It may happen more often than you think. According to Ildiko Tabori, who counsels comics at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles, depression and bipolar disorder are more pervasive in comedians than in the general population. Psychologist helps comics Stand Up to Pressure, by Christopher Goffard, Richmond Times-Dispatch, November 10, 2014.
She has been counselling comics in the wake of William’s suicide. As the initial shock of his death wore off, anger took its place. More than that, Williams’ death unnerved many comics, in part because “Williams represented the pinnacle of talent and success in their field.”
“It’s scary because so many people think the answer to their happiness is going to be that kind of accomplishment. . . what if those things don’t make me happy?”
Sound familiar? This view is not limited to comics. Every day on Facebook I read post after post with inspirational messages that say much the same thing. Like this one, for example:
No, that’s not the right one. But it’s good, isn’t it? Try these instead:
Really? “Be Strong”? If only it were that easy! These are probably fine if you are not suffering from a medical problem such as depression.
Although affirmational messages can be a useful part of one’s cognitive therapy, affirmations alone are not going to “cure” depression. One needs a combination of the right meds, therapy and, in my opinion, a faith in God. The last part is optional if you don’t agree.
It appears that Robin Williams had been doing all these things — he was sober, he was taking his meds, and presumably he was going to therapy. (I don’t know about his feelings towards God). And yet, unfortunately, it was still not enough.
The one thing that I have learned on this journey is that these feelings are cyclical. Somedays you feel good, some days not so good. And for women, these feelings can be tied to the menstrual cycle. Unlike many women, I never tracked my cycle. It was unpredictable, so I didn’t bother. I just stayed prepared.
Every month, without fail, I would start to feel depressed at a certain point and feel like I wanted to die. It took me YEARS to associate these feelings with my impending period. Why did it take me so long to figure this out? Besides being stupid, you mean? I think it’s because each and every month, these feelings crept up and felt brand new. I never associated them with the same feelings I had the previous month. I felt like Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates.
(This is a sweet and funny movie if you accept it for what it is.)
|Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler in 50 First Dates, 2004
For years, people will analyze Robin Williams’ death and second-guess what happened, and what could have happened. The latest is that he was suffering from hallucinations due to Lewy Body Dementia.
But we will never know for sure.
For those of us still here, we must continue to perservere: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past
.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald
, The Great Gatsby
Maybe that’s not such a good quote. Try these instead:
When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all;
I’m on your side. When times get rough
And friends just can’t be found,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
“Bridge over Troubled Water,” by Paul Simon
(c) Paul Simon Music
Someone saved my life tonight, Sugar Bear . .
So save your strength and run the field you play alone
“Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” lyrics by Bernie Taupin
(c) 1976 Big Pig Music Limited
If you are feeling bad, call that person who is your bridge over troubled water. Let someone save your life tonight. Things always look brighter in the morning. I’m sure Elton John felt that way after John Baldry (Sugar Bear) saved his life.