Since Robin Williams' tragic suicide (as if there's another kind...) two days ago, social media -- all media, I guess -- has been inundated with tributes but also with pleas for an increased awareness of the issues surrounding depression and other forms of mental illness. I've also seen a lot of people speaking frankly about their own experiences with depression. This is a positive outcome from an immensely negative event.
We lost a family member in the same way in the same week.
It wasn't national news. But it did cause our family circle to tighten a little bit -- to view things a little differently -- to grow as we grieve.
I have read many of these tributes and revelations and have been tempted to write one of my own, but feared that I had nothing to add to the conversation -- that it has all been said in the last two days, and far more eloquently than I could manage.
Then I remembered something from the beginning of my daughter's battle with the dementors (she'll appreciate that reference) -- when we were just beginning to fight the fight. I have seen a lot of people post links to the suicide prevention helpline. I have even seen at least one person mention that getting help can be hard, but it's worth it. We can certainly verify that. What I haven't seen discussed is the way people react.
I lost friends when I sought treatment for my daughter.
I was judged harshly for trusting big pharma and was told that all she needed was unconditional love -- that by seeking treatment and help, I was essentially trying to change who she was. Just let her be. Just love her. She'll work it out. They implied that seeking help would make me a bad parent and a worse person.
Other factions told me that she just needed tighter boundaries. That she needed more discipline. If any kid of theirs pulled a stunt like that...
I was too demanding.
I wasn't demanding enough.
I'm not going to lie -- I second guessed myself. Constantly.
But ultimately I continued to seek help. I dedicated myself to it.
I left a job I loved because I couldn't do it well and continue to give my child what she needed.
I lost friends.
But I have my daughter -- and she is healing. She is well.
So I guess that's what I want to add to the conversation. Depression cannot be loved away. (Nor can it be beaten out of someone, although that seems sort of like a no-brainer to me -- but a lot of people continue to entertain the notion...) I wish it could, but that's just not the way this particular beasty works. It takes hard work and diligence and sacrifice.
We have worked our way through several hospitalizations, many meds and med combinations, many therapists, a few psychiatrists and many psychologists. It has been all-consuming.
When she had her very first meeting with her current counselor, the counselor told Tom and I, "This is not suicide prevention. We can't prevent suicide. If she really wants to kill herself, nothing you or I or any friend or any boy can say or do will stop her. We can't prevent suicide. What we can do is teach her to have a life worth living."
She is learning that.
I am learning, too.
I lost friends.
I lost my source of income and a chunk of my external sense of self.
It's a lesson that comes with a cost.
So I guess that's what I want to bring to the conversation. Right now the climate is very encouraging. Get help. And I want to underline that. But I also want to warn you that the world isn't always as supportive as it's been the last couple days, but it's worth it to pursue every avenue of help that is available. For you. For your loved ones.
Maybe we can love it away.
Maybe we just need to reframe our ideas about love.