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Genie, you're free

August 14, 2014

By Bobbye Pyke

The world was rocked this week with the news of Robin Williams' suicide. Many were shocked to hear that one of America's favorite funny men took his own life. Many are currently mourning his loss and sharing stories about how this incredible individual impacted their lives. Many more are questioning how this prominent figure, how this famous comedian, how this well respected, beloved man could take his own life.

Depression is a horrible monster. It takes over its victims in such a way that it consumes them. Depression does not discriminate. It does not care if you are rich or poor, if you are successful or not, if you come from a good family or a broken one. Depression does not care if you are loved or hated. It does not care about how great your life is.

Depression is all-consuming and takes over until the person suffering from it can see no way out. It is a mental illness, not simply a state of being sad and no amount of positive thinking will undo it. Depression is an illness that requires real treatment and reducing it to the simple emotion of "sad" and then telling an individual to get over it is like telling someone with cancer to just "get over it".

Many of the funniest people suffer from depression and we have lost countless comics to that beast. Web comic artist Allie Brosh who runs a popular blog called Hyperbole and a Half wrote an insightful comic about her own battles with depression which I would encourage anyone to read.

In the comic, Brosh notes, "It's weird for people who still have feelings to be around depressed people. They try to help you have feelings again so things can go back to normal, and it's frustrating for them when that doesn't happen. From their perspective, it seems like there has got to be some untapped source of happiness within you that you've simply lost track of, and if you could just see how beautiful things are..."

Brosh goes on to say, "That's the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn't always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn't even something – it's nothing. And you can't combat nothing. You can't fill it up. You can't cover it. It's just there, pulling the meaning out of everything. That being the case, all the hopeful, proactive solutions start to sound completely insane in contrast to the scope of the problem. It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared."

Depression is not something you can wish away or get rid of through the power of positive thinking. What someone with depression needs is help, real help from a medical professional trained to deal with mental illnesses. Because that is what depression is: a mental illness.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, seek help. This is not a monster that can and should be fought alone. Many suffering from depression feel like a burden to their friends and family. I don't know about them, but I would rather stay up every night on the phone with someone to talk about their depression than have to attend their funeral.

Reach out to somebody. Anybody.

And if someone reaches out to you, remember that depression is a disease and the sheer power of positive thinking won't do it in. No matter how irrational their depression may seem, remember that diseases are irrational and they don't only pick unhealthy people to infect.

In Robin Williams' own words from the movie "Jack", "Please, don't worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you're ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day, make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular."

And to Robin Williams, I am so sorry that the pain you were in became so unbearable. I am so sorry you felt you had no other option. I hope you are now at peace. In the words of Aladdin, "Genie, you're free."

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