Hey, I'm Jason. I'm a chronically-ill-super-freedom-loving-medical-self-journalist.
A tear drop consists of … electrolytes and salt.
The chemistry of crying is not concerned with blame or fault.
Some days I struggle with writing the hard stuff. I sit here and, instead of writing, I cry. And while certainly cathartic, it’s harder to finish a post when I’m blubbering here in front of this screen. But cathartic it is, not to mention therapeutic. Hand me a tissue.
Last night, I felt sure today would be a day of loss and crying. How could anyone, really, not feel loss as a result of the news of Robin Williams?
I was a quirky kid: weird hair and shy. I wanted to be a big rig driver most of my young life—I would sit down during recess in 3rd grade and read International Truck brochures. Quirky. And so it was Robin Williams entered my life as Mork from Ork and, boom, there was a famous, funny, mostly confident guy from another planet making it here on Earth. If a guy who sat upside down in a chair could make it on our planet, well, so could a weird kid from Chicago. International trucker brochures and all.
Coinciding with last night’s news was the inevitable arrival of my daughter’s entrance today into public school as a kindergartener. Given the chance, I might’ve stolen my own daughter away into some far off land just to avoid the momentous occasion. It felt as if I was losing her.
An actor. A child. Lost. To me.
Of course, there are people who would say “get over it,” or “it’ll be fine.” I’ve already spoken about those people in this post. I know, in fact, it will be fine. But the emotions run strong and deep anyway. Isn’t that interesting? It is possible to “feel the fear and do it anyway.” Despite this, feeling, as a subject all its own, is not something we do very well.
Feeling loss ain’t easy, comparatively speaking.
But today’s losses feel like they’re going to be tomorrow’s wins, putting me at ease. My daughter, well, she’s winning big time. Her school is highly rated, her teachers and staff are amazing. Her life is advancing. My little baby is gone, but my awesome schoolgirl is here. I’m so lucky and thrilled to meet this new kid. So I’m winning, too.
But how do we, as a nation, find a win in the suicide of a man who saved us with laughter? I’m almost reluctant to say … but there’s a chance for a win in his passing. You see, awareness is a gift and we’re more aware today of mental illness than we have ever been (I hope). Depression, she’s a mean one, like my kidney disease or my grandfather’s heart attacks. The difference is awareness and understanding. So let me lay it out again.
Depression is an illness. It is fatal. It has no real cure, only deterrents. There are treatments, just like any other illness, done by doctors: MDs and PhDs and all those other honorarium acronyms of learning. These people are professionals. What’s more, patients aren’t faking it. Your sister’s friend from the hot dog shop isn’t just a quiet kid, she’s cutting her wrists when the pain from her depression is so great, only a blade feels better. I don’t disappear from writing this blog because I don’t like writing, or I’m too busy—I disappear for months on end because I can’t sit here and allow myself to write. Instead I’m laying on my bed.
I find relief. Yes, I take medication. No, I may never stop taking it. My life became complicated when I was very young and my brain has had enough of that damn sad input. I hear people say things like, “You can’t spend your life on antidepressants.” No? Who are these people? These armchair psychologists? Doesn’t matter. Depression is an illness and some illnesses require constant treatment. I can’t imagine, for even a moment, stopping my dialysis because I feel good while I’m doing it. Stopping that which provides relief because of someone else’s idea about how I should spend my life? How obtuse.
How many gifts did Robin Williams give us? I suppose, really, the answer is beyond our comprehension. He worked hard to give us humans freedom. He gave us laughter and sincerity and generosity. And, finally, as he exited, he gave us a chance to understand a misunderstood illness. One final gift.
Depression is real, folks. It’s time we started helping those who are ill. It’s time we came out of the closet and yelled from the mountaintops, “I’m sad. I’m alive! Help me.” Because our children are growing and our actors are dying, and because there’s no shame in sadness. The sooner we allow ourselves to be sad, to allow others to be sad, that’s the day—I’m almost certain—when we start being … happier.
Finally, regarding Mr. Williams, I have only one other thing to say: Shazbat.
And a couple of pieces of business. I don’t own that image of an International Truck – it came from http://www.internationaltrucks.com