Then, it hit the screen as breaking news.
Robin Williams was found dead; apparent suicide.
That night, I sat numbed by the reality of it all; saddened by the disease that dictated this was his only way out. Mr. William's death has affected me deeply, unexpectedly. I have been asking myself what has made his death different than, say, that of Andy Griffith, another of my all time favorite actors.
The answer most assuredly lies within this tragedy's cause itself...depression...or as I refer to it, the unspeakable struggle. Not many want to talk about it and even fewer want to hear about it or believe it to be worthy topic for conversation.
If you have never suffered from depression, whether situational or clinical, stop right now and give thanks to God.
While I do not know the intricacies of clinical depression, I do know how situational depression and anxiety feels.
I did not talk about it much...most people would not even know if I were not typing this now. Mine was related to my cancer diagnosis and treatment journey that began last October.
As the weeks and months went by, my symptoms worsened. Each week as I met with my radiology oncologist, she would ask the hard questions and I would say that I was fine. I could handle it.
Until I could no longer. Depression and anxiety handled me; they had all along.
I was in denial. It's more than just a river in Egypt, you know.
Conversations in my head took place every day about how I believed in God and knew He was in control of everything, so these feelings surely needed to just be ignored. I did not dwell on the negative, but the negative hung over me like a heaviness I have never known. I told myself and others that I have so much to be thankful for that I cannot let the negative dictate my outlook. I told myself that I did not cry every day nor for long if I did, so it cannot be that bad.
Panic attacks. Feeling overwhelmed in large groups. Flat affect. Sleeping twice as much as I normally do.
I was a psych major. I know the danger signs. I knew all along that I was in denial. I knew I was suffering from depression and anxiety. I knew what and how I was feeling was not me, but I was helpless at changing anything.
I broached the subject with a friend of mine who has also had cancer and a similar unspeakable struggle. She wisely advised me to openly discuss this with my doctor. To give myself grace through this time and allow myself to be helped were also good pieces of advice. She told me the conversations I was having with myself about being strong and relying on God were good, but sometimes the strong thing to do is ask for additional help and to rely on God to send the right help.
To be okay with not being okay was tough.
Thankfully, my radiology team members were very understanding and supportive.
Thankfully, I actually went and filled my prescription that same day.
Thankfully, everyone around me in Kroger was too self consumed to notice that I was having a major panic attack standing there waiting on my medication to help stop my panic attacks.
Yes, that did happen.
Thankfully, I began to experience less anxiety and depression after a few days of taking my medication.
And, thankfully, once radiation ended, I was able to taper off my medication under my doctor's care and be free once again.
Many of us will never know the depths of depression as some do. We may not live with it everyday like others. This does not mean it does not exist. It does not mean that we will never experience it to some degree.
Talk to someone if you are suffering silently.
I needed help and finally asked for it.
Once I spoke of my troubles with those who could do something to help me, I realized God was in control and at work in the entire situation all along. He was working on me...stretching me, growing my faith, and providing for my needs unlike anyone else could have.
He is that good.
Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on You, and in Your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, You are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.” 2 Chronicles 14:11