We truly never understand the journey someone else is traveling and the fight they make to keep a balance toward well-being. We can never flippantly assume another soul has “it made” or that their struggles are not important…look inside your heart…the pain of your own struggle is not too different to the person standing near by -no matter how often they smile, laugh or even joke to hide the devastation they feel.
Please be aware that my friend uses language in this piece that you may not use and that I do not use in my blogs. I understand if you prefer not to continue from this point. The vulnerability he shares shows an inside view to the struggle for wholeness. Please visit Reggie’s Blog for the original posting.
I offer my condolences to Robin Williams’ family. I will miss his gift- he made me laugh and smile so many times through the years. He was one of my favorites. My heart is sad to hear of this loss and sad that his heart was so broken.
Over to Regie Hamm:
THE FINE MADNESS …
Posted : 08/12/2014 5:18:14 PM
The doctor looked across his desk at me and asked bluntly, “how many times have you attempted suicide?”
I just stared back at him.
“What are you talking about?” I replied, like a teenager trying to play off getting caught smoking in the bathroom.
He pressed, “Look, I know you’ve at least thought about it. But most likely you’ve actually attempted it. No one I’ve ever treated, with lithium levels as low as yours, has escaped it. Young man, you have very serious clinical depression …and you have had it for years.”
Finally, I broke down and admitted that I’d had the gun out as a teenager and I’d had the bath drawn and the blades ready in my early 20′s. But I’d never actually followed through. I backed out the first time because I didn’t want to hurt my mother like that. I backed out the second time because the pizza (I forgot I had ordered) arrived. It was literally THAT random.
I’ve battled clinical depression my entire adult life. When I was younger, people said I was “moody”. I’ve been called everything from lazy to arrogant, due to my penchant for disappearing inside myself and withdrawing from the world.
I was actually told once that I used “depression” (in air quotes) as an excuse to be an asshole. That one kind of stung …I won’t lie.
Depression is one of those words that is overused and one of those disorders that is all too often “self” diagnosed. “I’m battling depression” is an easy thing to say to get the world off your back, when maybe you just really don’t want to do something. I’ve never tried to use depression as an excuse to shut down. I find it annoying and kind of weak to do that. My grandfather didn’t have time or luxury to be depressed and self-absorbed …he was too busy laying bricks all day to feed his family.
But the truth is depression is real and it can shut you down. As much as I hate to use it as a crutch, I know when I’m “going in.” John Lennon referred to it as “the trough” …I know exactly what he meant. Those who think depression is a direct correlation to your circumstances don’t really understand what it is.
To be honest, my depression has been at bay for the last 12 years for several reasons, but one of the main reasons is MY LIFE HAS BEEN HARD for the last 12 years. Hard times don’t necessarily bring on bouts of depression for those who really suffer from it. Sometimes, tough situations call you into focus and keep you engaged in life in a very healthy way. I’ve found myself spinning into the trough during some of the happiest moments of my life …I never understood that.
I’m lucky, in a sense, because what I do for a living is sort of constant therapy for me. Some people have urged me to write more books and and write less music but the truth is music actually has a healing property for me. I need it to sustain. Making a living at it is just a by-product.
The weirdest things can set off a bout of depression. The way someone looks at you at the grocery store; a song on the radio; an ill-timed phone call from the wrong person. Often the progression goes something like this:
She walks up to me after a show and says, “I love your music. You’re so talented. I hope you make it big one day.” Normally, not one of those phrases will bother me. In fact, 99% of the time I’m completely humbled by any compliment. But that last thing she said gets me thinking, on the drive home …and the voices start …”I hope you make it big someday.” Doesn’t she know that I’ve made it big? Like a couple of times already? Of course not. She doesn’t spend her life following me and my career. Why should she? People don’t do that. They have lives.
But my own inferior patterns keep me grounded in this constant struggle. It’s not about making it big. I don’t care about that. It’s about something I can’t seem to change about myself. I’m trapped in this shell forever. The weight …the alcohol …the things I will never conquer …they keep me in prison. I’m so tired. I wish I could re-set everything. But I’ll still be me if I do …and I’ll eventually mess it all up again. There’s no way out of this. I’m tired.
My wife and kids would probably be better off without me. I bring them down on far too many days. I can’t get out of this hole. I just want to lay in bed. I don’t want to brush my teeth. I don’t want to talk to anybody. I need space and time. No one knows the wars I fight. The terrible wars …in my own head. But those people and things I fight with are as real as anything I can touch. The voices won’t shut up. They keep goading me and telling me things I don’t want to hear. They wear me down until I’m numb.
Now, I can’t feel anything. That idiot who told me happiness was choice is full of shit. I can’t control the fact that I feel so heavy I can barely walk. My body actually hurts from trying to function. That over-zealous Christian keeps telling me to just “rest in Jesus”. I have no fucking idea what that means. It’s some kind of platitude I can’t actually put into action. Does it mean lay down and pray or get in a recliner and read the bible? I don’t know. This pain is almost unbearable. People say they “need” me but the truth is we’re all alone here. We’re all the stars of our own movies. I just need the voices to be quiet. I need the noise to end. I hate music. I hate my own voice. I hate my songs.
I can’t change any of it – I’m stuck in this body with this brain forever. Can I end it? Is there an off-ramp? Pills would be painless. I could just swerve over into the oncoming lane. It would be easy …
Then my phone rings …and I’m back.
That’s how easily an off-handed compliment can send someone with depression over the edge. You shouldn’t stop complimenting people. You shouldn’t stop being kind. The point is for someone with the chemical issue, anything and everything can be a trigger. Someone asking me for directions can be the breaking point. Ironically, someone telling me I suck usually has no effect on me whatsoever. See, I know I don’t suck so that’s easy to dismiss. It’s weird and hard to explain.
I obviously don’t know the details of Robin Williams’ situation. I don’t know what his triggers were. But I do know that clinical depression is real. I’ve managed mine with exercise, diet and an absolute passionate love for my children. At this point in my life I would never do something to them like committing suicide. But I completely understand someone getting so far inside that they can’t reason. If you add drugs and alcohol to that, you have a recipe for disaster.
Robin gave the world joy, but I’m certain he never gave it to himself. Most of us who create use it as a vehicle for escape. His great comedic genius was born out of some great pain somewhere …that will probably never be obvious to the world. He fought for a lot of years to manage it. Some people simply can’t turn off the dark voices and one day they simply listen one minute too long. In that moment, it doesn’t matter if you’re in a mansion, staring at your Academy Award …you will feel hopeless, useless and you will be powerless. Robin Williams, the man who knew all the right things to say, more than likely found himself there.
I am certain I will never kill myself. I’ve gotten to a great place in my life. I’ve had many, MANY conversations with myself about it. I’ve leveled out my chemistry in a lot of ways. I’ve leveled out my psyche in a lot of ways. I’ve been given the gift of some amazing causes to live for. It’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about Angelman Syndrome and adoption. I see a great design in my having been thrown into the deep water of both those things. In short, I’ve got some great reasons to live …and I intend on doing just that.
But for those who can’t quiet the voices, I urge you to call a friend. Go to a movie. Get out of bed one more time and take a drive someplace. Go to the humane shelter and hold puppies. Go to the maternity ward of a hospital and stare at newborns. Fight for another day. Turn this curse into a gift, somehow. Put down the sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Put on some running shoes and try to get a mile away from the pain. Do whatever you can do …and don’t let the bastard win.
Thank you, Regie, for sharing your journey. I appreciate the truth you have shared. Much love from my heart to yours!