I was supposed to write something funny. But then Robin Williams’ death put me into a state of such sadness that humour simply seem inappropriate.
I was never a fan, mainly because I am not a fan of anyone in general. I appreciate talent and I respect talented people in absolutely all fields of work. I am not much of a movie goer so my “favourite” actors are mostly the handsome ones, if you know what I mean.
I saw some of Mr. Williams’ movies in the past and yes, he was one brilliant actor. His comedies always made me laugh, really really laugh. One fine comedian, he was. So, thank you for the laughter, Mr. Williams.
Yesterday, the entire online world was mourning his death but I couldn’t help noticing the silver lining. My Facebook news feed was pouring with articles about depression, which almost never happens. Mr. Williams’ death raised awareness on depression and as sad as his death is, the outcome is priceless. No death is in vain if something good is made out of it.
Depression still carries a stigma which makes it difficult opening about it. Here, in London, I find it easier but back home in Romania people still fight it with the power of their minds. It is a shame to call it quits and go see a doctor about it, which I think is both primitive and dangerous.
I had depression for more than fifteen years, before finally turning to a doctor for help, in February 2013. I started medication and my life changed for the better. I made all the process public in my circle back in Romania. I would tell about it to everyone for one sole purpose: to raise awareness.
I was pitied, considered crazy, warned that I would get fat or become a vegetable (urban legends about antidepressants) but I didn’t care. I was in a mission and I still am. I wanted to show people how your life can change once you treat your medical condition. They knew the before-the-meds Lavinia and they could enjoy the after-the-meds Lavinia. They could see the difference and decide for themselves.
Here is what happy pills did to me:
1. My brain is quiet. I can keep a train of thoughts running long enough to make sense.
2. The fear and panic are gone. I was permanently in a state of panic, without a particular reason. I would wake up in the middle of the night terrified I was supposed to do something and I didn’t.
3. I get to actually sleep. Like real sleep, you know, the whole routine: put yourself into bed, fall asleep, wake up in the morning. For 15 years my sleep was weird: insomnia, sleep talking, sleep walking.
4. I am calm. All the time. I don’t freak out anymore, not even in my mind. Everything has a solution. If I don’t see it right away, I look for it.
5. I notice things like the smell of grass, the shape of clouds, how the sun beams fall on the leaves of a tree. And they give me butterflies. And I stop to look at them. To enjoy them. I would have never done that before.
6. I used to do everything compulsive, because I was forcing exciting things onto myself. Only the excitement of new things would keep my depression at a reasonable level: I was eating, shopping, dating, having sex, partying, travelling in a compulsive manner. Now I do everything when and if I feel like it. Like any human being should.
7. I’ve been in hell. Nothing I have ever read on depression can describe even remotely how it actually feels to be in that place. Your mind is not yours anymore, it’s like something else takes over and you try not to obey. It is the most cruel of battles, your brain against yourself. And some lose it. I give my full support to people turning to me when fighting depression because I know how lonely it can feel to be there and because I now know what to tell them. Don’t tell them “try harder”. It is dangerous. Instead, tell them “give it some time, be a bit patient”. It makes a whole lot of difference.
8. When on happy pills, life is not all bright and fun. I still get sad, I still get upset, I still experience PMS. What changed, is how I deal with hardship. For example, my boss telling me off is not the end of the world anymore. My friend not returning my call doesn’t mean she hates me. Bottom line, nothing is out of proportions.
9. Leaving the bed, going out, calling friends, making supper are not extraordinary difficult things to do anymore. Now, not doing them are choices or just me being lazy. Contemplating the moment I’ll have to do one of them doesn’t bring despair and panic into my heart, like it did between 1995 – 2012.
10. I am a better person. I am a better sister and a better friend. I am at peace with the world and with myself, still struggling to come to terms with my past, while trying to be a positive influence in people’s life.
Last but not least, now, when I am reading articles like this, this, this, or this I know what they mean. And I share them on Facebook and on Twitter, hoping more people will read them and share them, to raise awareness on depression. You should do the same. It would make Robin Williams smile, I think.