A rare moment of lightness as I redecorate my dining room; interior design is my newest escape from the torment that is always shackled to me. My oldest son calls out, "Robin Williams died." I'm sad. He was a brilliant actor and his persona depicted exuberance, happiness, and light. Minutes later however, my son calls out, "Apparently it was suicide."
I open my mouth to say something. Then I close it. I have no words. I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder. I remembered interviews in which Williams discussed his own battle with this disorder, but that was years ago, and why would I even consider that the high-spirited actor was still wrestling a venomous shadow when thoughts of him are filled with his contagious smile, his lightning quick wit, and his infinite energy.
And that's when my eyes begin misting, and my current task of holding a picture frame on the wall to assess its perfect location is halted. My hands tremble as I place the print on the floor. The invisible tyrant I have been outrunning for a few hours catches up to me, punches me in the gut, and knocks me into a chair, where it continues to beat me over the head with balled fists.
The searing pain is back. And just as I had forgotten that Williams had a long standing battle with depression, the people in my life have forgotten about mine, because I too smile and laugh, and display boundless energy as much as possible in an attempt to outrun the mental beating. But in one quick slash of its claws, the tyrant reminds me that it's never out of sight.
This whole situation hits far too close to home, since it's a devastating reminder that the disorder I'm trying to treat is much more tenacious than I give it credit for. I'm not only shocked about the news that Williams died, but also because his depression was present and apparently stronger than ever years after the interview that I remembered. Doesn't this shit ever get treated?
I've tried several different medications. I've seen different psychiatrists and psychologists. I have even given holistic methods a chance by changing my diet; cutting out sugar; bypassing preservatives. In an attempt to appease all those who have claimed that depression is as easy to treat as adopting a positive outlook on life, I've challenged myself to find joy in the little things life has to offer. But positive thinking is not going to cure an ailment that is a biological dysfunction in my brain any more than an alcoholic can be treated by drinking more water.
So where does this leave me? Will I suffer in silence, like Robin Williams did, for the next several years only to finally realize in my sixties that the intensity of the pain is such that the efforts required to continue pretending to those in my life that I'm fine; that my depression is not in fact real, and can be kept at bay to appease those who believe it is "all in your head" -- only to finally succumb to the exhaustion and the crippling sadness by ending my life that way too?
Much like Williams, my persona does not reflect the constant sadness that I feel. People in my life are uncomfortable with the very concept that I have this disease. Family members don't talk about it. At the mention of my depression, the subject is changed.
My tears cause a flutter of activity around me; an effort to ignore the reality. But hearing this news has me rethinking my strategy. Maybe easing the discomfort of those around me is only prolonging the inevitable. Maybe a brave face is not in fact good for me at all, and allowing people to really witness my deep, bleeding wounds would assure me a speedier recovery. Doctors might try harder if I was bawled up like a bug in their office chair, rather than sitting upright with my notepad and pen at the ready of further instructions.
Who knows. I don't. All I know is that Robin Williams suffered from Major Depressive Disorder, and years after he announced it, he still wasn't better. I've wondered before when my depression would go away. Despite being told by doctors that it probably would never go away, I'm not sure I ever really believed it.
And now, in the wake of Williams's tragic passing, not only am I ready to bust through several doors to get some answers and the treatment I deserve, but I'm going to continue screaming out for those who are speechless from their crippling sadness that depression needs to be addressed as seriously as other diseases.
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