Thursday, August 14, 2014

The one where I lose a few more readers


I learned of the tragic death of Robin Williams the way a lot of you did: on social media.  My friend from college, Pete, posted the news while folks were still denying it—it obviously must be a hoax—but within minutes, the news was confirmed and it was all over face book.

And it was suicide.

Included with the stories was a statement that Williams had been depressed.

Of course.  Happy people don't usually take their own lives.
…and then they all came out of the woodwork.  ‘There’s no such thing as depression.’  ‘It’s a liberal problem.’ ‘I shook it off, so he could, too.’ ‘He couldn’t have been depressed; he had lots of money.’ ‘How could he do that to his kids?’ ‘He was selfish.’

Here’s what I will tell you about my experience with mental illness: (such a scary phrase, “mental illness.” No one wants to use it…no one wants to hear it.) 
It is real.
It is as real as any other chronic illness: diabetes, asthma, hemophilia…
…except we want to ignore it.  As if by acknowledging it, we make it more real, and we accept that it can happen to us or someone we love.  If a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, we tell our friends and they bring casseroles.  If a loved one is diagnosed with mental illness, we hide it…like Mrs. Rochester in the attic.
I have often talked about how I lost my mind when I went through menopause.  You thought I was joking.  When I said I poured myself into a bottle of gin and stayed there for an entire summer, you thought I was exaggerating.  But Depression is a cold-hearted bitch who drives with a wingman named Self-Loathing, and she wanted to take me for a ride.

In many respects, I was very fortunate.  My sweet DL continued to stay married to me, despite my erratic and self-destructive behavior.  I had a job I loved that forced me to step away from the bottle from 5 am-3:30 pm, at which time I was so tired I didn’t have the energy to twist the cap off a beer.  I had a doctor who listened to me and took my depression seriously.  She did not dismiss it as a symptom of menopause or as a case of “the blues.”  When I told her I was thinking about investing in a gas oven and pulling a Sylvia Plath, she was willing to write a script that began to help after two weeks.  I started to feel “normal”—and my husband said he was happy to get his old Kirby back.

But my story is NOT typical.  Most folks who battle depression have a lengthy battle—not one that is easily won.  They battle longer and harder than I did.  Self-Loathing calls in his step-brother, Addiction, and things get messy.  I was able to win the battle before it got bloody. Don't get me wrong...I have to be on the alert, because Depression might try to come back to beat on me again, and I try to be pro-active. I watch my intake of adult beverages. (Despite the persona I project in this blog, I’m pretty much a lightweight.  One and done, unless it’s a special occasion.)  I do not take any prescribed medications that have any possibility I may become dependent (the PA who tried to prescribe Oxycodone for my shoulder?  He got an EARFUL!) and I exercise almost every day.  These things won’t keep my illness from coming back, but they can’t hurt.

My depression is not a big beast, and she didn’t dig the hole deep enough to keep me in.  I knew immediately that I was in trouble, I knew I needed help, and I wasn’t scared to get it, making my scramble out rather quick and painless.  Again…not typical.  I am seeing a lot of conversation on social media regarding depression, and some of it is incredibly productive.  People are sharing their stories, and folks who have famously battled the bitch and her co-conspirators have told of their experiences.  Almost singularly, they say that they are lucky.  They admit that this time, they were lucky.  That they had enough light to see a way out.  Next time?  Maybe not.  Think of it this way—if you are the person who, after learning that a friend who had a long, painful, debilitating illness finally passes away, you say, “He’s in a better place now…” or “It’s a blessing…” then think twice before you judge someone who can’t live with debilitating pain anymore and chooses to take action.

So, I hope that before folks post something insensitive about depression or addiction, they look at it a different way.  Think about it as you would any “acceptable” disease—a disease that no one is locking in the attic.  And be thankful that this time, it wasn’t you or someone you love.





31 comments:

Laura @ Top This Top That said...

thanks for sharing your story and getting the support and help that you needed. My heart breaks anytime I think of someone battling depression.

Cassie @ Primitive & Proper said...

amen, kirby. i had my problems with depression after i was raped and then turned to anorexia (rather than alcohol) and it was a slippery slope of self loathing.... and the worse i felt the worst not eating made me feel because of the malfunctions it causes in the brain. and on top of that i lost someone very close to me that i loved very much to suicide.... i can't stand when people speak of those who do it being selfish. it's not selfish. and i can't stand when people say, "oh i could shoot myself!" because someone i know did, and i don't take it lightly. thank you so much for sharing- i am so glad you have dl, and so glad you are mostly on he other side. but i will be honest- in know about my own mental illness and i know where my creativity comes from- it's a method of distraction for my brain. i may be on the other side, but i've always got at least a toe dangling back over.

miss flibbertigibbet said...

Thanks for sharing your story Kirby. I think you will GAIN followers because some folks respect the truth and admire truth-tellers. I have ridden in the car with that cold hearted bitch and she stands on the side of the road with her thumb out all the time. Sometimes I pick her up for a short ride. When I drop her off her friend, Self-Loathing usually stays behind i really hate THAT one almost as much. You know some of the experiences I've had, which happily coincided with menopause (God DOES have a sense of humor) but taking the bull by the horns (or the bitch by the hair) is my way. I agree so much about Robin.....I have felt such sadness this week knowing how sad he was and how much he wanted to release his family (he thought) from suffering alongside him. I wish so much he could have found a better solution. The world has lost a really wonderful guy. Thanks again for a beautifully written piece.

Mel@Mellywood's Mansion said...

When I was 19 my cousin (17) was depressed and took her own life. I had post natal depression after 4/5 of my kids, and even with all the research and awareness if you haven't dealt with it, ou can't understand it. Thanks for sharing your story Kirby.

Pat said...

Thank you for this Kirby. I have a personal depression story that is similar to yours. I know it is hard to believe someone who writes a sunny blog has ever been in battle. I know exactly what you mean about being on the alert. It reared it's ugly head as we prepared the house. What a concept, this can't be Pat, but it is true. Our little apartment has been a real blessing in disguise. J has his the real wife back and I have him. I was at the point of asking for meds and now I think I can get through this added stress right now. I haven't had a prescription for anti depressants since we lost our newborn grandson in 2006. It's a rocky road I walk and I understand.

We know the addiction thing also and after hearing all about Oxycodone it is not an accepted prescription for either of us. We are both changed people from how we found each other, badly wounded, 32 years ago and it is by keeping vigilant that we survive to this day.

I like you and your writing style. Your story makes me like you even more.

Deneen@dreaming-n-color said...

Thanks Kirby. Depression needs to be out on the open. We need to be aware and there needs to be more done. It cannot be hidden under a rug. I hope this terrible tragedy of Robin will shine a brighten light on this dark road. Although I never knew him, I felt I did. He always put off a sweetness vibe to me. I know the world is dimmer without him as they are with so many lost to this disease. You were spot on with this! Thanks my friend.

Bliss said...

I don't think most people can wrap their head around the thought that a person even wants to take their own life...... and even harder to wrap it around when they do it. It's difficult to accept something can get to that desperate point, to people who can't fathom it to begin with.

Serendipity Refined said...

You are a strong and brave and beautiful lady that I'm privileged to call my friend. Thank you for sharing your story and using your influence to shine the light on a dark, painful, and debilitating topic that so many are afraid to say "out loud". Sadly, it's often through tragic circumstances like the death of Robin Williams and acts of bravery like your willingness to share your battle that people begin to understand topics which often they are far too vocal about when they are woefully uninformed.. Carry on, dear friend and know that there are thousands who walk the road with you and who are strengthened by your presence on that journey. xoxo

Jean @ www.thebackyardbungalow.com said...

Well said, Kirby! Everyone of my children and myself have battle the bitch. She's not very nice and sometimes she really doesn't want to let go. Depression is very real and my daughter and I are choosing to handle it by eliminating certain foods that trigger it. It's not an easy ride by any means, but for us, it's doable...at least for now. I had read one comment that said "Jesus solved my problem, he could have solved his, too"....It's the judgy Mcjudgeson's of the world that make our journey more difficult.

Marianne said...

Still here! Thank you for your honest and important story. Coming from a family that has faced a suicide in recent years, I am still on this side of angry, which is why I won't be writing anything on the matter. I think it is an impossibly difficult subject to understand from either side. And you won't be losing me. I'm like gum on a shoe.

Debbiedoos said...

It is real, and it is horrible! My husband sees it every day and he said out of all the diseases and illnesses, this one scares him the most. I had post pardum depression and it was a time I never want to see again in my life. I didn't want to hurt myself, thank God, but I didn't want to hardly function either. I snapped out of it with support and therapy! I still can't get over his death and my heart is heavy for his family. He just saw no other way to rid his demons and wanted the hurt to stop. Thank you for sharing your story.

Sherry @ Thrift My House said...

Well said Kirby. Thanks for sharing!

Tina@WhatWeKeep said...

Oh, Kirbs...while my heart breaks knowing your suffering, I am also so proud of you for seeking help in the midst of that agonizing time. I know that feeling all too well and am also a proud survivor of "the battle with the bitch" depression. Hormones the first time and severe life stress the second. I came out of it stronger, but I never want to see that bitch again. People can be cruel and empathy is so lacking in our world. I have been shocked by what I've read regarding Robin Williams, but those voices are really misguided souls that have no way of understanding what state he was in or the amount of pain he suffered. I always felt that he was a tortured soul- you could see it in his eyes. HIs compassion towards others was so huge because he felt things very deeply. He affected so many people with his humor, but also with the depth of his soul.
I hope he is at peace and that his family can find peace somewhere in the midst of their pain.
I'm so glad that you shared your story- always know that you have a hand to reach out to. So many hands are here for you. xxx, Teen

Just Ducky said...


Bravo for recognizing that you had a problem and demanding help. I wish more people would accept the fact that mental illness is a real disease. The loss of Robin Williams is hard to understand and I am sure his family is having a hard time understanding it.

Andrea said...

You are important and so is your message. Oh and you are beautiful as well.

Susan D @simply susan aka just me said...

Oh what a lovely, brave, amazing woman you are. I too have been crippled by this evil monster called depression, for many, many years. I had treatments to 'cure' me, that messed up my cognitive abilities, memory, sense of self. What happened to Robin Williams, that brilliant incredible man, is heartbreaking, but I understand. I really do, it is a struggle every day to keep myself from being eaten by the same monster that took him.
My heart is filled with gratitude that you spoke out and shared with us the journey of your suffering. Every person who does what you just did provides another step toward understanding and empathy for sufferers of these types of 'invisible' illnesses.

Kim said...

Very proud do you for sharing. Sadly depression is often treated too lightly. It is a mean, sneaky bitch who grabs ahold of you with no warning. And it's not easy to crawl away from it. My oldest friend committed suicide 6 years. The pain never dulls

Maureen Wyatt said...

You'll never lose me as a reader because you wrote from the heart. When you are in the throws of certain thought patterns it's very hard to break them. I did several years of anorexia, never eating more than 300 calories in a day and none of it fat. Some days I forgot to eat at all. It's very difficult to give that up when you get constant praise for your super slim figure, until you start to get sick and your Dr. threatens to put you away for treatment. Now, I wonder what the heck I was thinking all those years!

Chris K in Wisconsin said...

You should gain readers from this post, not lose them! I hope that a part of the legacy of Robin Williams will be that he opened a dialogue about this disease and what it does to the individual as well as to families. We would never think of telling a person w/ a diagnosis of cancer, heart disease, or diabetes to "just snap out of it". Mental illness is just that.... it, too, is an illness.

Marty Walden said...

You're such a brave, funny, interesting woman, my friend! Getting personal makes me love you more, not less! I started blogging to share our adoption story and because I needed to know I wasn't alone. I'm sure by sharing you've touched lives you'll never know of. Depression isolates you. Talking about it frees you! Great job!

Danni@SiloHillFarm said...

Well said Kirby! I can't believe you'll lose any readers that you would want to keep after writing this. Depression/Mental Illness just sucks the life right out of you and getting help is hard. Good for you for getting help and recognizing your weakness when it comes to addiction as well. I hope you pick up a few new readers instead of lose a few!

Cheryl in Wisconsin said...

The only thing I would debate with you on this post is the notion of losing any readers.

Feral Turtle said...

Such a tragic loss to the entertainment world. He was such a gifted man! Glad you had a good support system Kirby!

Good Time Charlie said...

Thank you for posting this Cassie. I think many creative people dance on the side of depression. It is something we have to face, that the creative force, may also be linked with a propensity towards depression. There is so little we know about how mental illness works, we all need to become accutely more sensitive to those who suffer with it. Suicide is almost never an act of selfish behavior. It is to the suicide victim, the only choice sometimes from their point of view to escape a life of internal hell.

Good Time Charlie said...

Thank you so much for sharing this and sharing your story. We are in the frontier in medicine when it comes to understanding mental health and how the brain works. It is sad that in this day and age, the notion that it is something we can get out of by "pulling up our boot straps" is ludicrous. There is a serious organic and chemical problemsin the brain when depression sets in and we lose our ability to pull ourselves out without intervention. Thank you for bringing up the issue of suicide as well. I lost my sweet brother to suicide almost 7 years ago and every day it still hurts and I miss him. He was brilliant, creative and someone everyone "loved". One of those people to the outside world, appeared to have it all together. His private life however was a completely different story. Addiction became his life as he experimented with different prescribed medications just so he could somehow feel "normal" in his own skin. When these failed to help, he turned to illegal drugs to just blunt the pain. At the end, his personal life was hanging by a thread and his mind was so gone with thoughts of self loathing and what he called Demons in his mind that to him, the only way to save his family, his finances, and finally escape his own personal hell was suicide. My family would have done anything to prevent this from happening, but knowing he was not living in his tortured mind, free from his body ravished with addictions and finally in a different existence provided me some comfort. I have an unwavering belief in a loving and just God. We cannot possibly know the intents and the mind of someone who takes their own life, but God does. It is not a one size fits all for any of us. What we need is increased love, compassion and understanding. When people said to me again and again, how "selfish" my brother's act of suicide was, it was all I could do from screaming at them what an insensitive idiot they were. Every single American probably knows someone or has a family member involved with mental illness and or addiction. Go walk down your street, it won't be long before you meet someone with a loved one who took their own life. It is a problem far greater than we as a society ever talk about. It is time to bring this epidemic to light and treat it for what it is, the worst result of depression and often addiction that wasn't being treated as it should have been, or a mental health system that failed to adequately see it. Thank you for bringing up this subject, will be sharing on my FB page.

Suzan Sweatman said...

Beautiful important post Kirby - I mentioned my experience with it on the blog as well - well I touched lightly on it - we have to talk talk talk about this - until it's as easy to talk about as a broken arm -
Much love,
One who knows...............
Suzan

karen@somewhatquirky said...

Been there. And why would you lose readers over this? It's so scary to think what a chemical imbalance in the brain can do. Thank you for writing about this. I love it when you get down to it.

Tuula @ The Thrifty Rebel said...

Well said Kirby! If you lose any readers because of this post you didn't want them anyway. The subject of depression needs to be out in the open. I'd be surprised if it doesn't touch every family, or even every person, in some way. It's time for everyone to acknowledge it for what it is... a very real medical illness. Thanks so much for sharing, and I'm so glad you got the help you needed.

Linda Bouffard said...

Well, said, Tuula! Depression is so much more out in the open than it was in the 60's. Back then it was hush hush and a shameful thing. Today so many people are on mood meds even right in my family. Thanks for commenting.

andi filante said...

Not losing this reader, sista. Beautiful post. I applaud you. And I'm going to miss RW like crazy, may he rest in peace.

-andi

Linda @ it all started with paint said...

I somehow missed this very important post of yours, Kirby. We were on vacation in Florida (and I actually stepped away from the computer so I could enjoy time with my parents and kids). But thank you for sharing your experiences. It breaks my heart how you struggles. I've done the dance with that bitch from time-to-time over the years. Never to the point where I sought out medical help. Usually to a point where my sister would give me a swift kick to the behind and remind me what I was losing as I poured myself into a bottle or two of wine. Menopause wasn't kind to me either. I always try to put a happy face on the blog, but there have been many times when my heart just wasn't in the right place, because my head was a mess ...

I'm always here to support you in all you do, my friend!

:) Linda

01 09 10