De­pres­sion­takestal­ent­ed­man­far­toosoon

The Colonial - - OPINION - Cary Beavers

Each month I have to come up with a topic for this col­umn. Sounds easy, right? Well, some­times it is, and some­times it isn’t.

There are months when I know what I’m go­ing to write about days and weeks in ad­vance and when I sit down to write I have my 800 or so words of bril­liance to my edi­tor 20 min­utes later. Other times, well, it’s not so easy. I’m not a colum­nist who cov­ers the Ea­gles or Phillies or any other lo­cal sports team. Those I could spill out faster than a sneeze.

No, my par­tic­u­lar beat is, well, the world. I sup­pose I could write about the Ea­gles or the Phillies, but there’s noth­ing very col­umn-wor­thy go­ing on right now. I got an email yes­ter­day re­mind­ing me that this was my col­umn week. The pow­ers that be even give me an out. They tell me if I don’t have any­thing, they’d find some­thing to re­place me. But c’mon… once a month? I should be able to do that.

This time, I was stuck. This time, I al­most… al­most … told them to find another colum­nist. And then Robin Wil­liams died. I was a fan of Robin Wil­liams. Thought “Mrs. Doubt­fire” was lit­er­ally one of the fun­ni­est movies I’ve ever seen. The man oozed tal­ent. One minute he was on a ridicu­lous riff, com­pletely stream-of-con­scious­ness. The next, he was talk­ing about a se­ri­ous is­sue that was close to his heart.

His work re­flected that. He did silly come­dies (the afore­men­tioned “Mrs. Doubt­fire”), he did voiceovers for chil­dren’s movies (“Aladdin”) and he could turn se­ri­ous with a mo­ment’s no­tice (“Patch Adams” and var­i­ous other roles). I’m not here to rem­i­nisce about the great ca­reer of a man who left us much too soon. I’m not shed­ding a tear for him, though I’m cer­tainly not happy with the news. I have been known to cry at the death of some­one I’d not met or re­ally didn’t know (the day Rich Ash­burn died re­mains one of the more dif­fi­cult days of my life).

But what ul­ti­mately got Wil­liams, from all ac­counts, was a bat­tle with de­pres­sion. He lost. De­pres­sion is some­thing that, if you don’t have it, you have no idea what it’s about. We can Google can­cer and pretty much get an idea of how it works and how it kills. Same with count­less other dis­eases. Get­ting a hold on how de­pres­sion kills is more dif­fi­cult, like try­ing to put tooth­paste back in a tube.

I’ve been di­ag­nosed as clin­i­cally de­pressed. I dis­agree with the di­ag­no­sis, but who am I to do that? It ba­si­cally stemmed from many talks with ther­a­pists, talks that were born of a le­git­i­mate bat­tle with anx­i­ety. That is a lit­tle eas­ier to put your arms around, but only a lit­tle. Some­times I feel as though I’m what I like to call “locked.” Get­ting off the couch and feed­ing the dog feels as though some­one’s asked me to climb Mount Ever­est in flip-flops. I feel as if I just can’t do it.

But de­pressed? I never re­ally get that feel­ing. Even when I’m go­ing through an anx­i­ety at­tack — a nearly daily oc­cur­rence — I never get the feel­ing that things won’t get bet­ter. I’m still able to keep per­spec­tive, which I be­lieve is a big part of be­ing de­pressed or not be­ing de­pressed. I can still look at my wife, my chil­dren, my friends, my dog, my life and re­al­ize how lucky I am. Even if I am locked to the couch.

I am go­ing to stop us­ing the word de­pressed. It sat­u­rates its true mean­ing. Hear­ing Robin Wil­liams killed him­self be­cause he was de­pressed makes him sound weak, and though I never met the man, I’m bet­ting he was any­thing but weak. De­spite a seem­ingly close cir­cle, he felt as though things would not, could not, ever get bet­ter. No, from now on, when the Ea­gles lose, or if I’m hav­ing a gen­er­ally bad day, I’m go­ing to be bummed. I’m not go­ing to be de­pressed.

No­body says, “I feel can­cer­ous” when they wake up with a split­ting headache. That would be ridicu­lous. As it should be with peo­ple who throw the word “de­pressed” around like it’s any other ad­jec­tive. Any­thing that can kill a man gets its own word, one that shouldn’t be used to de­scribe any­thing else.

Most peo­ple prob­a­bly can’t wrap their hands around why some­one like Wil­liams — wealthy, pop­u­lar, en­joy­ing all the trim­mings that come with be­ing a movie star — would take his own life. Lots of folks are prob­a­bly say­ing, “I’d trade my life for his in a sec­ond.” My guess is if that were pos­si­ble, you’d trade back in un­der a sec­ond. Be­ing de­pressed — re­ally, truly, able-to-take-your-own­life de­pressed — is one of the worst things you can go through.

There’s no lot­tery or scratch off ticket to take away de­pres­sion. Sure, there’s med­i­ca­tion, but some­times that’s not enough. Some­times, the only way out is to re­move the cause of the de­pres­sion. Sadly, that’s what Robin­Williams did.

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