(originally appeared on my blog at Bubblews Sparky on Bubblews )
This morning when I woke up early to take my dog, Riley to the vet, I decided to check my Facebook while getting my morning beverage.
I noticed my cousin had posted a picture of her and 4 of my other cousins and I of course, liked it. She then sent me a message that shocked me. My cousin, the youngest one in the photo hung himself last night. He was 27 years old. I didn’t know him really; the last time I saw him he was barely forming sentences but I did hear of him and see photos of him through our mutual family. I am guessing he struggled with depression as so many of do. When I reviewed a few of his Facebook photos, it was evident that he didn’t seem to be a happy young man. He was found in his parents’ basement by either my aunt or uncle or both. I cannot imagine how traumatizing this was (is) for them and even though I haven’t seen that part of my family in many years, my heart just breaks for them.
We’ve all been reading in our news feeds and seeing tributes to the late great Robin Williams since his untimely death on August 11 and despite the sadness of losing such a great actor, it is bringing the epidemic of “Depression” to the forefront. People are talking about it. The biggest impact that Williams death has made on people is ‘how could someone who can make so many people happy be depressed?’ It’s a valid question; but most people do not understand the psychology behind comedy and people pleasing.
I suffer from depression, clinical, medicated, sometimes can’t get out of bed, depression. I have since I was a child. I’ve always been very lonely and felt isolated due to my over protective yet stand offish parents. I had a full blown anxiety disorder by the time I was in the 1st grade. I didn’t find help until I went to university and was referred to someone through counseling. Of course, I actually sought out help when many people don’t or simply don’t know where to begin.
I’m also the people pleaser/ mediator type personality which is often a trait carried by many only children. (It’s important to note I am/was an only child until I was 13, at this point my parents re- married people with children from a previous marriage, so I inherited 3 step brothers) My parents fought a lot, they both suffered with depression and addictions (although they will deny this) so I always tried to “cheer them up” “snap them out of it” “switch their focus” tried to make it better. One way to do this was through humor.
Humor has this uncanny ability to do remarkable things for our body and spirit. If you use it properly and at appropriate times, it is a great diffuser of situations; tense, scary, over emotional situations. I’ve often heard people say to me, “thanks for the laugh Sam, I needed that.” In fact, I post ridiculous things and share nutty stuff sometimes in hopes that somewhere, one of my friends or followers will have a chuckle and for one brief moment in time, feel good.
I think the role of Patch Adams came easily to Robin Williams. I think he understood this personally. He was able to identify with the character easily because he knew this from firsthand experience. Many who knew him have been quoted as saying how kind he was and when they were down, he was often there cheering people up, helping people quietly behind the scenes.
Another thing with humor and depression is that it can be a great deflector. You can mask your own pain in a joke or an act. People don’t have to get to know the real you because you can hide it well. A good sense of humor can also be a result of loneliness. As a teenager, I never really fit in with any particular group. I never felt accepted but rather on the outside looking in. Humor was a great way to break that social barrier for me. It still is.
It’s not surprising that many comedians end up going down the same route; loneliness, depression then suicide leaving people behind wondering why.
I don’t even know if my cousin had a good sense of humor or not. My uncle (his father) was my favorite uncle when I was little. He was always laughing and being goofy, I can only imagine he must have inherited some of that. I do know this though:
We are losing too many people to this affliction, disease, illness, whatever you want to classify it as, it doesn’t really matter; it’s affecting people daily and leaving behind people shaking their heads because they never knew and if they did, didn’t know what to do.
Is it because we just don’t pay enough attention to one another? You have to admit, we have become obsessed with our gadgets and the internet to the point that it’s rare to even have a face to face conversation with anyone. It’s usually via text, social media, or you find yourself in a room with someone who has their head down the entire time you’re with them. How is anyone supposed to reach people these days when we live in such a toss away, multi tasking, everything is temporary, emotionally unavailable society?
It’s no wonder people are feeling more desperate and lonely than ever before when we find ourselves competing with several things and/or people at once to have a simple conversation with one human being.
We really need to get back to basics in this world if we are to ever make it. It seems we need to learn all over again how to connect, ACTUALLY connect with other human beings, how to be social, how to be compassionate, kind and selfless. Maybe we needed someone high profile to make a statement in order for the world to examine how we treat one another. This could be one last final gift from him to us.
To my fellow people suffering in depression, remember there will be good days and sometimes those good days can make up for a dozen bad ones. Depression comes in cycles often broken up with periods of what some refer to as “normalcy” or what I refer to as “remission” so if you can recognize that this is indeed one of those times, remember it will be followed by good times. My heart goes out to my Aunt and Uncle through this enormously difficult time. My heart also goes out to anyone out there who is thinking about suicide as an option and to plea to you, remember those you will leave behind, think of the impact on your loved ones, your friends and those who know you.
Rest in Peace my young cousin; I hope you’re not lonely anymore…
Live Humbly, Be Charitable, Live Graciously,
Image borrowed from http://galleristny.com/2012/05/sothebys-hauls-in-330-6-m-as-munch-scream-soars/