I have loved Robin Williams since I was a little girl. I still remember my favorite Mork and Mindy iron on t-shirt. Robin Williams had everything. Fame, money, adoration – the life many of us dream of. If he had all of those things, why wasn’t it enough?
I have been very open about my son Evan’s mental illness, but until now I have hidden my own. Depressed motivational speaker isn’t exactly the label I was going for. I was first diagnosed with clinical depression when I was 18 years old. My parents thought I was just being dramatic. That was until my mother tried to commit suicide when I was twenty-two and realized that she too suffered from depression.
Having a child with mental illness and raising him, for several years as a single mother, further exacerbated my depression. There were definitely days I just wanted to give up. The thought of having to endure the pain I was experiencing, physically, mentally, and emotionally was just too much to bear.
Thankfully, the right combination of medication, therapy, and my own determination have helped me manage my depression, although I am always at risk for a relapse. My book 52 Strategies for Life, Love & Work evolved as I discovered tools that could help me survive my own depths of despair.
Since the book has been released, I have been asked to do quite a few media interviews. After Robin Williams’ suicide, the subject of those interviews shifted dramatically. I have now been asked to share my own experiences with depression in hopes that it will continue to reduce the stigma associated with it and give others who suffer the encouragement to seek help.
Depression or any other mental illness is NOT a sign of weakness, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a combination of neuro-chemicals and genetics, and it is very, very real. 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 5 children suffer from mental illness. It is a shame that it takes a tragedy like Robin Williams’ death or a school shooting to get people to stop and pay attention.
A portion of all my book proceeds are being donated to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). You can learn more about Austin’s local chapter, resources, support groups, and the upcoming NAMI walk at www.namiaustin.org
Sharing my own illness was not an easy decision, but if it can help at least one person, it is absolutely worth it. Please don’t suffer in silence. You are not alone, and there are people and resources that can help.
The national suicide prevention hotline is 800-273-TALK.