Tuesday, August 12, 2014

oh captain my captain

I don't normally write or comment on news items.

But the death of Robin Williams has hit me hard. So I want to try to process a bit, if I may. (It's my blog, so I guess permission is implied. You also have permission to skip this post if you're more into the lighthearted.) 

Depression is a terrible, oppressive thing. A weight bearing down on you, keeping you trapped, making you feel stuck and helpless and hopeless. I hope the conversation surrounding Williams' depression does lead someone to reach out and get help. Even one. 

But it isn't always that simple. 

I get the posts begging people to ask for help if they need it. I do. I get the posts reminding people that they would rather have a 3 a.m. phone call than attend a funeral. I get the people who really do want to be there for family and friends who may be hurting and in despair.

But it isn't always that simple. 

When you are stuck, when you are lost in the darkness, when everything feels hard and terrible and hopeless, is it really likely you're going to "reach out"? If getting off the couch is difficult, how much more difficult is it to pick up a phone? Start a conversation? Or do something really impossible like talk to a doctor? 

I love a tweet I saw in response to people saying "Reach out!" She replied with the fact that reaching out was nearly impossible when one is in the throes of depression. Others have to make the effort to reach in

She gets it.

But even then, it's not always that simple. Sometimes people try to reach in. Sometimes they want more than anything to help. But sometimes they botch it and makes things worse. People say really idiotic things about depression (and other mental illnesses) sometimes.

And sometimes, even though they don't do anything wrong, it still doesn't help. Depression isn't logical. You can't reason someone out of it. And you can't always fix it, anymore than you can fix someone's diabetes.  It's not that simple.

An episode of Doctor Who actually dealt with it as well as anything I've ever seen. The Doctor and Amy Pond travel back in time to visit Vincent Van Gogh. It gives an honest portrayal of the demons Van Gogh faced. The Doctor and Amy end up being able to show Vincent how beloved he and his art became. Van Gogh is visibly shocked and moved and of course thrilled. 

And Amy is thrilled. She is convinced that when she and the Doctor return to the future, there will be more Van Gogh paintings in the museums. They will have prevented his tragic suicide. They've "fixed" him.

She's wrong. Van Gogh killed himself just the same. And now Amy's crushed. And she goes to the opposite extreme, saying they made no difference at all.

And the Doctor tells her it's not that simple. No, you can't logic someone out of depression. But you can make a difference. Sometimes it's enough. Sometimes it isn't. Sometimes it has nothing to do with you at all.

It's still worth it to try. It's always worth it to try. People need you to try.

After all, the fact that you can't "fix" someone's cancer doesn't stop you from being there and supporting loved ones when they face it. It may not even stop you from saying something stupid and insensitive (although hopefully we can learn from past mistakes and stop speaking in cliches and trite platitudes). But you make the effort, right?

This is no different. 

And if you're the one suffering? I'll echo the sentiments of so many others: please, please seek help. I know it seems impossible and even pointless. I know that. But I stayed stuck a whole lot longer than necessary, and I don't wish that on anyone. There is help, and there are people who care--people who do want to help, who would love to help. Even imperfectly.

We can all bumble along together while we figure it out.

This ended up being a very different post than what I had in mind when I started writing. I really intended to go an entirely different direction. Oh, well. 

Some articles about depression I liked: Ann Voskamp

Anne Lamott (I hope this one works. It's a Facebook link, but I'm assuming it's a public Facebook page. I hope it works--I liked the real, rawness of it).


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