I wasn’t stunned.
When I heard the news about Robin William’s passing – I wasn’t stunned. I wasn’t shocked or surprised like everyone else. I watched the news start rolling through my twitter and facebook feeds. I sat there, shaking my head, because I know. I just know.
Robin Williams has long been one of my favorite actors. Dead Poets Society is one of my top five movies of all time. I loved the diversity in his talent. That he could play a serious role just as well as a comedic one. And even though I’m not famous I kind of get where he was coming from.
I was randomly watching E News one night awhile ago and they reported him as having bipolar disorder. Again, I wasn’t stunned. I wasn’t shocked or surprised. I understood. He seemed to naturally fit when portraying ups and downs of the human experience. It made complete sense. He was good at playing someone who was struggling. Because he was struggling.
And I have too.
I stayed silent last night about his apparent suicide. Probably because it hits a little too close to home. Here is someone who self-medicated with alcohol so he didn’t have to feel the pain of a depressive episode. I know that story myself.
Here is someone who tried to make people laugh to hide the tears and the doubt and the awful negative self-talk that dwells within someone with bipolar disorder. I know that story too.
I hesitated to write about him today. Because EVERYONE is writing about him today. How will what I have to say be any different?
I haven’t written much about what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder as of late. Probably because I have often felt discriminated against when I share this piece of myself.
Even though it doesn’t define me it is still an important piece to share.
I’m legitimately sad about Robin’s passing. I wept for him because we still have so far to go to end the stigma toward mental illness.
I shouldn’t have read the comments on facebook posts about him last night.
“I’m sorry but I think what he did was a selfish act.”
“What a waste of a human.”
“Why couldn’t he have thought of his wife or his kids?”
These comments showcase the utter ignorance surrounding mental illness and suicide and how after years of studies and scientific evidence and new treatments it is still very much misunderstood.
I have been there. In 2007, I sat on a step crying. My husband sobbed while trying to hold me still. I was begging him not to go to work. I couldn’t be alone. I didn’t trust myself. I had reached the bottom. My brain was telling me I wasn’t worthy of life. My brain was thinking of ways to end it all.
Here I was, a newlywed, a new homeowner, the world at my feet. Yet everything in my being was telling me that I didn’t belong on earth. My illness was telling me that everyone I knew would be better off without me.
Thankfully doctors were able to save my life through intense therapy and new medications. But I know I got lucky. I was at the threshold of ending my life. I was thinking of ways to do it.
And my brain was telling me that it would be a SELFLESS act, not a selfish one. Did you hear that?! My brain was lying to me, telling me that sparing my loved ones the pain of having to deal with me would be much better than sticking around.
Lies, of course. All lies. But I’m trying to show an outsider who has never experienced the hell of a depressive episode that you are not thinking clearly. The last thing we want to do is hurt people. Suicide, when you’re that low, is thought of as sparing people.
Mental illness is not a flaw. I didn’t choose this. I wouldn’t wish those experiences on my worst enemy. Bipolar Disorder cannot be cured with essential oils or exercise or even acceptance by the people who love you. I know that can be so offensive to others who are trying their best to heal mental illness with love.
It helps. It truly does. And when you come out of the depression you will love those people who stood by you more fiercely than you did before. Because you know they could have easily walked away.
Robin Williams had periods of his life where he was well. Where he was properly medicated and treated for the illness. Where he made sound decisions and loved his kids and wife and friends.
Bipolar Disorder ebbs and flows. Sometimes we’re high atop a mountain shouting how much we love life. And other times we are in the valley.
Well, we just lost him to the valley.
When I heard the news about Robin William’s passing – I wasn’t stunned. I wasn’t shocked or surprised like everyone else. I cried and nodded my head. Because I know how close I was to this same fate.
I cried because I know he reached the mountaintop again. But I’m sad that it had to be on the other side of here.