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I didn't know Robin Williams. I was in the same room as him twice - once when I lived in Los Angeles and once in San Francisco.

The second time was at the opening of the new Main Library in San Francisco, where he came and spoke. He was on fire, as always. Then when the event was over and he was hustled off he transformed into a completely different p...erson, quiet, reserved. He had people who helped keep the throngs away - people who knew that the burden of being Robin Williams is nothing anyone should have to endure 24/7.

One of those handlers recognized me from the first time I had been in the same room as Robin and we talked for a while. He even mentioned that Robin fought off depression. I'll be honest, it never even occurred to me that it could be this bad. It never does.

A brief explanation below the lopsided double-fortre.

I myself have never had depression. I have every rare once in a while felt down, but I have never faced depression as the type of onslaught that a person suffering from it does. As a result I find it very difficult to comprehend depression as an illness. I find it hard to comprehend how a person can feel so down as to take their own life. But just because I don't understand it doesn't make it any less real.

People who understand it, keep reminding those of us who don't that this is a real thing, with real consequences and heart-rending results. From those of my friends who understand it better and have already spoken up, thank you.

And to those of you who have dealt with this directly and I've never noticed, my apologies.

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Comment Preferences

  •  CNN - Williams had Parkinson's Disease (9+ / 0-)

    That could have added to his depression, both by nature of the disease, and separately, his awareness of it.

    I ♥ President Barack Obama.

    by ericlewis0 on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 12:19:18 PM PDT

  •  Tip & Rec for trying to understand. (4+ / 0-)

    Clinical depression is described quite well in
    this video posted to Upworthy.

  •  Depression isn't really about feeling "down." (7+ / 0-)

    It's more like feeling nothing except for an undefined mourning for the loss of feeling.

    It's like living in a world of black and white, but mostly staying inside your own head.

    It's losing the ability to hang onto a thought for more than a few seconds.

    Imagine being in a room with four radios and five television sets all on at the same time, all with the volume set to exactly the same level. None of them is loud, but they're all there constantly, and it's impossible to listen to one for very long without another breaking in.

    Now imagine this going on for days, then weeks, then months, and not knowing if it will ever stop. Imagine thinking this might go on for the rest of your life.

    Now think about all the people you love and who love you, and about how you don't want them to be burdened with your inability to be the person they deserve, because you love them and want them to have a better life than you can give them -- because you don't know if this time you'll ever crawl out of it.

    This is what it feels like.

    I'm profoundly thankful that my depressive episodes lessened over time, and that for the past few decades I've had no more than a shadow of the troubles I had in my twenties.

    But I can't forget what it was like.

    People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them. --Eric Hoffer

    by fiddler crabby on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 12:37:44 PM PDT

    •  However, depressive symptoms are not the same (4+ / 0-)

      for all people that have it.  I know I was very easy to cry.  When I finally went to EEP (work site) counselor, she asked questions and I couldn't think straight enough to decide what I should do.  Yeah, thoughts just kept spinning through my head.  I was pretty much on auto pilot for a while.

      •  That was my experience, as well. (5+ / 0-)

        I was suicidally depressed for several months, once, many years ago. It felt like being hit by a physical illness, not just a succession of unpleasant thoughts. As though every disappointment, frustration, humiliation and painful experience of a whole lifetime were flooding out of my subconscious into my conscious mind continually and poisoning my whole existence. Whole days went by when I literally could not get up off the floor or bed, seemingly drowning in an endless flood of unstoppable tears.

        It's definitely a very real and a very dangerous condition.

        "[T]he preservation of the means of knowledge among the lowest ranks is of more importance to the public than all the property of all the rich men in the country." - John Adams, A Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law. (1765)

        by AnacharsisClootz on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 12:53:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  There is a sort of "self loathing" depression. (3+ / 0-)

      There is also depression where everything is equally difficult and every task is a huge burden. Every day is like pushing that boulder up the hill.

      You can feel OK about yourself and your abilities but simply can't cope.

      It's a menu of symptoms which are present or absent in different amounts in different people.

      Thump! Bang. Whack-boing. It's dub!

      by dadadata on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 05:27:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Depression is a Reduction in the Brain's Ability (7+ / 0-)

    to feel pleasure or reward.

    I have it close in my circles and have been present for medical explanations so for an untrained layman's perspective this will get you part way.

    What it's not is philosophy or world view, high level conclusions about life or your self worth. It may include that, and for some people those things can cause depression, but they're not the main aspect or cause of clinical, medical depression.

    A large part of the brain is involved in reward and punishment system; unlike the tiny "pleasure center" we read about half a lifetime ago, it's a large intricate set of systems woven all through the brain.

    Every tiniest little thing you do has upsides and downsides. Trivial example: the room's getting dark. There's a light next to you. You could turn it on. WHen you reach for it, there will be some little aches and pains, it takes energy to do it, you might overshoot the switch and have to try again. Those are downsides. The good side is there will be light, you can read or knit better, whatever.

    With depression, the reward system is turned down a few notches while the punishment system stays the same. I don't know, maybe it's turned up. But the normal balance shifts to punishment. So when you want to reach for that light switch, it's going to be more tirining than it is for me, you'll be more aware of sore joints, if you bump the light temporarily out of reach that's going to piss you off more than me. And then the light, well yeah you can read better, but then it may make you wince a little more.

    Just every little minute is more frustration, more annoyance, less reward, less enthusiasm, minute after minute, hour after hour.

    All this has nothing to do with dreams or schemes, plans, missions, family and friends, nothing intellectual or philosophical. It's like someone had planted a tiny shocker on you and every time you think about trying something, or go ahead and do something, you get an extra little downer that other people don't.

    Maybe it's like you feel when a cold is coming on, or you're short on sleep. Those would be situations where your momentary experience would be trending against you without any big opportunities or threats changing in your life. You'd not feel like planning a new venture, doing extra work or going out with your pals at such times. And a neighbor telling you we're all pulling for you, really doesn't help much when you're exhausted or achy.

    That's how it can hurt enough to numb yourself with drink or drugs, or worse. It only takes a few hours to want to stop being hassled.

    For many people, some of the more modern antidepressants can bring the needle partway back to center, some work well for some people, some aren't helped or are made even worse. There are some therapy approaches that can help some people, and help unlearn darker expectations even after the medication tones down the body's negative responses.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 12:43:04 PM PDT

  •  Maybe Allie Brosh can explain (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    She writes vividly about what her depression was and wasn't at

    "Moron Labe": please come take our morons.

    by Dogs are fuzzy on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 12:45:35 PM PDT

  •  A quote from someone who knew (7+ / 0-)
    The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.

    David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

  •  Depression + Alcoholism + Parkinsons..... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chitown Kev, AnacharsisClootz

    It's a lot to deal with.  On top of that, having to be the brilliant funny man all the time.  Plus maintaining the Hollywood lifestyle plus a third marriage.

    Maybe it just all piled up & seemed insurmountable.  I just wish he hadn't done it @ home.  It's a constant reminder to the family every time they walk by that room or are in that house.

    Oh, Daddy!  It's must be so very hard to be a surviving child of a parent who committed suicide.  Or a spouse.
    It seems for the rest of your life you would be quizzing yourself.....Could I have done more, said the right thing, done the right thing and How could I have missed it?

  •  My dad never understood (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    my depression until he had to have emergency eye surgery and had bandages on both eyes. I would go and help him eat his hospital meals. And he said to me then, "I've never understood what you meant when you said you were depressed. But now I think I do." He couldn't read or watch TV and he was a person who needed stimulation. (this was before audiobooks were widely available.)

    My own depression manifested itself in constant, exhausting crying, sleeplessness, and just a general inability to enjoy anything. I thought about suicide a lot. Clinical depression is awful. I still have episodes of depression but not like that. I have some coping strategies now. Deep depression is horrible and you can't even imagine a way out, or that you will ever feel other than.

    I have said this on other blogs/comment threads, but I was on a blog where some guy called Robin Williams a coward and a selfish person, and when I told him he didn't understand depression and confessed to having suffered depression myself, he told me essentially to stop whining and just go and kill myself, then.

    Anyway thank you, Animeraider, for being open and attempting to understand. Mental illness is something people want to distance themselves from, I think, so to make the effort is a great step forward.

  •  As a chronic sufferer of depressive disorders... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    estraven, elmo, AnacharsisClootz

    ...for well over 40 years, I've always divided its effects into two general categories: the internal (what's going on inside you, upon which I won't dwell here) and the external (what's going on around you, either in spite of or because of the disorder).

    One of the worst of the external aspects is that difficulty of others to understand (about which this diary speaks).

    I've been fortunate enough to have a patient partner - now husband - of 30+ years with the wisdom to make allowances, accept limitations and ride out the countless storms.

    I've had also the misfortune of being brought low by those upon whom I might have expected to count upon the most, such as when my own (now late) father said (in my presence) to my partner, "I don't know how you put up with him. I sure wouldn't."

    It took years to come to my own understanding that his attitude was born of his inability to understand.

    But in the same way that Rock Hudson's death put a recognizable and relatable face to the AIDS epidemic, bringing it to the world's attention, so might the circumstances of Williams' death serve as a similar wake-up call, prompting more people to try to understand in the way that Animeraider is.

    And that, incidentally, will add to the immeasurable good Williams has left to the world.          

    •  just want to thank my partner of 45 years (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      after reading what you had to say about yours. He has been most patient with me and made allowances, as you say. He is my best friend and the love of my life, and sometimes I haven't really known how he could put up with me. My husband has struggled to understand; I don't think he does, entirely, but that's okay. He takes me as I am and we have had a good life together. I can only hope I give back as much as I've gotten.

  •  I've suffered several periods of major depression (3+ / 0-)

    in my life and it can be devastating.

    I'm in "partial remission" now. Like Robin Williams I've learned how to present a remarkably upbeat, energetic, and positive veneer the outside world, and sometimes even to myself, when necessary.

    Part of my mind becomes suspicious of myself when my expressions of positive news become extreme, as for example in some of my really hyped up "solar and wind energy" is helping us save the world from global warming posts.

    Whenever you see me going overboard on gorgeous solar sunsets, with  upbeat "Here Comes the Sun" background music from the Beatles, in posts loaded with humor, and cheerful chattiness, and hyper-optimistic forecasts that it is only a matter of time before renewable energy options replace all the terrible coal burning electrical plants you can probably safely bet I'm struggling on the edge of a vast abyss.

    Just as when Robin Williams goes off on his wonder manic raves of energetic humor one has to wonder in the back of ones mind, what the entire explanation for this hyper-psycho-dynamic phenomenon.

    Where does this energy come from and why? Could it be in part a compensation for a deep painful hole in his soul somewhere deeper?

    A hole so vast and scary not ordinary amount of humorous presentation would be sufficient to cover it up - only the most extraordinary, almost unimaginable presentation of upbeat zaniness could counter and cover it.

    Doesn't seem mysterious to me at all. I'm sort of surprised everyone doesn't feel this way sometimes, or even often.

    To the extent one opens one's heart, mind, and soul to the unimaginable levels of suffering in this world we catch a glimpse of the reality behind several research studies showing people who suffer from depression sometime in their lives have more objective and accurate perceptions, on average, than people who do not.

    Thanks or this compassionate and thought provoking post. The recognition that the stigma of being labeled as "mentally illness" can add to many people's suffering and sense of isolation.


    Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited. Artistic License - 420420

    by HoundDog on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 02:55:03 PM PDT

  •  Dick Cavett, in the NYTimes some time ago, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    described depression as a disease where, if there is a magic wand to cure it sitting on a table eight feet away, you can't bring yourself to get up and go get it.  I also read somewhere that depressives often seem to get better just before suicide; maybe because the end is in sight.

    I've tried  to deal with it for years.  Haven't done very well!

  •  Akathisia (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AnacharsisClootz, churchylafemme
    Akathisia, or acathisia ... is a movement disorder characterized by a feeling of inner restlessness and a compelling need to be in constant motion, as well as by actions such as rocking while standing or sitting, lifting the feet as if marching on the spot, and crossing and uncrossing the legs while sitting. People with akathisia are unable to sit or keep still, complain of restlessness, fidget, rock from foot to foot, and pace

    from Wiki.

    I'm bipolar II, on the depressive side.

    It doesn't matter to what I write below whether a person's akathisia as described above in the article is a side-effect of antipsychotics or antidepressants. What's important to my reverie is the feeling and the experience.

    I've experienced this a few times, and I think it's the closest I've been to the phenomenological anguish and horror — not terror, horror — that I reckon many suicidal depressives might feel in that interminable moment when being alive becomes so unbearable that the only alternative is death.

    It happened once when I'd run out of Lamictal, the mood stabilizer that saved my life (Lamictal is widely considered as probably the most effective treatment for depressive bipolars, with its pronounced antidepressant effect). We were broke again, and even though the pharmacy (where the pharms and techs and cashiers have known us for 12 years) will spot us enough medication until we have the money to pay for all of it, I figured I could go without Lamictal for two or three days.

    I went into withdrawal, manifested as akathisia. It was terrifying. I can't sit down, I have to stand up, but I can't stay still so I pace around the living room, but pacing is driving me nuts and I'm hyperventilating, so I have to sit down, but my legs keep jerking and feel all creepy-crawly inside, so I can't keep sitting, I have to get up and move, so I do again, then the oval I'm pacing around in gets smaller and smaller and my chest is tight and I'm feeling faint, so I have to sit down, but this time I try to lie down but I can't because I keep thrashing from side to side, so I get up and stand for a few seconds before I have to move, I have to move, I have to move even though it's become torture, I'm involuntarly holding my breath as I walk around in circles, and all I want to do is sit down but I can't stop moving, then I dart back to the sofa and sit down and breathe.

    Then the horror comes. Everything in the world is wrong, everything looks wrong, there's nothing but pain and sadness in the world, I'm forever trapped in this place of darkness, and the horror gets worse.

    So I get up again, because I have to move. Maybe if I move, I can work out the horror, but now I'm starting to panic, and I'm wincing and grimacing.

    And I want to jump off my balcony, 17 floors up. Just do it, like ripping off a bandage: run into the bedroom, open the door to the balcony and just dive over that railing. It's the only way to make this physical, emotional, mental, and existential horror end.

    Still, that looming event horizon — like that DO IT impulse when you run down the dock to jump into the cold lake — is terrifyng.

    That's what suicidal felt like for me. I can't imagine how much worse it must get when someone crosses that event horizon and jumps into that black hole from which there is no escape.

    My best friend lent me some money, I went to the pharmacy to get the refill, and by the next day I felt much better (though I'd needed a couple of Valiums to get through the rest of my evening of akathisia).

    What do we want? Evidence-based change! When do we want it? After peer review!

    by puckmtl on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 06:39:21 PM PDT

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