"Robin Williams was..."

"I'm gonna miss you."

A lot has happened this summer that I've had a hard time putting words to.

Several months ago, you, my lovely readers, helped me reach my fundraising goal for the Postpartum Progress Climb Out of the Darkness.

It was a strange experience, to be surrounded by women who have also survived PPD, with their husbands and children in tow, gleeful and motivated.

We didn't talk about our shared experiences. Nobody wants to drag those things up, to trigger anyone else's emotional distress. But it was there, silent, below the surface.

It made me feel a little naked for the truth of my experience to be so exposed.

 

The Chicago Climbers

So I didn't know what to say about it. And time after time, as I sat down to write about it, I couldn't find the words.

Today, the world lost a brilliant light. Robin Williams killed himself, another victim of depression lost their fight.

I knew Robin Williams had battled depression. I don't remember him talking about it explicitly, but I had seen enough interviews with him. I'd seen enough of his roles.

Depression, like any disease, has symptoms. And many times over the course of his iconic career those symptoms were visible. They were visible to me, somebody who didn't know him, but knew them. And they must have been visible to other people. So why didn't he get help?

The thing is, I know he did get help. You don't live to 63 without coming to terms with your disease, at least a couple times. But like any chronic condition, coming to terms with it a few times isn't enough. It's something you have to live with. To manage and control. Forever.

And when you're in the midst of what one might call a "flare up" if it were any other sort of disease, forever is too long. Forever is too goddamn long to bear.

How many times did Robin Williams spend an afternoon in the company of other people who had shared his disease, none of them talking about it?

I want to talk about it. I want all of us to talk about it.

Robin Williams had a disease. He was Bipolar, and with that comes depression.

If Robin Williams had been battling cancer all these years, what would we be saying now?

I ask myself those questions a lot. I have depression, and sometimes it flares up. Sometimes I get the fun-pack of flavors of depression. The postpartum, the manic, the situational, the biplar, and even the suicidal. It's a disease I may never be cured of, and I have to accept that. I have to be aware that when it flares up, and there is always that awful when, I will need to get help all over again.

I don't want to be the parent who kills themselves when my kids are in their twenties. I don't want to be the mom who straps her kids into the car and drives off a cliff. I don't want to be that person.

But that's what depression does. That's what it did to Robin Williams, who's career included some of the greatest of comedy and the greatest of drama my generation knows. Robin Williams, who made me cry in the Dead Poets Society, who made me cry in Hook, who made me laugh in Death to Smoochy and became the bedrock of my childhood in Aladdin.

Depression is real. It is a disease. As surely as cancer can kill if left untreated, so can depression.

And just as surely as cancer can be treated and beaten, so can depression.

I don't want us to look at Robin Williams as some sort of cautionary tale. As some sort of quitter, or failure, or somehow less than the sum of his incomparable accomplishments because this is how the story of his life ended.

Robin Williams was the victim of a disease that we need to take seriously.

And as the words, "Robin Williams was," start to sink in, I'll pop in "The Birdcage," and raise a glass to a man who fought a long fight, and lost.

As someday, we all will.

 

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