Robin Williams, And Why We Need To Talk About Depression

When I started writing this, I was going to focus on the death of Robin Williams. But looking over all the coverage in the last 48 hours, I’ve realized that such an article would just be repeating the same stories already out there. I could talk about watching Mork & Mindy reruns on Nick at Nite as a kid, or how I saw Aladdin, Jumanji, and Mrs. Doubtfire enough times to memorize every line. I could talk about how legitimately creepy I found him in One Hour Photo and Law and Order SVU. I could talk about how the phrase, “It’s not your fault” still makes me tear up. But you’ve read – and likely experienced – all of that already. It’s amazing how one man can bring together millions of strangers with a common experience of laughter. I wish I had a better story to tell you, that I was trapped in an elevator with him for an hour, or that he held a door open for me one time. But I don’t. I’ve lived in the Bay Area for 30 years, but I never met him.

And now I never will.

If there’s anything positive that can come out of this tragedy, it’s that more people are talking about depression and suicide. It needs to be discussed. Our culture has many proverbial elephants in the room, but depression is one of the biggest and deadliest. Psychology has developed leaps and bounds over the last century, but there’s still so much we don’t know. Lobotomies aren’t a form of treatment anymore, though all the medications and their innumerable side effects aren’t much better. Most folks haven’t bothered to learn anything about depression; if something’s uncomfortable, it’s much easier to sweep it under the rug. There’s an unspoken stigma – especially for men – about mental health. Oh sure, we all know it’s there, but who wants to think about that? It’s so much easier going about your daily life, catching a movie, playing a video game…whatever it takes to keep you distracted from the darker, lesser-known aspects of our existence. Because there’s no way anything like that could happen to you, right?

I know better.

I know what it’s like having that little twinge of doubt consuming your every action and decision. It builds with each passing day, filling and weighing your down like molten lead. I know the burn of stigma and shame, that sense of worthlessness and isolation. That no one could possibly understand. That you’re different, broken, maybe a lost cause. That you shouldn’t bother asking for help, because it’s nothing, it’s all your fault, and no one would want to help you anyway. That you have to pretend and put on a smile, and how exhausting it is. That you can’t fall asleep sometimes, because your brain is spinning like a tire stuck in mud. That you occasionally dread getting up in the morning because it’s yet another day bereft of meaning. That every aspect of your life is conspiring to make you more miserable. That things are so bad now, and the future is a terrifying prospect.

Look, I know you’re out there. You’re sitting in front a screen somewhere, and you’re feeling trapped and alone. I don’t know you, your background, age, sex, gender, ethnicity, circumstances, none of the above. I’m not going to pretend that I get everything about what you’re going through, but I know enough. Depression isn’t just a habit you can kick; it’s there, and it’s a serious, potentially deadly problem. It doesn’t make you a bad or weak person. But leaving it untreated is like putting a rock in your shoe and running a marathon. So, let me ask (and you don’t have to answer, but just think about it): What’s stopping you from getting help? Is it fear of rejection? Insurance coverage costs? Guilt? Whatever it is, are there ways around it? Also, let’s make one thing clear:

There is nothing, nothing wrong with asking for help.

I’m not going to romanticize therapy, either; it’s difficult in ways you’d never expect. It makes you take a long, hard look at yourself, and there’s no instant cure. For some, a couple of pills a day isn’t going to solve your problems. But if you’re going to do anything, then at least talk about it. If you can get therapy, go for it. If not, talk to your trusted family and friends. If not them, support groups and hotlines. Possibly all of the above. If you need to call someone, there are plenty waiting to listen. People can and will help you, but they’re never going to know unless you tell them. And for those of you who know someone in need, be there for them. It’s not about politics, taboos, or whatever else; someone you care about needs your help. I don’t think you’re going to leave them hanging. If you want to learn more about depression and suicide, there are several resources online. Try starting with the entries on WebMD, Wikipedia, and TV Tropes.

I don’t know if this post is going to make any difference. If it helps someone struggling out there, then I’d consider it a success. I’m typically reserved and quiet, so all of this preaching about seeking help from others and whatnot might sound hypocritical. Despite that, I am living proof of my argument; I wouldn’t be here otherwise. I’m not an optimist, but I’d rather fill an empty life than throw it away. Look, I’m not idealistic enough to think that we can change everything about depression overnight; despite all our advancements, we’re barely scratching the surface. But the first step is talking about it. Too many people have lost their lives in the silence already.

I’ve been on the soapbox long enough. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on a Robin Williams movie binge.

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I Warped Reality To Believe In Magic

Hey, folks. Happy New Year! Today’s Daily Prompt is all about magic. As in, what kind magical powers you’d like to have. I’ve enjoyed more than enough literature and anime to know what direction I’d go in. If I had the power to do any kind of magic, I’d be a full-blown Reality Warper. It’s just like it sounds: I’d have the ability to create, destroy, or alter reality with just a thought. I’d be like Q on Next Generation, just hopefully less of a pain to those around me. Or maybe like Aladdin’s Genie. I’d try to be a force for good, like redesigning ecosystems to support life and food crops. Or maybe I’d develop a subatomic particle that allows water to become a viable fuel. I could use my insights into the fabric of space-time to figure out complex equations and give humanity a huge technological boost. I’d make it so I didn’t need oxygen or radiation protection for interstellar travel, then go about exploring the cosmos. I could figure out exactly what happens when you get sucked into a black hole, or if aliens really exist. The possibilities would be endless!

…And that’s the problem, too. If you can change reality by just thinking, imagine the kind of toll that would take on a human mind. It’s horrifying when deconstructed. What if you accidentally kill someone by erasing them from reality? If they’re completely gone, doesn’t that mean that your memories would be affected too? What happens if you change the subatomic makeup of hydrogen to solve a temporary problem? Wouldn’t that alter and potentially destroy everything else? Consider Haruhi Suzumiya; since she’s unaware of her powers, the other characters have to keep her entertained lest she accidentally destroy the universe! Then there’s the whole problem with things like identity and loyalty. In the Watchmen series, Dr. Manhattan could manipulate matter and was used by the government as the ultimate weapon in the Vietnam War. But since he could comprehend things on an entirely different level, he slowly lost his humanity. At least he knew he wasn’t a god; plenty of other characters with his kind of power went insane and declared themselves deities…

Ugh, this is getting messy.

Okay, first order of business when I get these magical powers: Give myself a mind capable of understanding all of the potential my powers can create, foresight of the consequences therein, and the discipline to keep my mind from accidentally tearing the fabric of reality. That shouldn’t be too hard…right?