’t know depressed!

Go to church. Talk to the pastor.

Black folks don’t get them fancy mental problems.

You ain’t depressed. You’re just a little sad.

This is just a tiny snapshot of what is thrown around the black community in reference to mental illness. We do not accept it at all. If you mention it, the conversation will change quicker than a blink. This is why so many of us are struggling. Mental illness is often a taboo in our homes.

I can speculate as to why we’re so quiet. Mental illness is a sign of weakness to some. The expectation seems to be that black women must get it done! All of it! No one has time for being “down.” Bills need to be paid. Kids have to be cared for. Home has to be perfect. Be depressed later. Wanna hear a secret? I used to time my medicine around my kids’ school schedule. I’d drop them off in the morning, come home and take my meds. Pick them up at 3. Do homework. Make dinner. Clean house. Then take meds again. Who cares that I slept all day and accomplished nothing? I was a functioning depressed mom. And this is after I stopped working.

Now I’m a rare bird. When I was in my 20s and realized something was wrong, I sought help. I wasn’t afraid to go to therapy. But I didn’t share it with my family and friends. Definitely not my co-workers. So I was aware there was a stigma surrounding therapy. I was a new mom obsessed with my baby. That was my motivation. Still is. I had to be better for her. For them. This would begin an on and off process for the next 20 plus years of my life.

But I can’t tell you how many friends, family and co-workers I knew who were struggling quietly. We wore “the mask.”

“Hey girl. How are you doing?”

“Fine.” (Insert fake smile)

I couldn’t tell you how many of my sisters were dealing with issues like emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, spousal problems and just plain ole being a black woman in America. Child, we put on some makeup, a good girdle and kept that sh*t movin’! #Aintnobodygottimeforthat family reunions and family gatherings — I’m fine. You want some potato salad? Yup. That’s how we rolled. Quietly exploding. Quietly dying.

Here’s the thing though — mental illnesses can lead to physical illnesses. Heart problems? They can be stress-related. Obesity? Can be stress-related. Headaches and neurological problems? Can be stress-related. And you know what the topper is? We’re too damn busy to go to the doctor! Do you know who diagnosed my first breakdown? My family doctor. She said my body was shutting down. She refused to continue treating migraines and “sadness” without the help of a psychologist. Two months later, I was in the psychiatric ward. And guess what? My doctor was a sister. She would sit with me and just talk some visits. Some days, she was the one who needed to talk. Guess how many doctors prior to that took the time to hear me? I’ll wait…

My family has a long history of mental illness. I never knew. I found out that my grandpa, the love of my life, struggled. What?! If you looked up “man’s man” in the dictionary, you’d see my grandpa. I found out I my grandparents, parents, uncles and cousins also struggled. It wasn’t until after I was sick that I heard about this. And let me tell you, my granny and her sisters, cousins and friends were some of the strongest women I’ve ever met! Honey! The world would have stopped if something was wrong with one of them. But they wore “the mask.” Smiled the “smile.” Made the potato salad.

Mental Health America points out some other common myths in the African American community:

The following statements reflect some common misconceptions about African Americans and depression: “Why are you depressed? If our people could make it through slavery, we can make it through anything.” “When a black woman suffers from a mental disorder, the opinion is that she is weak. And weakness in black women is intolerable.” “You should take your troubles to Jesus, not some stranger/psychiatrist.”

We have to start getting help. We have to start taking care of ourselves. I’m the last one who should talk, but I am. Why? Because this disorder is stifling. Seriously, I can’t even describe a day in my mind and body. Now multiply that by millions. That sister in the next cubicle might be hiding behind a mask. That sister next to you on the train might be dying on the inside. That sister in the alley might be hurting. Stop and really listen. You can hear it. When I get messages in my inbox, I can see it in the fonts! We have to slow down and help our sisters. Our daughters. Yup. My baby has more than my eyes and thighs. Our mothers. Yup. Where do you think I got it from? Our elders. Yup, there is likely a genetic component.

There are maybe 10 books about black women and depression — and that’s a stretch. Most don’t include bipolar disorderanxiety, OCD, ADD, ADHD, etc. These are mental illnesses too. One author made me so angry because she tried her best to “whiten,” I mean “lighten” up her illness. We don’t need cute. We need ugly. Hideous. Death’s door type shit. That’s the only way our sisters will get a glimpse into the real story. The words behind the words. Then they will realize they are not alone.

I have three sister friends who text me daily. One prays. One says hey. One says I love you. None of them know some days I’m on the edge, thinking about suicide. They just know I’m their sister and I may need a life jacket.

Open your window. Stick your head out and scream: “I’m your sister and I live with a mental illness too! You wanna go out for coffee, martinis, blunts, Newports or fried chicken?”

Meet them where they live. Don’t be ‘shamed. Don’t be prissy. We gotta get dirty, sistahs!

Follow this journey on Diva with Depression.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via William Stitt.

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Why It's Easier to Say I Have a 'Headache' Than Say I'm Depressed

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I have the overwhelming feeling that today is going to be a “write-off” day. The self-loathing. The hoodie and hide under the covers type of day. Sometimes there are tears. Sometimes just the feeling in the pit of your stomach. I woke up today feeling like this. I have depression and anxiety and after a difficult night filled with paranoia and panic attacks, the first step out of bed was a difficult one.

Then I get the text asking, Where are you?… What’s wrong?… What hurts? And the truth is… it’s easier to say I have a migraine. Or a stomach ache. The flu even. Because then I get the comfort and advice I need.

“I’m so sorry to hear that… Get some rest, have a hot bath, keep warm, pamper yourself… Do you need anything? Should I come over? Get yourself something decent to eat…”

So sometimes saying I have a headache is simply easier than:

“You know what? I’m not OK. I feel so, so low and nothing is working. I hate myself. I feel stupid, nobody loves me, nobody understands and at this moment in time, it doesn’t feel like anything will ever get better. I feel guilty for feeling like this. I feel so alone.”

I don’t tell people because people don’t know what to say. I’m generalizing, but after being honest, so many of us have gotten the “Oh dear” response.

I was speaking to a friend who was struggling with mental illness. They were commenting that they were feeling truly desperate, but didn’t feel comfortable walking into the emergency room.

If somebody walks into the emergency room with a broken arm, then people try to fix it. Mental illness may not be easily recognizable, but it is as important as anything physically apparent.

On the days depression is more attentive than usual, it shouldn’t be OK to make up hidden aches and pains in order to get understanding. The aches and pains may not be visible, but they can be as difficult and devastating as any other illness.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via kevinhillillustration.

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When Depression Makes You Mistrust Happiness

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Depression was a big part of my teenage and early adult years. There were years when the one thing that seemed certain was that the good days would not last and the next episode of depression would always come. Most of my memories from those times are still fuzzy. But I can’t forget the weight of the darkness and despair. The excruciating pain of trying to get through a day, when it felt like my mind was being tortured. How there was a black hole that opened up inside me and sucked all the color and happiness out of the world.

Now those years are part of my past rather than my present. While there are good and bad days, mostly my mood is stable. However, I am noticing that as someone who has lived through depression, my outlook is different from those who have never experienced it. Depression has changed me.

I can’t deny my periods of depression have made me who I am today. The parts of my character I love and those I don’t have been molded by those times. I am the product of all the days that have gone before.

Depression has made me wary of looking to the future. I have learned to sunbathe with one eye on the horizon, watching for the storm cloud that is surely coming. I find it hard to be entirely present in the moment, because I know how fast the weather can change. One minute all is well and the next I’ve tripped and fallen down the rabbit hole. I struggle to trust happiness, because it has been a fleeting and fickle friend to me.

You also wouldn’t describe me as a positive person. It’s not that the glass is half full or half empty. But more that at times, the glass has been jagged and drinking from it has cut my lips. And after that experience, it doesn’t seem to matter how much water is in it.

But before you dismiss me as negative, please remember I chose to stay. Chose to keep pushing through and clinging to hope, even on the days when life felt like nothing more than a cruel joke. I chose to keep showing up for each new day, even when I wanted nothing more than to give up. That takes a strength and determination you cannot fully understand until you’ve faced it yourself.

And it hasn’t been all bad, experiencing depression has deepened my empathy. It has meant I am someone who can sit with another in their pain, without platitudes just the knowledge they are not alone. I know how to keep loving someone even when you can’t fix what has broken inside them. I have seen that sometimes the greatest gift you can give someone is your time, walking with them through the darkness.

Depression has made me fiercely passionate about hope. Hope has been the voice that has kept whispering in the darkness, the flickering flame that refused to go out. I will not forget the people who held onto hope for me, on the days when depression was shouting too loud for me to hear it. And surviving those dark nights has given me a wisdom that comes from seeing that all pain passes eventually.

Maybe laughter is sweeter when you’ve been caught in the teeth of despair. And there is a pure beauty in those flowers that bravely turn towards the sun, despite the shadows that surround them. Perhaps it’s not naive to believe that my pain will serve a greater purpose. Or foolish to continue to hope there are greater things ahead than those I’ve left behind.

I am not the same person I was before depression came along. I cannot turn back time. And whilst I would not wish this journey on anyone, I am proud of the battles I’ve fought and won. I am choosing to believe it has made me the person I need to be today. That the story I’ve been given is one another heart needs to hear. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know I have the strength and hope to face whatever comes.

Follow this journey on Hope Whispers.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via kevinhillillustration.

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20 Songs That Help People With Depression Get Up in the Morning

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When you live with depression, sometimes starting the morning can be the hardest part of your day. When you’re fighting the fatigue, ruminating thoughts and feelings of hopelessness characteristic of depression, getting out of bed can be a real struggle.

On days like these, music can come in handy.

Sometimes, listening to an upbeat song in the morning can give you the courage to face the day. Other times, a heartfelt ballad can let you know you are not alone in your struggles. Whether you “Roar” with Katy Perry or throw it back with a Destiny’s Child tune, music can be a wonderful tool to have in your coping arsenal when you’re hit with hard days with depression.

We wanted to know what songs people with depression listen to in the morning to help you get out of bed, so we asked members of our Mighty community to share one song they listen to in the morning to help them start their day.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles

“My dad sang this song to me when I was little and it always made me happy and safe. Still does.” — Ebony M.

2. “Learn to Let Go” by Kesha

“It lets me know that while I may be battling my inner demons right now, it’s not going to last forever. Good days are coming.” — Brandi S.

3. “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato

“That song keeps me going every day. It lifts me out of my depression enough to get out of bed each morning and do what needs to be done.” — Kelly C.

4. “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” by Hillsong United

It reminds me if I put my faith in God, he will be with me every step of the way, no matter what I’m going through! He will protect me and he will guide me through troubled waters. He will never fail me. I am his child and he is my father. That is enough encouragement for me to rise up from bed and begin my day!” — Immaculate E.

5. “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake

“Such a bright catchy tune [with] upbeat lyrics.” — Candice M.

6. “Hercules” by Fly Away Hero

“The lyrics say it all and make me realize I am stronger than any obstacle I face — including my mental illness.” — Marissa C.

7. “Here Comes a Thought” by Steven Universe

“It makes you remember it’s OK for you to feel, and if during the day the bad thoughts come, just take a moment to think of just flexibility, love and trust.” — Kayla P.

8. “Dare You to Move” by Switchfoot

“It reminds me each day is new, that I should get up and live my life because every morning marks a day that has never happened before. It’s my recovery song and has been helping me find hope in each and every morning.” — Monika A.

9. “Warrior” by Demi Lovato

“I wake up to ‘Warrior’ by Demi Lovato. It is not easy to get out of the bed most days, but as the music builds up, I find my courage. Because I am a warrior.” — Pam P.

10. “You and I” by Ingrid Michaelson

“It brings to mind singing at the top of my lungs in the car with my close friends and it’s got such a nice, hopeful sound to it. I cherish that song for good memories and sometimes a reminder that the world wasn’t always so dark is what I need to get up in the morning.” — Amber V.

11. “Oh My Soul” by Casting Crowns

“I can’t describe it other than feeling relief when I listen to it. Please if anyone is in need of a good song to listen to right now, look this one up.” — Deidre M.

12. “Fear” by Blue October

“It talks about getting back up after you fall and not letting fear hold you back.” — Nichola E.

13. “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley

“I start every day with what I call either ‘Morning Marley’ or ‘Breakfast with Bob’ depending on my mood. I take like a half hour or so of Reggae, always starting with ‘Three Little Birds’ while I eat breakfast and plan out the day to remind myself every little thing is gonna be alright. “ — Leah W.

14. “Roar” by Katy Perry

“It makes me feel like I am strong enough to get up and let my anxiety and depression know they can hear me roar because I have the ability to still do what I need to do.” — Megan T.

15. “Human” by Christina Perri

“This song always reminds me I’m only human. I don’t have to be strong all the time. Sometimes I break down or fall apart, but I still put myself back together. Not everyone is perfect and everyone is battling their own things. Every time depression hits me hard this song has taught me it’s OK to let it out, cry or get mad. I can put that mask on and fake that smile, but only for so long. I’m not perfect and that’s OK!” — Nikki D.

16. “All Star” by Smashmouth

“Smash Mouth’s ‘All Star’ because the whole point of the song is to be motivating and uplifting. All stars are typically the best and we are just trying to be best the best we can. It’s a song that encourages people to continue and strive when faced with negativity.” — Asha P.

17. “The Heart of Life” by John Mayer

“It’s been my go-to lately and always gets me up and wanting to do stuff even if I don’t necessarily feel capable at the moment to do much at all. It’s helped me with my huge anxiety about going out, and I listen to it throughout the day a couple of times when I’m feeling down. Whenever I hear the sweet way he talks about how the heart of life is good and things will work out, it helps me ease out of negative thoughts.” — Semra K.

18. “Truce” by Twenty One Pilots

“It asks me to do one thing: stay alive. Seemingly simple, if I start my day with that goal, it ends in success if I’m just living. It says, ‘We will try again,’ making me feel I’m not alone in this fight and I have a chance and duty to make things brighter for myself.” — Mira K.

19. “Try” by Colbie Caillat

“It literally says in the song, ‘Gotta get up and try,’ and that helps me motivate myself to get up and take on what the world and my mind throw at me.” — Ashlyn P.

20. “Happy Face” by Destiny’s Child

“Used to listen to that song a lot when I was a teen… helped me see the silver lining when things weren’t going well.” — Amanda W.

What would you add?

Lead photo via “Detiny’s Child” and “The Beatles” Facebook pages.

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