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Robin Williams' Tragic Death Exposes The Lies of Addiction and Depression
The Lessons of Loss
At only sixty-three, Robin Williams is gone. His passing has left the world wondering how this could happen to someone so supposedly gifted and funny as he.
Mr. Williams lost his war with addiction and depression, two of the most awful enemies of inner peace. Even though he sought out help, went into recovery, stayed sober for twenty years; he ended up alone with a belt and a knife. Nothing could be more sad.
For those who struggle daily with similar life-stealing problems, the unspoken question remains: If someone as smart as he couldn't beat them, how will I?
That's why it's important to understand the positive lessons that can be taken from such a terrible loss.
The Lie of Feeling Alone
As one who had suffered from depression most of my life, I was well aware of the constant sense that no one understood me. I felt ashamed that I couldn't just 'snap out of it' as others suggested. I felt totally alone with my sickening thoughts which swirled around in my head like locusts. And I was powerless to stop them.
This is the lie of both depression and addiction. Right now there are 23 million Americans with some kind of chemical addiction (www.reneweveryday.com). In addition, one in 10 Americans suffer from depression (www.healthline.com).
Every one of these individuals has no doubt bought into the lie of being all alone in their misery at one point. Maybe it's because they're too ashamed to seek help, they feel they are beyond helping or they believe they can handle it themselves....alone. According to healthline.com, 80% of those suffering from depression are not getting any kind of treatment.
If you are suffocating under the weight of depression or addiction or (as is very often the case) both, stop every once in a while and ask yourself why you are stuck. Is it because you won't let others in? If so, remind yourself that being alone when suffering with these diseases will not lead to anything good.
Let someone in.
The Lie That It's Hopeless
Although hopelessness is the cornerstone of depression and the outcome of addiction, it is, none the less, a lie.
Victims of severe depression know the feeling well. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. It's useless. Just end it. Addicts eventually come to the same conclusion because after a time there is no drug or drink strong enough to keep the evil thoughts at bay. Both roads can lead to suicide as a final solution to stop the pain.
The truth is that nothing is ever hopeless, but tell that to someone in Mr. William's position as he ponders his exit plan. Hopelessness is all encompassing. When life becomes unbearable in every way, hopelessness settles in the mind like a heavy, dark vale making it hard to breathe.
If you feel you may be falling into the abyss of hopelessness, please take a deep breath and speak these words out loud, "This is a lie! It is not hopeless. I am going to get through this." Say it over and over until you have the strength to reach out to a trusted family member, friend, counselor or doctor. If nothing else, take a nap and let the moment pass. And it will pass. Sometimes it takes an hour, sometimes a week. In that time resolve to be good to yourself. You are stronger than you know.
Reminders on Self Care
- Get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night. If you can't sleep try natural cures such as melatonin first then see your doctor. Sleeping too much is no good either. Try to adhere to some sort of schedule.
- Eat 4 -5 small meals a day to keep blood sugar from dipping. Skip sugars and carbs which spike moods and add to lethargy later. Remember your vitamins.
- Don't isolate! Hanging out with people you enjoy is good for the soul. If that isn't possible, find a group or a meeting with like minded individuals.
- Move! Doing something physical everyday elevates the mood.
- Stay on your medication program if there is one
- Keep your counseling appointments. Accountability and a safe environment to talk are important to your daily healing.
There 1.25 million AA members in the United States. There are 25,000 NA (Narcotics Anonymous) groups in the world. These meetings and people are an excellent place to find accountability, nurturing, encouragement and information. Visit www. AA.org to find a location near you.
For those struggling with depression, bi-polar or other mental disorders, go to
www.NAMI.org for a wealth of information and resources.
The Lie That "It's No Longer A Problem"
Depression and addiction do not discriminate. They affect senators, suburban housewives and entertainers as well as students, factory workers and street people. There is only one difference in the kind of people who fight these diseases: those who understand it's a lifelong battle and those who think 'they beat it.'
The simple truth of 'once an addict, always an addict' also goes for depression. But that doesn't mean either problem isn't surmountable. It just means that just like diabetes, even though you have the cure, you will have to be vigilant every single day that you honor your sobriety and well being by not putting yourself in temptation's way.
The wise person understands this. He or she knows that to be free of severe depression in the future, they must stay on their regiment today. That may be medication, diet and lifestyle changes, therapy, etc.
It's only human to want to have the victory over those things which have stolen so much from us. But in the case of addiction and depression, the victory is a daily one, not an epic moment.
The addict can never put himself in a position of being tempted to his former drug of choice. The woman suffering from depression simply cannot stop her medication and cease therapy without repercussions somewhere down the line. Overcoming requires constant attention and mindfulness, and the understanding that they are in this healing process for a lifetime.
'Hank' had been sober for ten years. He was confident he could revisit some old friends who were still snorting cocaine. Although they were respectful of his sobriety, and he really thought he could handle it, he ended up leaving early and getting drunk at home as a way of numbing out his desire for the coke.
If you are having success with overcoming addiction or depression (or both), please remember that you are on a lifetime journey. Commit.
A Voice From The Edge
You may wonder why I feel I have the authority to write about these subjects. As I mentioned briefly at the beginning of this article, I have suffered from severe depression most of my life starting ( I estimate) at around thirteen years old. These 'black tunnels' as I came to call them ran my life. Always anxious, I could feel when my anxiety was becoming unbearable and depression was coming on. It really was like a shroud of black tar that left me immobile for days at a time; sometimes weeks.
I attempted suicide halfheartedly as a way of screaming for help. I have years of my life I simply do not remember because although I may have been faking it on the outside, I was numb with pain on the inside and not really there.
It wasn't until I had children and realized I was going to be a lousy mother if I didn't get help that I began the voyage of self-discovery that helped me understand what was happening to me and why. Eventually, after many frustrating attempts, I found a medication that helped with the anxiety and depression. I began running, which took everything in me to do since depression left me so fatigued. But the more I did it, the more my body craved it. i found I could think more clearly and had more energy when I did.
I also found a good counselor. I've had several over the years. And I learned to ask for help from my family, friends and God.
My family of origin is riddled with alcoholism and I could easily find myself going down that path. In fact, my youngest daughter is five years sober. I have to be mindful everyday to watch my moods, my thinking and my actions/habits and she is a huge inspiration to me for that.
I tried getting off my medications and within a few weeks felt suicidal. It took a long talk with my doctor to understand that I wasn't a failure because I needed medication. I was smart to see how much it helped.
I share this information with you because I really believe anyone can overcome the demons of depression and addiction with help. But help doesn't work if you don't take it. And keep taking it.
Don't ignore your disease. Don't accept the lies of addiction and depression.
There is hope for you. But first you have to believe it.
Jeanette Menter is the author of, "You're Not Crazy - You're Codependent. What Everyone Affected by: Addiction, Abuse, Trauma and Toxic Shame Must Know to Have Peace in Their Lives" Which includes a Guide to Recovery Through Mindfulness. Available at www.amazon.com