Let’s chat about mental illness. Not the typical Hollywoodification of the mentally ill, nothing of that sort. Let’s talk about the real mental illness that eats away at the very soul of human beings. The monster inside that can’t be controlled, that can’t be kept at bay — the one that constantly gnaws away and is a grindstone whittling down to a broken stump. Making human beings not unique beautiful creatures but fleshy bags that would just as soon embrace nothingness before beauty.
After Robin Williams’ suicide, I had a whirlwind of emotion about such a wonderful and brilliant comic, a man I had never met but was most certainly a part of my life. I knew that he had his demons — he spoke very openly about them — but I always felt that comedy was the key to keep them at bay. But once one perceives that the coping mechanism no longer works, it seems to be very easy to give into the darkness.
Humor is such an interesting beast. The more jokes I make, the more detached from the pain I become. I am depressed. I have suffered from depression for as long as I can remember. And the only way I can cope is with humor. Detachment and humor is the easiest mechanism to cope with sadness and while there’s nothing wrong with that, I wonder if that is the refuge of the exhausted or if it actually does help.
There is something to be said about bringing joy to others. Legitimate joy, as in making someone laugh so hard they cry. In a way, that crying is cathartic. If I can’t cry myself and let that out, making other people cry laughing is a release.
I’ve done some pretty horrible things to myself recently that I don’t really can get into. I know what triggered it — my car was ran off the road on the Garden State Parkway and I lost control, crashing into the woods. My car ended up okay with a big old dent in the bumper, and while I was physically fine, something wasn’t quite right. As the car was spiraling out of control (a great metaphor! I should write that down and use it for a story or something) I felt absolutely nothing. In that moment, I was okay with dying. And it scared the ever living hell out of me when I realized that.
At the same time, though, it woke me up. Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom before making your way back to the top. At the very least, you get too exhausted to continue digging.
That’s where I’m at.
I was told once that humor is a way for people to be loved without actually being loved. In other words, it is an attempt to gain hollow acceptance with your peers rather than forming real bonds. I do not feel that this is true, but I can see where that opinion could be formed. For all the wonderful people who suffer from depression who are also funny and cannot see the goodness in themselves, perhaps there is something to that. Like the class clown in school, always making people laugh but also always getting in trouble.
I like to think when I’m really depressed that I’m playing life on a higher difficulty level. That the game is harder for me and all the other people who suffer from depression and that makes us stronger. For all of our relationships that have suffered and opportunities that we have missed because of our disease we still truck on and survive. There is an honorable strength to that, a sort of meaning despite feeling meaningless and passed by.
A lot of people I know posted on social media after Robin Williams’ suicide that if you are feeling sad or depressed to get help. But why does the discussion have to happen only upon viewing tragedy? If you see someone suffering or dealing with internal anguish, why don’t you tell them to get help out of legitimate concern for the person rather than platitudes after the fact?
But that’s fine. Many will never be able to understand what it’s like. And that’s okay too. Because everyone has their own battles and struggles and in the end the only thing that matters is that we end up getting through it.