Note from Collette Walsh – Shine! editor:
Guest writer Mike Parkinson from Manchester (UK) was inspired to pen this remarkable article following the death of actor Robin Williams this week. Mike is a father-of-two, a husband, a HUGE music fan and all-round lovely dude. He also lives with depression and this week shared (on his Facebook page) this brilliant, sensitive and honest insight into the illness. Mike is a friend and I felt his words were just too good not be read by a wider audience, so with his blessing, we are publishing it here. Thank you Mike! x
Depression – It’s all in the Stars! – by Mike Parkinson
The recent tragic events in Hollywood after the death of one of the biggest and most gifted actors the world has ever seen, has left the world in a state of shock and disbelief! How can a man such as Robin Williams, a man of great standing, stature, consummate skill in his field, a man who appears to have everything, how could that man take his own life?
But this isn’t the first time that such a gifted artist has taken such a drastic step, far from it in fact. The arts has lost many noted actors, actresses, artists and musicians at the fate of their own hands over the years, as have many other life categories and genres, the tragic recent events of the passing of yet another is hardly going to be a footnote under the subject!
The indiscretion and complete lack of selection means that depression can and does affect everybody, no matter how it was induced, how rich or poor, famous or not, short or tall, fat or thin, it’s not interested in any part of your status, or how you arrived at its door! The fact that Robin Williams took his own life will always be remembered, but will the reasons why he decided to make the ultimate sacrifice be at the forefront of everybody’s minds?
Society has always remembered its fallen stars with heartfelt affection, often carrying a torch for them for many years to come. No doubt it will be forever muted how tragic it was that the likes of Robin Williams, Ian Curtis, Stuart Adamson, Billy McKenzie, Kurt Cobain, Wendy O. Williams, Hunter S Thompson and many others, didn’t pass away as a result of a tragic accident or natural causes, but that they took their own lives as a result of depression, will often be overlooked as time goes by.
So when you appear to have it all, why would someone decide to make the ultimate sacrifice, what would make a person, regardless of stature and standing want to perform an act that many people perceive as cowardly and unfair?
Depression is by far one of the most debilitating and savage forms of Mental Illness, often difficult to understand or comprehend by both the sufferers and those around them and sadly by those who have never experienced the condition close up. Depression can take the highest highs and turn them into the lowest lows at the blink of an eye, without warning, without prejudice and without any logical reasoning. It removes the joy, meaning and pleasure in just about every facet of a sufferers life, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. It suffocates and controls all that is good and hides it away from the sufferer in a sea of grey.
No one is immune from depression, it can happen to anyone, at anytime from any part of society, there is no discretion, no favouritism and no order. Depression is both incredibly difficult to understand and follows no rules and the saddest thing of all is that it’s now rife in modern society, it sits amongst us like an uninvited guest that no one knows or understands why it’s there!
For the people that live with depression, every day can be a challenge, as a sufferer myself, I never know on a daily basis how I’m going to be on any particular day and this is the same pattern shared with many other fellow sufferers. It’s very hard to understand and accept why we feel the way we do and often trying to find the answers only leads to further turmoil, torment and confusion. Talking to others, family, friends etc, helps and can be very comforting, but more often than not even simply trying to explain a mind set or why our thought patterns operate as they do, is incredibly difficult and awkward to convey, so often the depression sufferer holds onto those thoughts, which leads to compounding the condition even further.
There is a genuine taboo with depression that the outside world struggles to comprehend, especially when a member of society’s perceived upper echelons takes their own life as a result of a depressive state. The narrow minded and ignorant deem this to be a ‘cowardly act’ and pour scorn on the selfishness of the person concerned, but I ask you this – what is cowardly about being in so much despair and feeling so utterly helpless that the only way out of the situation is to end the only life we have?
For this depression sufferer that’s not a cowardly act, its the ultimate sacrifice that any human being can make and it’s one that takes an immense amount of courage. For those left behind its a truly awful state of affairs, not only do they have to cope with the passing of a loved one and by the methods employed at their loved ones demise, it’s the feeling of helplessness that despite their very best efforts and attempts at understanding, they were unable to intervene and stop the tragic event from ever taking place.
Depression really is that powerful, it manipulates, it deceives, it moves from mild to severe without warning and reason, it’s like a sneak thief, watching and waiting to pounce on the sufferer, often when they’re at their most vulnerable. It makes the sufferer think and believe that they are worthless and have nothing to offer and then it uses that thought process to build more negativity as the sufferer spirals ever downwards, drowning in despair and lack of hope!
Modern society needs to come to terms with what is happening, non sufferers need to be less ignorant to the plight facing depression sufferers and not be so judgemental of something they have little or no knowledge or understanding of. It’s such a tragedy that it takes the death of a famous actor to bring to the fore the perils of depression and all that it is!
Many people that don’t understand or remain ignorant to the plight of a depression sufferer will continue to treat that person in the same way that they’d treat anybody of ‘sound mind’! Having had first hand experience of this scenario I can safely say that it’s a tact that simply doesn’t work, as often the depression sufferers mind doesn’t work in what is perceived as a ‘normal’ way. It’s very often the ignorance of others that leads to exacerbating the condition even further in the sufferer. Don’t get me wrong by the way, I’m not saying that we need treating with kid gloves, what I am saying is that we need a degree of understanding that some comments and/or actions can be deemed as incredibly insensitive, as often a depression sufferers perception of a situation differs hugely from what others might consider to be a normal situation.
If you’re not affected by depression directly but know of somebody who is, then why not get in touch with them, just for a chat, to offer a smile, a friendly face and some much welcomed support. It’ll provide you with a far better insight as to how and why this condition does what it does and will allow your friend the opportunity to use your kindness as a much needed outlet, more is often the case to be able to talk about thoughts and feelings is a huge step in the battle against depression.
And for the depression sufferer, there is help out there, in many forms and I would implore anyone affected by depression to explore all of the avenues that are available to us, if you haven’t already done so.
You’re not a nuisance and you’re not alone, there are many others who feel the way that you do. Speak to your GP, go online where you’ll find charities such as The Samaritans and MIND, look for support groups in your area, but above all try and keep talking about your thoughts and feelings.
I see my MIND councillor on a weekly basis and they’ve been able to introduce many positives into my life, ok it’s still incredibly hard to cope sometimes and I still have some major off days, but there is help available and just having the support that I need is a massive boost. It’s all about employing the best support network that you can and using it as often as possible, it might not be the ultimate answer or solution, but it’s a positive way forward and it’s very effective.
Above all please don’t suffer in silence, if you believe that you can’t go on then seek help immediately, there are solutions, make yourself heard, there is love and support waiting for you.
You’re not alone.