Since yesterday’s terrible news of actor Robin Williams’ suicide, people have been asking how this could happen. How could a man who brought so much light to others not find a light within himself? I’m here to tell you: “Funny” can be a coping mechanism.
If you were to meet me in a social situation, you would not forget me. I don’t say this to massage my massive ego. Truthfully, in social situations, I am attractive, outgoing and a laugh a minute. I love making people giggle, and I do so every chance I get.
What most people don’t see is the crash. The fact is, I’m terrified of social situations. I have a time limit. After a certain amount of hours, I give my husband “the look” that tells him it’s time to get me home before I freak out. Once home, I curl into a ball. I’m exhausted. I spend the entire next day recovering in my pajamas.
I am a depressive cutter with an anxiety disorder and have been since eighth grade. On good days, I work, I shower, I make dinner for my husband, and I make my girlfriends laugh over drinks. On bad days, I write mean notes to myself and try not to reach for a kitchen knife. On bad days, I don’t eat, barely work. I certainly don’t leave the house.
Due to my own experience, I know that being funny is a way to hide. The laughter lights the darkness but not permanently.
Depression is, unfortunately, a disease without a cure. I have good days, but even on good days, there is that sneaking fear that tomorrow will be a bad day. And the day after that. And the day after that. After too many bad days, ending it all can seem like a comfort.
There are some surefire warning signs my husband has learned. For example, if my fingernails start going to hell, something is wrong. If I eat a carrot and say I’m full, something is wrong. If I start a Law and Order: SVU marathon, something is wrong. These are personal traits, but we have tells.
In the broader sense, if personal hygiene and appearance go out the window, something is wrong. If a friend starts losing too much weight too fast, something is wrong. If a friend starts abusing substances (alcohol is my go-to), something is wrong. If a friend continually cancels social engagements, it’s time to give him or her a call.
There are ways to fight depression, and no one needs to be alone in this fight. There is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline where you can call or chat online at any hour of any day. Mental Health America has a list of support groups in your area and online. Counselors and therapists are available nationwide. Finally, medication can sometimes soften the sharp edges of despair.
I am thankful for all these resources, and I am thankful for friends who check on me. As a depressive, I love wallowing in my own misery, in my own little pajama-clad ball. It’s easy to feel so alone in my pain, but I’m not alone. There are people suffering from my disease everywhere.
If you suspect someone might be considering suicide, or you have struggled with those thoughts yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).