This blog series is not going to be all about Robin Williams, I promise. But I’d been looking for a topic to speak on for this installment, and today, I found one:
I stumbled upon that article this morning after waking up from a dream about Robin Williams, morbidly curious about how he’d ended things. And immediately I wanted to wring the writer’s neck.
No one has the right to pretend to understand if they’re not going through a very similar experience. Not even then, because usually, even if their own issue is just as severe, the spectrum of depressive disorders and the havoc they wreak is so broad that it’s likely they really don’t understand in the least. The writer of that article obviously knows nothing about how depression works.
A sufferer of depression doesn’t wake up one day and say “Hmm, I think I’ll kill myself today. Yep, sounds like a plan,” and then go do it. It’s never spontaneous.
Someone who kills himself thinks about it first, maybe for days, months, years. Whether actively planning or passively wishing, if someone is that badly depressed, it is on their mind.
Most people struggle, in fact, not to give in to suicidal urges, for quite some time. Some are successful, and find a way to beat their depression; some are not, and either struggle with their depression until they’re taken by another cause, or it hurts them badly enough so that the only option they can see is to die on purpose.
Just because someone doesn’t seem upset, or doesn’t seem suicidal, doesn’t mean they’re not. If you don’t know they’re suicidal, it’s because they haven’t told you. So why would they make it obvious if they didn’t want you to know? Like I said earlier, the act of suicide is never spontaneous. The point I’m trying to get across in this paragraph is that the way a person seems has nothing to do with how they’re really doing, on the inside. Anyone who cares one whit about what others think of them is not going to wear their depression and suicidality (I’m coining that word right here, right now) on their sleeve, unless it’s a cry for attention, or a cry for help.
Which brings us to another point.
How many people have died by their own hand when their calls for help were mistaken for dramatic cries for attention? I’m willing to bet that it’s a higher number than any of us would like to admit. Yet all the time, people ignore simple cues that should be concerning them. If someone is showing even slight signs of possible depression, do not ignore them, especially if that someone is your child.
Whether someone is calling for attention or trying in their own way to get help, do not ignore them. One will only call for attention in drastic ways that resemble depression if A. they really need attention, or B. they really need attention. Maybe it’s not the best way to get that attention, but do not ignore them.
Would you rather decide within your own limited mind that someone is calling for attention and ignore the signs they show, or decide to do your best to help them even though you don’t know whether it’s for real or not? If a depressed person opens up to you, it’s either because they’re getting so close to suicide that it’s terrifying them when they can manage to care, or because they trust you and want to be close to you. Either way, they need and deserve that attention from you. They need a piece of your heart to help them plug the holes in their own.
I know I’d rather assume everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and throw myself equally into helping people I know are being truthful, and people who might just want attention. Because in the end, who knows? I don’t want to have it on my conscience if I decide someone doesn’t really need help, and the next day there’s an obituary in the paper with their name on it.
Once upon a time, a depressed wife and her depressed husband had a child. That child didn’t know the first thing about depression, so as he grew up, he thought that the random urges to run into traffic or slide a knife into his chest were normal.
The child didn’t find out the first thing about depression until he was fifteen, and didn’t have a good grasp on it until he was eighteen, when he finally went to speak to a doctor about it. All the questions on the piece of paper the doctor gave him – do you have thoughts of harming yourself or others? do you ever think about death? do you feel hopeless? – applied to him perfectly, and that was the first real proof that he had depression.
The depression had been allowed to grow, build upon itself, and fester in the dark confines of the child’s heart, growing worse, entwining itself deeper into his very being. If his parents had taken the hints instead of choosing to ignore them, or blowing them off as calls for attention to be ignored, his condition may not have grown so dire. He could have begun therapy at a younger age, whether that therapy was talking to a counselor, behavioral therapy, medicinal, or some combination thereof. And maybe, just maybe, today he would be happy.
I hope this post helped you understand a little better. Symptoms of possible depression are to be treated as seriously as symptoms of possible cancer.
Thank you for your time.