O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up–for you the flag is flung–for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths–for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning…
My heart is heavy today, as are many of yours, at least on this side of the world. A great light has gone out. A voice has been stilled. Though we know that the moments we have with the people who elevate their art to a professional level–making so many of us laugh, or think, or escape our mundane little lives for and hour and a half while they give us a good show–it’s still a shock when they are gone.
Robin Williams made so many people laugh. My best friend Ryan put it best, “It makes me so sad that he died from being so sad.” It’s hard to fathom the depth of that sadness, for most of us.
Part of experiencing human life is feeling the emotion of depression. For most of us, that’s how we experience it–an emotion. But for some of our brothers and sisters in this life, depression is a disease.
Depression is as serious as cancer, or heart disease, or a variety of metabolic dysfunctions. And just like all those other illnesses, depression can be terminal, even with a great treatment plan, even with lots of support, even when things seem to be going in the right direction. Just like massive heart attacks after years of clean eating and good exercise, or a relapse after extensive remission, or a devastating little infection that won’t clear up with any medicine known to exist. And that sucks. It’s brutal and scary and hard. But it’s true. And unless and until we stop pretending that depression is something someone can help having, something someone has control over, we will continue to have people we love, famous and ordinary and next door, die from it.
We have to stop talking about how people who die from depression are selfish. You’d never say that about someone who died from a brain tumor. We have to stop shaming people for taking appropriate pharmaceutical steps to treat depression, and from seeking professional counseling. You would never say that about someone who needed to take insulin, or a blood thinner to stay alive. We have to make mental healthcare check-ups as important as our yearly physicals–and they should be affordable for everyone, including and especially children. Most importantly, we have to be willing to talk to the people in our lives we are concerned about–we must not wait until they start acting out. Don’t put the burden on someone who’s hurting to come and talk to you. Think of it like being aware at the airport–if you see something, say something. And for the love of little green apples, be kind and loving.
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, please know that you are not as alone as you feel. You are not stuck. You are amazing. You are beloved. Your place in the world–who you are and how you are–is holy, and important. You give joy in ways you cannot imagine. People are praying for you, right now. People are loving you, right down to your toes, right now. Good things are coming. Hold on. You can do it, and all the people who love you want to help, in good and kind ways. Your friends at thedailycake.org are grateful that you read this, and if you want to email any of us to talk about your stories, or to reach out for more information on how you or someone you love can begin recovery, please contact us by following the links on our “About Us” page.
Robin Williams…you were a piece of my happy early childhood, with your lovable alien Mork, clips of stand up I was probably too young to really appreciate, star in some of my most favorite movies, and the best James Lipton interview I’ve ever seen…may you rest in peace, and rise in glory.