I heard a pretty timely story today while looking at the news about Robin Williams today.
A man goes to see a doctor. Doctor asks what seems to be the trouble. The man says, "Doctor, I'm depressed. Simply, I can't sleep sometimes, I can't eat, I feel down and irritable most days. I just can't feel 'happy."
The Doctor says, "I've got the perfect fix for you. In town tonight is the great clown Pagliacci. He's hysterically funny and will make you laugh til you cry. You will experience a joy unprecedented."
The man bursts into tears.
The doctor, confused asks why. "Doctor! I am Pagliacci."
An Internal Struggle
Did you know that in 2012, suicide overtook car accidents as America’s leading cause of injury-related deaths. Americans are now more likely to die on purpose than by accident. Where does it end?
Robin Williams was a talented guy. From his performances in Good Will Hunting and Good Morning Vietnam, to his voice talents in Aladdin, most of us are familiar with the funny, jovial spirit that was Robin Williams.
But we don't see the struggle that he had inside. Battles with addiction and depression which led to Williams' taking his life. But as we look at the struggles the man had, I reflect on my personal struggles.
I am not going to say a lot here, but I struggled with (and still struggle with) depression. Most of this came when I was in college. I tell you, it was agony to tell a bunch of friends telling me to "suck it up." I was afraid to tell my parents about my struggles. I pretended I was okay. I'd put on a happy face and try to excel at what I was doing, but on the inside, I was sad, depressed, alone.
One morning, I went to see a psychotherapist. I was so ashamed of seeking treatment that I lied to my family, telling them "I had a work meeting" on the morning of my appointment. But I eventually did tell my family about the struggles I faced, and they helped me navigate through it all. It wasn't "Tom's struggle." It became a burden the family shared together to make sure I was well.
My shame in my mental illness isn't that uncommon. "There’s no stigma in talking about a broken arm. But a broken mind or perhaps a broken heart—a lot of people feel like they are not allowed to go there or be honest about it," said Jamie Tworkowski, founder of Florida-based non-profit To Write Love on Her Arms said in an interview with Relevant Magazine.
Harvard psychologist William Pollack, Ph.D claims that depression is vastly underdiagnosed in men. He asserts that depression may be as common among men as it is among women.
We're More Connected - And More Isolated
In a time when we are more connected than ever, we're still isolated.
How many times do you say "fine," or "I'm good" when someone asks "how's it going?" How many times are things not "fine" or "good." How often do you see friends struggling, but they won't say anything about it?
Not everything is "fine." Maybe we need to dig deeper, and read body language of others. Maybe we need to not be afraid to say that not everything is fine when we hurt.
Instead of trying to hide our sadness, our emotions, our struggles, we need to bring our struggles to friends and carry the burdens together. I personally believe that we need to stop feeling like our problems would be a burden on people's lives. Maybe instead of worrying about how we look to other people, we should look for help from other people, or look out for other people.
Today, I feel I'm in a better spot than I was while I was in college. Is life perfect for me? Am I 100% cured and happier today? It's tough to say. But I've been able to seek the help and guidance of people I can trust. It's not easy to tell your friends or family you struggle. But over time, it's a lot easier for me to go to them with the struggles I face than having to imagine them trying to make sense of something they could have prevented if I did speak up and seek them out.
My Personal Plea
If you are struggling, please, seek help from friends, family or counselors. Many of those in your life would rather help you overcome the burdens you face today than wondering "what if" the rest of their lives.
If you have a friend or family member that makes even a mention of suicide, take it seriously. They are crying out for help; their talk is NOT just seeking attention as most people think.
If you feel you are in a crisis, whether or not you are thinking about killing yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They have heard it all - from help with substance abuse, economic worries, relationship and family problems, sexual orientation, illness, getting over abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, and even loneliness.