A few days ago now, the world was shocked to hear of Robin Williams' passing by depression. I don't know what its like to live with depression but it does affect some of the most important people in my life.
Similar to diabetes, depression is an 'invisible' disease that can show no outward obvious physical symptoms. And for some reason, because people can't see these symptoms, they think its ok to have a very wrong, ill-informed opinion of what it's like to have depression, anxiety, diabetes or similar and think that that opinion is right.
Horrible misconceptions have been said about Robin Williams' 'choice' to die. I read a few articles, including this one by Tom Clempson, explaining how suicide can be seen from a person with depressions point of view, and how society and the media can have it very very wrong. Suicide shouldn't be seen as a selfish 'choice' by the person affected by depression. Tom puts it clearly –
“Robin Williams didn't die from suicide, he died from depression. It wasn't his choice to suffer that”.
Dealing with diabetes, that is something I can understand. Like diabetes, depression is not an illness you choose to have, and like diabetes, there is no magic button that switches it off to allow you to enjoy life without the burden of your health problems; whatever they may be, whether physical or mental.
So when Robin Williams passed, I called someone whom I love very dearly, someone who had been and is being affected by depression. I had nothing that I could say about it, and no reason to call, other than knowing this news was far more than an interesting bit of gossip to them. In the end I didn't ask, because certain factors involving the flu made me think that whilst someone is dealing with the flu, probably not the best time to make them think about emotions, and emotions and sore throat is probably not helpful. So instead, I decided to educate myself on what depression can mean for a person with it. I might have no idea what it feels like if anyone ever talks about it with me, but it doesnt stop my ears from listening and doesnt stop that someone (or some people) knowing that I care about them and will do whatever I can to help them feel ok.
To all the beautiful people in my life, who are battling depression or have been affected by it: You inspire me with your bravery and courage to fight.