The internet has been flooded with countless articles about Robin Williams since his death yesterday. People listing off their favourite movies of his, quotable quotes, confused ponderings on how the funniest man in the world could be so depressed that he would take his own life. Even I wrote a facebook status about it.
“We like to scandalize the lives of celebrities. We make jokes about who got sent to rehab and who got the worst haircut during their most recent breakdown. The reality is that these superstars, celebrities, people living in a world so different from our own, are just like us. Being famous doesn’t get you a Get Out Of Jail Free card when it comes to mental illness and struggle. Robin Williams is the latest victim to the battle against inner darkness. The miracle is that he was able to bring so much joy to so many people while fighting his own demons. If you, or someone you know, is struggling with depression or any other kind of illness, my prayer is that you would seek help before it’s too late. My prayer is that one day, mental illness will be free from stigma and the support for suffering individuals is so great that the very idea of taking ones life is ancient history.”
So now I’m going to add to the flurry of online trend and tell you how Robin Williams inspired me. Today I went to my doctor. I told him that I would like to be back on anti-depressants.
I first started taking anti-depressants at the age of 15, after an attempt to swallow a box of sleeping pills and a subsequent weekend spent in the hospital. By this age, I was already years into the inner battle, but I was officially diagnosed: clinical depression. It wasn’t caused by anything, there was nothing to blame it on, it was just there. This awful black cloud covering everything in my mind.
My second suicide attempt came at 18. I had been married just under a year and had a baby just a few months old. I was a frazzled new mom with post-partum depression and I suspected my husband was cheating on me. I overdosed on what the doctor told me was “the worst thing anyone could overdose on”. I spent another weekend in the hospital, and I don’t want to see a tube anywhere near my throat again. My psychiatrist told me something that weekend. “You can’t do this, Liz. If it gets this bad, you have to talk to someone. You need to take your medication. If this happens again, they could take your baby away from you.” I never verified this statement for fact, but it scared me straight. The idea that my precious child (now children) could be taken away because I was desperate enough to play around with pills pulled me back from the edge.
But I’ve still danced a little too close. I’ve had a rough life in a number of aspects, which I won’t divulge here. But a rough life doesn’t grant me a ticket out of this life. A rough life makes me want to fight for a better life. A life with joy. I want to be well.
So I pushed aside my pride today and told my doctor I want back on the meds. I’ve been off them for a year and a half (my first decent break since starting at 15). In the past year and a half I’ve had times where I am happy and productive and life looks promising, and I’ve also had awful lows where I feel like I’m running on the spot in hell. I don’t like those lows, and the line between “I’m a little down, but I can handle it” and “This is the worst things have ever been and I’m tying the noose right now” can be precariously and sometimes imperceptibly thin. I found a counselor I’d like to check out, and I’m working up the emotional energy to give her a call.
For my friends and family reading this (some of whom I have already updated and asked for prayer from), please know that I am not on the edge. Yes, I am dealing with depression right now for a variety of reasons, but I’m not there. But I thought I’d let you know that I’m taking the steps to try and keep myself from there. And that’s how Robin Williams inspired me today. To keep from making his choice for myself, I’ve got to recognize that even though I’m not at the edge, I’m still on the ledge, so I’m working on climbing back down.