The truth is that I am a clown. And any tears that I might shed might remove the face-paint and let you see – at least in part – beyond the happy mask that I wear and which you have become accustomed to. So instead, I just cry my tears within myself.
– Kevin A. Deane, August 12th 2014.
There are times, I will be honest with you, when I sit here in my study and in front of my laptop and I truly struggle with whether to write about that which is on my heart. And this is one such time.
This morning I learned of the sad demise of arguably one of the comedic geniuses of our age – Robin Williams. And whilst it is certainly true that his work and the humor and joy which he imparted over the years will go on for many, many years to come – he himself is no longer with us.
And how did he die? Was it as a result of old age? Was it to Cancer? Leukemia? Or some other form of terminal illness? I needed to know and so I checked the news reports. And the reports I read stated – “suspected suicide”.
How clearly those words leapt out from the screen of my laptop. How deeply the tragic implication of them impacted my heart and my mind.
My heart truly goes out to Robin’s family and friends and indeed to anyone who has been impacted by his death, but my heart also cries out “when will this stop?”
I asked myself the question above “How did he die? Was it as a result of old age? Was it to Cancer? Leukemia? Or some other form of terminal illness?” And in truth, I cannot help but wonder if in some ways – in some circumstances – severe depression doesn’t become a terminal illness in it’s own right?
I have personally experienced mental illness, poor mental health, for as long as I can remember and I have openly written about it for a very long time now. But even as a mental health writer, even as a mental health awareness activist am I not also sometimes guilty of hiding my own mental health issues and the depth of impact that these can and do have on my own life?
And as a society, are we not still all too often – through a lack of compassion, through misunderstanding, through a lack of empathy, through ignorance, ridicule, judgmentalism, inappropriate and unjust humor, and the application of stigma, – guilty of driving those of us who suffer with poor mental health and with mental illness into secrecy and virtual isolation concerning their illnesses and the effects of those illnesses?
Spend an hour or two checking out the many personal blogs out there concerning mental health and mental illness and trust me you will find a wealth of excellent, inspirational, informative and educational information concerning mental health and mental illness. But then try to find out who wrote each of them and you will soon see just how many of them – as a result of real or perceived necessity – are written anonymously.
Why? Well for the very same reasons I mentioned above.
In truth I know very little of Robin Williams’s depression or indeed how it effected him and his life and in truth I know next to nothing of the things leading up to the tragic loss of him. But how well I have known of Robin Williams’s work. Of his humor and his joy. Yes, for years I have known of them.
And, since I am being so open and honest here, how well I have known the cold hard relentless taunting of suicidal thoughts. Yes, for years I have known of them also.
I am thankful, truly thankful, that I have reached a place in my life where I feel I can be so open and ‘out there’ about my mental health. Likewise, I am thankful, so truly thankful, that I have a strong faith and folk in my life who are there for me when my mental health gets really bad. And I am not for one minute suggesting that Robin did not have such a faith or folk in his life.
But I am saying that I do know so very well just how crushingly alone and crushingly hopeless depression can make you feel, regardless of having such support and love in your life and partly as a result (whether direct or indirect – I have no doubt) – of the attitude which still exists towards mental illness and mental health.
In truth I mourn the tragic loss of the man, the comedic genius, the loved one, who was Robin Williams. But in truth I grieve even more that there is still such a stigma attached to mental illness and mental health.
And it is my fervent prayer that this will one day change forever and also that anyone who knows someone who suffers from mental illness and/or poor mental health will look beyond all the face-paint and masks and see the need all too often hidden and will reach out to them. Because so very often – and I speak these words with absolute sincerity and out of personal experience – we don’t know how to take the face-paint and masks off.
So I end this post offering my deepest sympathy to the Williams family and offering you (the reader) almost the very words with which I started it….
The truth is that I am a clown – a clown who suffers from mental illness. And the truth is that any tears that I might shed might remove the face-paint and let you see – at least in part – beyond the happy mask that I wear and which you have become accustomed to – and seem to prefer or at least find more acceptable. So instead, I just cry my tears within myself.
– Kevin A. Deane, August 12th 2014.