Note: this post talks about depression, self harm and suicide. You might not want to read it if you’re in a low frame of mind.
Yesterday morning I woke up to the news, on Twitter, that Robin Williams had died. It soon became apparent that he’d taken his own life, and everywhere I looked – on Facebook, Twitter, Buzzfeed, Tumblr – I saw tributes to his life pouring in. I read all of these sitting in bed, getting later for work, with a knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat. I couldn’t imagine what he’d gone through in making that decision, because I didn’t have to. I’ve been there myself.
I can’t claim to know exactly what Williams thought of course – depression is such an individual illness that it would be impossible to say for definite why I think he thought suicide was the only option. But I can understand why he thought it. When I tried to kill myself after a bad break-up in a middle of a period of chronic depression (diagnosed, for all the good that did) I was convinced that it was the best thing for my family. My mother was seriously ill with a debilitating condition that continues to affect her now, my stepfather was dealing with his own health problems while looking after her, my sister had borne the brunt of school yard bullying for years purely because she had (slightly weird, very clever, bookish) me as a sister, and on top of it all there was me to worry about. And why? I was worthless, ugly and stupid. If I wasn’t around they wouldn’t have to worry about me anymore. They could look after themselves and not constantly wonder if I was depressed, if I was self harming. I knew they’d be upset but I figured they’d get over it. That life would be much better for them if I simply didn’t exist anymore.
In hindsight all of that was ridiculous. My family and friends would have been gutted if my attempt had actually worked. They may have been able to live with it but I don’t know if they would have got over it. I’m glad I’m still here and even though sometimes the paranoia makes me doubt it, I know they are too. But I still live with depression and the fear that I might succumb to it again. It got bad two years ago (self harming, self hating, constant suicidal thoughts) but luckily I recognised what was happening, went to see my (incredibly – surprisingly – understanding) GP and began taking medication. Two years later I’m still on them and I’m back to being me again. I’m one of the lucky ones though, in that meds have worked for me this time. They don’t always work straight away and sometimes they never work at all. In that circumstance I honestly don’t know what I’d do, but I suspect like Robin Williams I’d make the decision, sooner or later, to end it.
I rarely talk about my mental health problems on this blog, though I have written about them elsewhere. Since Williams died though I’ve seen conversations starting, people sharing their experiences, people becoming perhaps a bit more understanding. I wanted to add my story to their voices in the hope that maybe now people will see depression for the illness that it really is.