There's been a lot of my favourite famous people dying this year, and today's one seems to be making a bigger impact than most of them. Whilst others have been tragic and/or unexpected, the death of Robin Williams is beyond tragic - this is someone who WANTED to die, how could anyone ever think like that?
Well, we all know the answer, and it's a horrible answer but an answer none the less. It's depression, it's a big thing. Judging by the amount of things popping up all over the Internet today you'd think mental illness had only just been discovered today, but at least it's getting people talking about it, which is something that NEEDS to happen a lot more often. Geoff Lloyd of Absolute Radio fame did a remarkably frank piece on his usually-jovial show this evening, along with a big push for the Campaign Against Living Miserably, and that wasn't an isolated incident either. Here's another thing worth reading, better than any preachy eulogy could ever do:
Call this bandwagon-jumping if you will, but depression is ridiculously common, and the absolute best thing to do about it is to talk about it. This in itself is hard enough, in that it's so hard to explain exactly WHAT it is, without resorting to vague notions about chemical imbalances and crossed wires in the brain and suchlike. Here's as good an idea of it as I've ever read, and even that's alarmingly vague:
(and then read this one as well)
If you'll bear with me, I'm going to talk about my experiences with it now. To be fair, I'll delay publishing this until I've got my next "proper" article ready, so they'll both be there at once, should you happen to be one of those sick fucks who prefers to think that depression is a made-up disease.
I was diagnosed as depressed in 2007 (or "psychotic", to be precise). I was living with a bunch of friends at the time, and it was those friends who noticed that something wasn't right with me. It was them who staged the "intervention", them who made me go to the hospital, and them who cut off all ties with me once I was safely in the hands of the NHS. This is a thing that happens with mental illness - it scares people, and not just those who are stuck with it. Despite going through school with these people, as soon as I was deemed "not normal" in their eyes they were gone. People get scared, fine, but if you really want to call yourself a friend you should be there when things go wrong - if not you'll no doubt make things worse, so they did a great job there.
What followed was around three years of medication in varying dosages and strengths; countless sessions with a counsellor, a psychiatrist, a psychologist and several support workers; a somewhat terrifying CT scan; a few workshops which involved hanging around with other "disturbed" people of varying intensities; and lots and lots and lots of doing nothing. I got fat and slept a lot and most of those three years are a blur, but things gradually started picking up.
Spending more time at home naturally meant spending more time on the Internet, and I joined a forum. About six months after joining, there was talk on there of a meet-up, which I convinced myself to go along to somehow. There were more and more of these, and I went along to as many as I could, each time meeting new, like-minded people. People who today I count as among my best friends, and one of whom is my ultimate reliance. Whenever things are getting bad or at their absolute worst, she's there to listen, and that's enough. If everyone would just get their selfish heads out of the sand and LISTEN when someone's falling to pieces... Idealism etc. My rock doesn't like comics so she's not likely to read this, so at least I'm not embarrassing anyone here.
Something else happened about a year or so after getting involved with "Internet people" - I was offered a job. Nothing fancy, but a job, which gave a reason to get up in the mornings, and this was a big development. I was active and speaking to people everyday, I lost weight, built muscles, earned my own money. Eventually I decided to bin the tablets and cut myself off from the support workers, and even got out of the house and moved into a place of my own.
I was lucky, is what I'm saying. Or "am" lucky, whatever. But just like any illness, the effects are long-lasting, sometimes even permanent. I still get angry, still get miserable, still get hopeless. Only three weeks ago I was reasoning with myself how I'd prefer to be dead, whilst at the same time telling myself I'm too much of a coward to actually go through with it. Seven years ago this would've been dangerous, but now I'm surrounded by people who actually give a fuck, people who can tell when something's wrong and are there to give me a kick up the pants and send me in the right direction again. Where I am right now isn't perfect, far from it, but as long as there are people willing to listen, I'm happy with that. People deal with depression in many different ways, and my way mostly involves making sure there's enough distractions around to keep me from thinking about it, so there.
Let's get back to the comics now and pretend everything's fantastic again.