Of course it is sad when a legendary actor dies. When one dies at a “ripe old age” we all pause for a moment and think about their amazing career, and roles that resonated with us. When they die young, we think about what could have been, not just on the screen, but a life they don’t get to live, families they don’t get to have. Mostly though, it is only a blip on the radar. Their own families and friends mourn them. We know deep down that the part of them that we knew was fictional. We carry on.
And yet, I find myself shedding tears for Robin Williams. Not because I admired him, though I did. Not because I’ll personally miss him. I didn’t know him. In fact, unlike other celebrities who appear on interviews and talk shows and give the public a glimpse of what they are like when someone isn’t writing their lines, Robin Williams always seemed to be in character. He never stopped flapping and hopping and making funny faces and goofy voices.
It was rare to see the calm, tender side in the photo below that showed up in my newsfeed this morning. I think seeing this photo is what shook me, seeing him as a human being instead of an entertainer, and realizing that he experienced the world through the dark filter that is depression. I couldn’t just carry on.
Two terrible things that have touched my family. We don’t talk about my Uncle Zeke. Perhaps because we worry about upsetting those who were closest to him. Or maybe because it’s scary to think about someone who appeared to be normal and happy taking their own life. It’s hard to fathom that kind of desperation. The thought that another day of existence would be unbearable. I’ve never felt it, and it breaks my heart that anyone does. I remember Zeke’s smile, and his glasses. I remember his pet skunk being the coolest thing ever. I think her name was Angel. I was just a kid, but I don’t remember him appearing to be unhappy. Depression is sneaky that way.
I get frustrated when I hear people ask, “What would so and so have to be depressed about?” Are so many people still unaware of the difference between sadness and depression? The National Institute of Mental Health calls major depression “one of the most common mental disorders in the United States.”
Depression is often missed in men because, NEWSFLASH, men are stubborn and less likely to talk to a doctor about it. If they go undiagnosed and untreated for long periods of time, they are much more likely to commit suicide. The Mayo Clinic’s website lists the following symptoms to look for that you may not think of as depression related:
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, such as sex
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy, so that even small tasks take extra effort
- Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
- Anxiety, agitation or restlessness — for example, excessive worrying, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
So, while I’m sad that the world has lost an iconic comedian, I’m sadder that depression has taken a man from his loved ones.