This post is going to be a little more serious that what you have become accustomed to from me. Yeah, I’ve done one or two serious ones over the years, but this one hits close to home for me.
Robin Williams was a hero to me.
He fought addiction and alcoholism. He fought severe depression.
In the midst of it all, he brought incredible joy and happiness and laughter to millions and millions of people. I can’t even imagine what it took for him to hold that inside of himself and be an entertainer. And the level of entertainer he was, at that.
It’s hit close to home to me because I fight with alcoholism and depression myself and I don’t know if I could hide that inside of me in order to entertain.
It has long been my opinion that alcoholism will never be a SINGLE diagnosis for someone. What that means is, it will always present with something else. Whether it be with depression or any other mental disorder, nobody, in my opinion, is JUST an alcoholic. There is something underneath that feeds it. I can speak to any other mental disorders, so I’m just going to speak to depression since I’m all too familiar with that one.
As for alcoholism, there is always a trigger. For some, it’s being around others that are drinking. For others, it’s the smell. Some still, it’s even smaller and harder to identify. An ad for a new booze on TV or passing down the beer aisle in the grocery store.
It’s not any of those for me. It’s severe depression. And without some aggressive treatment, there isn’t a goddamn thing I can do about it. The pattern has been the same for me always. A wicked drinking binge always comes with some kind of traumatic event in my life. Sometimes they are even GOOD traumatic events, but the unfamiliarity of it makes me curl back up inside myself. There have been the loss of jobs, loss of wives, loss of friends. All the usual life event crap that an ordinary person deals with and moves on.
I’ve heard all the arguments.
“Just don’t drink.”
“Just don’t buy it and you won’t have it to drink.”
“It’s all just willpower.”
“You’re just weak.”
The willpower one is my favorite. You see, there is no willpower.
The word is compulsion – “an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one’s conscious wishes.”
Let me describe the process for you that goes on in my mind. I’m at the store and I see the beer or liquor. I KNOW in my mind that I can’t have it. I KNOW it will change me and cause me to do things that the normal Eric won’t do. Act like an asshole, say things I shouldn’t and make me make poor decisions. I consciously know these things. I reach in and grab it anyway, take it to the checkout and it goes home with me. It’s all over then but cracking the seal and once it’s in me, I’m no longer me. Once that happens, the spiral begins. I am not a “normal drinker”. I don’t have 2 beers and call it a night. I have beers until they are gone, and then I find more. I am no longer in control of my own faculties at that point and I’m nearly impossible to stop.
I’ve been in bloody fights with best friends and have no memory of the incident or why the fight even started. I’ve said things to friends that ruined the friendships and to this day have no idea what I said.
All because I couldn’t stop the compulsion to reach in and grab that beer from the cooler when I knew better. It’s the compulsion that we need to figure out how to stop.
People that check their doors 10 times at night to make sure they are all locked and people that wash their hands 100 times a day . . .
There is a very good reason they aren’t diagnosed with “Obsessive Willpower Disorder”. The word compulsion was put in there for a very good reason.
Now, I’ve wandered away from the depression a bit. As far as we know at this point, this is a chemical imbalance in the brain. We think we know how to stabilize it but I’m losing faith in that as well. Every day we see new commercials on TV for the next new depression medication. I’ve even seen one medication that you can take in conjunction with another medication in case the first one isn’t working good enough. The most disturbing thing I see is that many of them list one of their side effects as “suicidal thoughts”. I don’t know about you, but common sense to me indicates that as being somewhat counterproductive. I also see side effects such as a reduction in sex drive. I sort of think that might cause someone that doesn’t suffer from depression to BECOME depressed.
We need more research. A HELL of a lot more research, because there are a HELL of a lot of depressed people out there. When you are standing in line at the grocery store with 10 people, 1 of them is suffering from some sort of depression. When you’re in a crowd of 100 people, 3 of them is suffering from severe depression. If I’m there, one of them is me.
The reason I wrote this is two-fold. One, the death of Robin Williams and the way he chose to leave us both shocked me and sort of woke me up. I am going through a rather major change in my life right now and this does tend to spark the depression in me. At a time when I should be moving forward and getting new and exciting things together, I shy away and want to hide. Slowly, I pick things up and get them done, but the effort it requires just to move is sometimes exhausting. As time moves forward, the eventual pace will come back and things will move into more of a routine. As I find new work, get things done at the VA hospital that I’ve been putting off for years and start investigating my opportunities to go back to college, things will start to feel more “normal”.
The Eric that you have come to know is still here. Sometimes I just need to hide for a little while to collect my senses. Hopefully someday someone will find the answer I need to not hide anymore. To not have the compulsion anymore. I still have hope that it will happen.
I only wish the answer had been found before Mr. Williams made the decision that he did.
I will share this one quick story about him before I end this. I once, very briefly, met Robin Williams while he was shooting a movie in Wilmington, NC. It was probably 15 years ago or more, but it is a memory that sticks out for me. He was as active and full of life as you’ve come to see him on TV. He called by name after I introduced myself and used my name several times in conversation. He made me feel like a friend and not just a random fan. I’ve a feeling he made everyone feel that way.
He will be sorely missed.