Tuesday, 12 August 2014

It Doesn't Work Like That...

This post begins in the most compromising of situations, yet one where I'm sure most of us end up getting our news in this new age of social media. I was using the little boy's room, scrolling through Twitter to catch up on everyone's Gencon plans when it became apparent that everyone was talking about one of my icons. Unless you've just turned on your own phone, TV, or opened your eyes and removed sound-defeating headphones, you know exactly who I'm talking about and why.

After the initial shock of Robin William's death came the even greater blow - suicide. Since then, I feel as if I've lost a parent, an idol I've looked up to as a beacon of the improvisational mind unlike any other we've ever seen and may never see again. Perhaps were it not for the nature of his demise, had he passed away from old age or even from a condition we already knew about in great detail (he did have a history of heart complications), it would have been an inevitable conclusion to a tremendous life. Sure, it would be sad to know there would no longer be a new Robin Williams joke, but as the final punch line before leaving the stage as all performances must come to an end. This is not the end any of us were expecting and so grief is mixed with shock.

That's not why I'm taking to the blog today of all days. As much as I'd like to go into my favourite jokes, performances, and films (which there are many), my heart is filled with loss and confusion. I've never met the man. Save for one glorious night when I caught him performing live in Ottawa less than three years ago, he was someone who bounced manically across my TV and blasted out one brilliant joke after another from my speakers. Yet I feel like I've lost a deep connection to a kindred spirit. I'm at a loss and feel uncertain as to why I would feel this way about the death of a celebrity and artist. Perhaps this is what Elvis fans went through on their fateful day all those decades ago.

Perhaps too it is because his depression has now become blatantly apparent that I'm struck with his passing. As someone who's faced such demons personally and through those close to my life, this is the first time someone "close to me" has made the final judgement on their life and it's truly shaken me to the core. Here I sit at my desk, quiet and passive, unwilling to participate in casual conversation or basic interaction. I do what I need to do to get the job done before going home and... well, we'll just have to see where these emotions go from there.

It's remarkably easy to think that if only someone suffering from depression had expressed it sooner, we as a people could have done something to give them reason to push those thoughts aside and continue to be part of our lives. But it doesn't work like that. While I'd like to believe that if we knew what he had planned yesterday, thousands of us would have raced to his home, pulled him aside and hugged him, told him how much his gifts mean the world to us, and hope that this outpouring of emotion would be the key to unlocking his happiness. But it doesn't work like that. None of his positive elements - from his career to his family - were enough to quell those thoughts telling him he was unworthy of life. In his mind, there was only one rational option and it's one the majority of the world finds a coward's way out or an unfortunate end to a brilliant man. There were no warning signs, nothing to give those closest to him reason to keep a closer eye and an effort to correct those horrible thoughts. If that was the case, today would be another day with him in it and we'd be all the happier. But it doesn't work that way.

Perhaps that is what strikes me. The sudden disappearance of someone's spirit in the blink of an eye, one that was snuffed out by their own hands. And the fear that as someone close to another with severe depression, there is nothing you can do to stop them. Honestly, all you can do is provide your support, your love, your admiration and give them opportunity to decide for themselves. Perhaps what shakes my core is knowing this may not be the only day this feeling haunts my soul and that, when it comes down to it, there's nothing I can do except offer as much love and respect as possible. The rest is up to the afflicted individual; the choice is up to them.

There are a few facts about depression I do not adhere to and some I feel are misguided efforts, but we all deal with our burdens in our own ways. If medication is what aids you, all the more power to you. If it's emotional support, so much the better. Whatever you feel keeps your head above the water, it is the head that gives commands to the body to continue paddling. All we can do is encourage you to keep kicking. The rest is up to you.