A week after my Mom’s 64th birthday, Robin Williams died.
Like a woosh, that same sickening feeling came over me, and I remembered what it felt like to be in that moment as I read the news.
The first person I wanted to call was my Mom–to share with her the enormity of what happened. To share my shock and disbelief. To get her thoughts. Instead of that, I spent two-and-a-half hours talking to my cousin as we shared our thoughts about Williams, depression, and suicide.
Like the rest of the universe, the news of Williams’ death saddens me immensely. It’s a kick to the gut. It hurts. It sucks. And although most of us haven’t met him, it’s like losing your favorite, over-the-top uncle who brought you most fabulous Christmas gift and made you laugh.
And now nothing.
And I’m trying to determine exactly why my grief is. And I think I’ve figured out a few things.
(And please forgive me if this blog post isn’t as streamlined and a bit stream-of-consciousness. That is the nature of my thoughts right about now.)
When I lost my Mom, I wasn’t shy about my grief. It wasn’t on purpose. It’s just how it was. I cried a lot. At Target. At work. At the grocery store, At the gas station. in the bathroom. I didn’t maintain a stiff upper lip. I smiled some, but didn’t laugh. It was like a shell of me, but the rest of me wasn’t there.
I got mad at well-intentioned people who wanted to know what happened–offering up platitudes that didn’t comfort or, even worse, people who just shocked me with their outright insensitivity. (Luckily, those people were few and between.)
I take comfort that when my Mom died, I was there. Our final moments–hers and mine–were ours. (Well, and my Beloved and the nurse and doctor.) But the point is that those moments were private ones. They weren’t for public consumption unless I chose for them to be so.
And yet because Williams is such a beloved public figure and because of the circumstances surrounding his death, his family doesn’t have the luxury of keeping those moments private. They’re splattered all over the news. His family doesn’t get a choice on what is disclosed.
I cannot even imagine how that would be. And my heart just breaks for his children.
Depression and anxiety run in my family. My Mom suffered from both as did my grandmother. Same with my aunt and cousin. In fact, my mother would always say that my grandmother would become so anxious over purchases like a home that her hands would shake terribly whenever she had to sign anything.
For my part, I have suffered from bouts of depression along with pretty chronic anxiety. Which is kind of funny because I’m pretty smiley and funny and happy, But when I get anxious, I obsess and worry. (For example, I am now worried about publishing this blog post. 🙂 )
When I was a kid and young adult, my Mom and I would outline what we called my Worry List and the best way to tackle items on Said List.
Depression has always an interesting concept to me. Because if you’re happy and life is good, what on earth do you have to be depressed about? Until it happened to me. Depression can hit anyone. It can be triggered by anything–but especially things like death of a loved one, divorce, a major move, job loss, new job, bankruptcy, or really any major life change.
In 2005, after being diagnosed with a mass on my brain, I underwent major brain surgery. It was very scary with a possibly scary outcome, but the surgery was successful, and I was fine.
Except I found myself becoming sad and bleak and couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I cried because children were starving in third-world countries. And while, objectively, I could see my life was good, I couldn’t understand why I felt so bad. I took myself to go see a therapist (whom I’d seen in the past), and she stated, “You’re depressed.”
I disagreed, but I made a doctor’s appointment anyway. When I went to my doctor, I gave her a list of symptoms and a run-down of what had been going on. She gave an explanation of the brain and neurotransmitters and how they worked. She gave me a big hug and said, “Baby Girl, we will work this out. We’ll try x,y, and z. And if that doesn’t work out, we’ll try something else. This is not your fault.”
After being prescribed a mild anti-depressant, I did begin to feel better. It didn’t happen right away, but it did.
I do not understand suicide. (I will express a mild caveat to end-of-life/palliative care for terminal illness. That I can understand.) And, I don’t mean this to be funny: but mainly, I love bacon. And Chanel No. 5 and all of the things I want to do but haven’t done yet. I love my Man, my Bu, my dog. I love that I got to ride a Ferris Wheel at a county fair and watch my nephew sheep-race. When I think of not having those things, I feel sad.
But, just because, I don’t understand it doesn’t mean that people don’t find themselves in that place. Because when people find themselves in that place, it’s their pain that is talking. Is suicide selfish? Ultimately, I suppose. Is it cowardly? I don’t know. But the people who are in that situation are worthy of our love, our compassion, and not our castigation.
To the Williams family and to Zelda, in particular, from one daughter to another: I am truly sorry for the loss of your dad. It’s hard–one of the toughest things you will ever go through. Over the last few days, you have handled yourself with much grace. Your dad was a class act, and clearly, so are you.
And to the Interwebz, thank you for letting me vent. It has helped. And to Robin Williams: thank you. You gave my Mom and me Mrs. Doubtfire. We would quote that movie back and forth and when I miss her much, I watch it. I’ll be watching it more now. Thank you for the memories.