UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young
• Smile though your heart is aching, smile even though it’s breaking…
– John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons
A hero is defined as a person admired for great acts of courage or someone with fine qualities. Robin Williams was certainly admired for his greatness and fine qualities, but what of brave acts? We often think of heroes as people who have risked their life to save another or shown bravery when under attack from enemies.
The enemies of Robin Williams were the demons within – the inner voices that told him he was garbage, he was nothing. The demons were depression and anxiety, not the devil or psychosis. The substance abuse was an attempt to escape the pain, but that only made things worse. He was not depressed because he had addiction problems; he had substance issues because he had severe depression.
Unless one has experienced severe depression, it is impossible to imagine how utterly painful it can be. Sometimes, it is so severe that all kinds of antidepressant medications are tried and nothing works. During a major depressive episode, the world transforms into a dark place. Things that were positive before no longer seem so.
The depressed person may believe that everyone – especially loved ones – would be better off without them. There is no comfort or pleasure and nothing seems worth living for. The person has no hope they will ever feel better. They continue to rewrite history and experience the past as confirmation that nothing was good and never will be.
Robin Williams lived with this kind of depression yet he put his heart, soul, creativity and genius into his work. He made us laugh. He was kind, gentle, sweet and considerate. He was involved in dozens of charities.
This is where I see the heroism. He kept on going, making people laugh and helping others despite his pain. He did not dwell on it. He did not allow it to be an excuse to withdraw from life. He put his focus on giving to others.
Sometimes that is the only thing to do. Regardless of how terrible we feel, there is always something we can do for others. A day in which we have given of ourselves to others is a day not wasted.
Robin Williams was an extraordinary man. He suffered extraordinary pain. He fought his battle long and hard. For decades, he did not give up. He used his life – even though at times he may have devalued it – to bring good into the world.
Finally, too battle weary to continue, he took his final bow. The impact of his death reverberates around the world and has everyone talking and learning about depression. This may be his greatest legacy.
So what do we take from this? We all may experience depression at times in our lives. Just because we feel crummy does not mean we are crummy. It is okay to admit we are struggling and to seek help. It is not a shameful thing to be in therapy, in rehab or to be taking antidepressant medication.
We learn that the best defence can be a strong offence. If you are feeling down, get up and do something for someone else. Put your focus on helping others. The worst thing you can do is to focus on how depressed you are. Curling up in bed only surrounds you in a cocoon of darkness. For most, the depression will pass.
If you have severe, chronic depression, keep seeking help. You do not have to deal with it alone. Getting support can help keep you going. Let others in and let them be there for you. Yours too is a hero’s journey. Stay strong like Robin did for so long.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, Deep Powerful Change Hypnosis CDs and new “Creating Healthy Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca.