Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Time to treat this illness seriously

Nothing can accurately describe my shock when, after logging on to the 'net yesterday morning, I was confronted by the news of Robin Williams's death. I was convinced that the 63-year-old actor-comedian had died as a result of massive drug use. Not a binge, just the built-up effects of heavy intoxicants over the course of his adulthood. The same type of thing that took George Carlin out.
Turns out, however, that Robin Williams died of asphixation. The latest news from the coroner indicates that he had hung himself. His personal assistant had found him near the closet door of his bedroom. Initially, he looked to be in a sitting position but was suspended a little bit above the ground.
Sad, shocking, horrific stuff. People thought that because Williams was a "funny guy," that he could not be taken down by something as trivial as depression.
Only, depression is not trivial. It is sinister, insiduous and even downright aggressive. It can kick the stuffing out of anyone: 6-foot-3 boxer Frank Bruno's severe depression was well publicized. If a guy that big and capable can be afflicted, surely the more mortal among us can be so stricken.
It explains why I have been gone so long. Since April 2013, the last time I contributed to this dusty, cobweb-covered blog, I suffered myself from depression. I was too depressed to write. The longer I didn't write, the worse it became until it was like a vicious circle. I carried on working and enjoying evenings with my family. I laughed to the podcasts playing on my iPod. But I could no longer do something I loved: writing. I am fond of this blog and am proud of it. Why, then, did it suddenly make my stomach turn to think about it? Why was I rendered incapable of doing something I loved?
Depression is something that has long been with me. I remember having feelings of worthlessness at the age of 12. No 12-year-old should have to feel that. But this thing, dear reader, is a monster. I'm not bi-polar, but I do have chronic depression combined with social anxiety. I have OCD. Perhaps I even have a slight touch of autism; there is some evidence of that, although it hasn't been confirmed.
I do take an anti-depressant medication. It helps. I know they're not for some people. For some, pills make the depression and suicidal ideation worse. But it's up to the individual affected and it is the responsibility of the doctor to very closely monitor how any medication affects him or her.
Maybe, eventually, we will have a true understanding of depression. Society will no longer regard depressed people as mental misfits. We will move beyond the perceptions of the Mental Health Act of 1953 and enter the modern age where depression is recognized as an organic illness. People suffer from failing kidneys, diseased lungs and perforated pancreases. Is the brain no less an organ than the liver, the stomach or the intestines? I suffer from occasional renal colic as well. Is that disease really so different from depression? If your brain, as an organic body organ, is ill, will that not manifest itself in so many deleterious emotional manners? Should you be told to simply "pull your bootstraps up" or "look on the bright side"?
I'm not saying that we need to give people a free pass. The excuse of depression is too often used to avoid work and receive SSDI "crazy checks".
That doesn't mean depression isn't real. Fourteen years into the twenty-first century, we still don't understand depression nearly as well as we should. It is a disease and, in so many cases, it is a killer.
It is high-time that we gave this illness some respect.


goddessdivine said...

Dragon, I'm touched by your entry. And was so glad to see you had posted. ;-0 I think we've come a long way in understanding mental illnesses, but we still have a ways to go. I myself have suffered anxiety so I know how crippling and powerful those diseases can be. And how very real they are. I've had that discussion with my doctor where he said the brain is an organ just like all the other organs in our body. It too is susceptible to disease.

I sincerely hope you are able to find the right treatments for yourself. And that you pick up the pen (er, keyboard) again. I've missed you.

Nightdragon said...

Thank you, GD. Thanks muchly. I have missed you too -- I've gotta catch up on your stuff! -- and I've missed being here. Writing an entry always gives me such a lift. One wonders then, what it is that prevents me from being here more, and why I almost get scared to?! It's mystifying. I can only chalk it up to the depression and hope that I will finally start to write on a much more frequent basis.