Tuesday, August 12

On the Death of Robin Williams

I went through a medium-sized spell of depression shortly after my daughter was born, maybe around 9 months after. I had been unemployed for about 2 years, and was feeling like a complete failure. Like I had blown all my capital in the tech industry, and was now 40-something, and felt like I was not technical enough to be terribly hirable. And also 40+ in an industry that fetishizes youth.

I'm only writing this down because these are the sort of feelings I tend to eat, and swallow them deep inside because it would be better if I'd never had them. Even now the experience is receding a bit and if I don't document it now, it will soon never have happened. And maybe this helps someone see that someone else felt this way.

So I was supposed to be the happy new father and didn't feel that way at all. In fact my daughter was at an age where I could sense her frustration at trying to express herself and not being able to -- the "I have no mouth and I must scream" stage of development. And it made me want to jump out of my skin. Nothing worse than feeling you are supposed to be in the happiest time of your life and being literally unable to sit still with your own thoughts.

And you can't really quantify depression, and there's no point in it, but I would say I was moderately depressed. I don't know if I can say I was suicidal, but it seemed like that was certainly one possible option. I never got to the point where I started making efforts to actually bring that about. But I am sure if my brain chemistry were 10% more fucked there is a chance I would not be here to write this.

And I don't know who is reading this, but you probably know me: I am not exceptional. I am just some guy you know. And if I have actually entertained the possibility of suicide, probably a lot of people you know have, too. Perhaps you.

And it's an option! Not a great one, but I understand why someone might choose it. At the time it seems like things are never going to feel "normal" again. It's ridiculous to say, "Well, you have to consider the feelings of your spouse or children." That literally has no bearing when you are feeling like this is the end of the line. It's not callous disregard. It's just "this is the time to check out."

I got lucky. Circumstances changed and I started to feel less hopeless. If I had been wiser I would have been seeing a therapist -- your G.P., great as she may be, can prescribe anti-depressants but really is not qualified to treat mental health issues. When you are depressed, taking care of you is probably the hardest thing to do. But confide in someone about how you are feeling, and let them help you. It is probably the best thing you could do for the person you know who needs the most sympathetic handling right now -- you.

Robin Williams is not "in a better place now." He simply has ceased to be. By choice -- and I actually feel people should have that choice. But it's a permanent choice. You don't get a do-over. This is a beautiful world, for the time being, at least. Eat all of it. Love. Play music. Teach a kid how to swim. Learn how to cook traditional cuisine of a random country selected by a dart thrown at a map. Road trip. Cross-stitch. Parkour.

If those options don't sound more appealing than shuffling off this mortal coil, or even just pulling the covers over your head for the next 12 hours, you need to be talking to a professional in the mental health field, ASAP.

Nanu nanu.

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