I tend not to make too much comment on whatever the latest celebrity related news is doing the rounds. I feel it’s a little like jumping on the ‘click bait’ bandwagon, writing a blog post on a topic that seemingly everyone else is writing about at the same time.
However, I cannot let this one go right now, for I am deeply saddned by the loss of actor, Robyn Williams.
Not least because of his tragic end, and my understanding of the deep depression he was experiencing.
Not, also, because of hearing the ‘suicide is so selfish’ rhetoric, nor the ‘I just don’t understand why someone would do that’ mutterings.
How could someone, so happy, so successful, with so much money and support and access to whatever he wanted succumb to this insidiuous disease?
I think this is one of the great misconceptions about depression. No matter who you are, where you live, your income, your lifestyle, and whether or not you are doing the thing you most love in the world or not, or whether you are surrounded by the most loving, supportive, happy people in your life, or not, Depression is still a disease that infiltrates your mind, your body, your spirit, and your entire life.
It is, and I know this will offend some and I will preface this with the most humble of apologies if it does offend, for it is not inteded to … it is like other debiltating and/or terminal diseases.
It is, for want of a better term, like a cancer of the mind and soul. The difference is, it doesn’t always present itself as a physical ailment, nor give of physical signs of its presence.
It is still a terminal disease for many, and the fatalities are much less understood by most.
Okay, we don’t understand they ‘why’ of cancers, or heart diesease, or other known fatal illnesses, as in “why is this happening to me/them/her/him” … and we don’t understand the ‘why’ someone gets depression.
Part of this, I believe, is due to our perceptions of the disease … as though it is entirely environmental or circumstantial and you can’t have it if you are perceived to having everything you want.
That’s the thing with perceptions, too, isn’t it? It is one person’s pereception about another, and Person One thinking Person Two has it all. Person two is living the life, the reality of the life and all that goes with it, constantly, 24-7, all day, every day … their life is there with them.
Person One only ever sees what is presented to them, whether via celebrity gossip magazines, or Facebook status updates and small chats in the school playground at drop off time. Not only do they see this limited insight into another person’s life, they then put their own spin, their own beliefs, values and their own perception on it.
It’s not ‘real’, really. It’s just a version.
For one in four people at any given time, Depression is there, in their life, along for the ride.
Although so sad at hearing the news, and at the loss of a great actor in itself, a spark of light, an epihpany, a revelation hit me as I sat in my car, hand on my heart, a billion thoughts going through my mind.
We see Depression as the person, not an illness within the person. The kind of misconceptions that have us think “oh, they’re depressed” and, the unspoken, “therefore, they are incapable”.
Depression is not the person. The person is one who is full of dreams and hopes, and that you can still acheive those things, to follow your dreams, to do what you love, despite having an illness like this.
Robyn Williams, for me, was the epitome of this. John Cleese and Stephen Fry are others.
The happy face, the comedic persona both on and off screen, are not necessarily masks, but the version of the person they really are.
They are examples, and an inspriation to me, that the Demons can be fought off and overcome … actually, no, I don’t like that term. The Demons are rarely slayed or overcome. Instead, they are lurking in the shadows, ignored, neglected, placed high on a shelf for periods of time, and the person – not the Depression – is seen.
Regardless of they happy, the contented life, or the dreams followed, those Demons are still there to some degree, and will be feeding off those parts of life that are not so great.
Being a successful, disgustingly rich, acclaimed and much loved actor does not stop the voices of Depression, the self doubt, the self deprecation, nor real life from occuring. Actors are faced with a disgusting lack of privacy – sure they get paid bucketloads for it, but this doesn’t make snide comments, constant monitoring, and hurtful tabloid reports any easier.
It may mean the can send someone to punch a journalist in the face, but it doesn’t make the comments and thoughts that feed the Demon any less significant.
Actors and other celebrities still face a multitude of life issues the rest of us face; they have parents or children or close friends experiencing severe illness or death, they lose their car keys, and can’t remember what they walked into a room for.
They are still people, and they are no less affected by Depression than ‘the rest of us’. Sadly, in many cases, they have the means to assuage their Depression with drugs and alcohol and other vices that are of no benefit to themselves and of great benefit to the power of their Depression.
They are overcome.
What Robyn Williams has taught me is that you can follow your dreams, you can be so uninhibitedly you, because of or despite your Depression – which one you choose is a matter of personal opinion and circumstance.
He showed me that you are not your Depression, and that Depression is one of the many facets of your hugely, multifaceted being.
I don’t want this to sound all “think positive and you’ll cure yourself of depression” kind of wank, nor even imply that it is easy, or that even in your times of being YOU that your depression will simply vanish.
Even as you smile, entertain your toddler or the world, and exude enough light and happiness to make others laugh, the Depression is still there, and, for some, always will be.
The voices will be telling you how crap you are, as you confidently go about doing the thing you love, self-doubt will big clutching at your heart, and the insidious black thoughts working their way through your mind.
The degree of their presence may vary from moment to moment, day to day, or week to week …
You, however, are not your Depression, and I now fully understand that I am not mine and never have been.
I am a person filled with love, hopes, and dreams who also happens to have an illness that you cannot see, because it does not manifest physically, and more often than not, I choose to show Me to the world, and not my illness.
Thank you, Robyn Williams, for the lifetime of laughs, quotes for me to use on my kids, and for being so unequivocally you.
You will be greatly missed.