Robin Williams, Depression, and The Fight

Every now and then, a three-line Facebook update becomes an opus. An article tripped my switch this morning on the dearly departed Robin Williams and the “myth” of battling depression.

As someone who consciously “chose” to fight it, with a strict regiment of drugs, exercise, therapy, and diet, I both agree and disagree with that article. Here’s the Facebook status I found myself writing:

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Excellent article but also defeatist. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with thinking you can fight depression.

But I think talking about that fight means also acknowledging that some fights can’t be won. That’s just the way it rolls. The writer’s right. Suicide makes perfect sense when you’re in depression. I understand it completely. When people go “I can’t understand how he could–“

My answer to them is: Then you’ve never been properly depressed.

Suicide is completely logical. I’m sorry but glad if you don’t understand it. It’s tragic to the rest of us because we can’t fathom a world with less of that person in it, because we valued their contribution to our lives even if they couldn’t see it. Because we’re not depressed.

But to the depressed person, two thoughts occur: One, my pain will stop. Because that ever-cloaking nothingness, the void and emptiness and woefulness that is a true depression, it’s more painful on a deeper, ebbing level than you can ever understand if you’ve never been TRULY depressed. And two, my burdening of those who love me and worry about me will finally cease — I’ll be doing them a favour; they’ll hurt a bit and then they’ll move on.

Thank god I haven’t felt that in eight years. I hope I never feel it again. I’m relieved to know now — eight years later, that I was statistically destined for depression because of my traumatic brain injury, which they now know results in 8 out of 10 TBI sufferers going through catastrophic depression within the next decade of their life.

My depression hit me in my third year after my brain injury, but it had been building for over a year.

So when they say “it isn’t a fight, you don’t fight it,” I say bullshit. I say there are many deep, suicidal depressions that can be fought because they’re a matter of body chemistry.

And for those for whom no amount of fighting can help, I feel huge amounts of sympathy. I know there are people who will always be on the edge of that veil of darkness, for whom there are no resolutions right now. What a brave life they lead.

Yes. Some depressions that cannot be fought as we know them now, because too much of the science of brain injury/illness is beyond our grasp. Just because we can’t understand it today doesn’t mean we won’t understand it soon, and for that, I believe diet/exercise/therapy/support/honesty and all of that combines to help for the average depression sufferer.

I think we’re beginning to learn how pervasive illnesses of the mind are. I think we have come a long way. I have faith we’ll go further still.