Wednesday, August 13

Robin Williams and Me

Robin Williams passed away this week from an apparent suicide. It's hard to comprehend.  Like most celebrity deaths this is a public reminder that we are mortal, that dying is a part of living.

For those of us with mental illness, it's a reminder that our struggle is very real and sadly, can lead to fatal consequences.

I've been wanting to write all over Facebook about what it's like to have depression, to be diagnosed as bipolar, to me me me his death. I want to shout and scream and say HEY, this isn't one random case, many people suffer, and two weeks from now when you're posting dancing cat videos, I will still be struggling to stay afloat.  I didn't do it, though. I'm not sure why. I guess it makes me feel more self-absorbed to declare things like this on social media rather than my personal blog. Maybe I'm a little embarrassed, too.  I don't think I've ever "came out" before other than here.

When I was diagnosed as bipolar in January it was, naturally, bittersweet. On the one hand I finally understood why I have such intense emotions and manic behavior. On the other, I felt like my whole life was a lie. Who am I really? Who would I be without my ups and downs? Was I born this way or was it learned behavior to survive my childhood? If I was emotionally stable, would I have left so many jobs? Had sex for sport? Speak my mind? What does emotional stability feel like? Will I know it when I have it?  Will I ever be free to be me, whoever "me" is?

It seems the real confusion over Robin Williams' death is understanding how a hilarious man who brought so much joy to people can suffer to the point of no return. The quick answer is to say he was wearing a mask to hide his pain, the old sad clown idea. I don't think this is true, though. At least it's not for me. When I am up I truly feel positive, joyful, connected, and loved. When I am down I truly feel hopeless, despair, depressed, and angry. There are no masks. I've always been a mood ring and could never hide shit about how I feel. And I bet Robin was the same way. Or maybe I just want him to be like me.

This year has been really hard. I started weaning off Zoloft in August, then went to Lamictal in January. I was all over the dosage spectrum starting from 25mg going up to 300mg back down to 50mg. I was down all of the time. My depression, anxiety, anger, and irritability were awful. I hated the world and I hated myself. If I did laugh and smile, it was involuntary. I never really felt like I was doing either, if that makes sense. I didn't want to do anything, except curl up and hide. Basically I didn't want to exist. Thankfully I never reached the point of being suicidal. I wanted to vanish, but not die.

Risperdal was thrown into the mix at some point. I started taking one as needed to help me through my panic attacks. Now I'm on 75mg of Lamictal once a day and .25mg of Risperdal twice a day. I'm happy (YES HAPPY!) to report I feel much better now. I've been on this regimen for three weeks and feel more up than I have all year. I still have some issues, but at least I'm heading in the right direction. It has not been easy trying to find the best dosage. Maybe I'm not even on the best, but I'm definitely on better ones. I hear this is a very minimal amount of medication, so I guess I'm lucky? I don't know...

Lucky to me is MD, who can feel happy, angry, sad, anything without questioning if he's too happy, too angry, too sad, too anything. Lucky is someone who doesn't doubt what they feel and think is real or valid. Lucky is someone who can simply be.

But do I really think having a mental illness is unlucky? Since I'm feeling good, no it's not unlucky. It's a shame to have to go through this, but it is what it is. If I asked myself this a month ago, I'd probably say fuck you you fucking fucktard.

I don't know how I want this post to end. Maybe it's because I don't know how my life with mental illness will end. I hope for the sake of my family and friends, it does not end in suicide. I know this must be a horrible thing to read, but unfortunately it could be the path I take. It could be the path for anyone, really.

Hopefully Robin Williams' death will reduce the likelihood of this happening. Maybe now there will be more awareness and acceptance of those suffering, as well as financial investments into clinical trials and making mental healthcare more affordable. If I didn't have help, I don't know where I would be.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

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