Robin Williams and Mental Illness

I was going to write a fun and upbeat blogpost today about the food I had in Barcelona, but then I found out about Robin Williams’ death this morning, and that hit me quite hard. It’s not like I was a massive fan of his work or anything. I think he was an amazing actor and comedian, and really one of a kind, but that’s not why I’m so sad right now. At first I couldn’t really figure it out, but then I talked to my mother and we talked about how he suffered from depression and bipolar disorder. Just like a lot of people in my family. My mother then said: “People like that somehow always feel a bit like family.”

And that was exactly it. It hit close to home.

Not only did the death of this amazingly talented and heartwarming person shock me enormously, it also brought to the surface my own confrontations with depression, both direct and indirect. I’ve been afraid of having bipolar disorder since I was a young teenager and first learned about it and the effect this illness has had on my family. It hasn’t stopped me from living my life in any way, but every once in a while I have these days when I feel this surge of fear in my stomach. “What if I have it too?” Today is such a day. It frightens me to think about it, so I usually don’t, but I couldn’t ignore it today. I know firsthand what this illness (and mental illness in general) can do to people, and it makes me so sad to think we’ve lost another great person to it yesterday.

I’ve been crying on and off during the day, and at first that felt silly, since I didn’t know Mr Williams myself, but I realised it’s about much more than that. I cried for my family, I cried for all the people I know that are or have been battling with mental illness (and sadly I know a lot of them), and I cried for the many people out there who feel like they’re alone. There is still this huge stigma, and we desperately need to get rid of it.

You’re not alone. No one is. There was a time I felt like I was all alone, but I now know I’m not. There are so many people out there who are suffering from depression, but are too scared or embarrassed to put that lable on it, thinking people will judge them or won’t understand. It’s not about other people, though. Fuck them. It’s about you, and about you getting better. I realised this after a while, and made the decision to tell my parents I thought I might be sick and I felt I needed to talk to a psychologist. So I did. I told my parents — they were proud of me. Then I visited a psychologist, and it helped me. I feel more confident and better about myself than ever before. Yes, I still have my bad days, but so does everyone else.

This got a lot more personal than I thought it was going to be, but that’s okay. I’m not ashamed of my sadness or fears or anything else. Neither should anyone else be. Please get help if you think you need it. It helps. Honestly.

RIP Robin Williams.