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Update 10 Jan 2021: Further information on the circumstances of Robin Williams death have come to light and been explained in a film called “Robin’s Wish“. I would highly recommend watching the movie.
Like many of you, I was taken aback by the recent passing of Robin Williams. Robin gave us so much joy and laughter in his life, it is sad to see him go. Reading the many articles and tributes to Robin Williams, I realised that he may have given us all a great opportunity.
Robin was suffering from manic depression (also known as bipolar disorder.) This is where your mood swings from the highest highs to the darkest, loneliest lows. Whilst reading many articles I have noticed that Robin was secretive about his illness, and while I understand why, due to the perceived stigma and the image that comes to mind when you hear the term “Mental Illness”, it made me realise that many non-sufferers are judgemental and this is preventing the stigma being overturned.
Robin’s last gift
Robin has given us all a last gift. He has opened the floor for discussions and openness, he has provided the opportunity for us to talk about depression and remove the stigma of mental illness.
Like many, I have felt the need to keep my depression hidden; only sharing with those that I deeply trust. For a while now, I have wanted to be open and show that depression has affected me and that it isn’t the end of the world. I have suffered with depression for over 10 years now, and during that time I have slowly realised that I am not alone, I should not be ashamed and embarrassed, I should be open and help others understand what it is like. Tomorrow it could be them.
For anyone who has or is suffering with depression, you know the dark depths which can be reached and the fight it takes to just get up in the morning. For those that don’t, please don’t just dismiss depression as a “bad day”, or something you can “snap out of”. Believe me, while depressed you wish you could just snap out of it.
Depression is more than just feeling sad and down, it can have physical effects from extreme fatigue to shaking and sickness. These can’t be controlled with a flick of a switch, recovering from depression takes time, effort and support.
I have been lucky and have had a very supportive family, friends and colleagues when I have been at my worse. They may not have understood what I was going through, but they stood by me and helped me through the dark times.
In the last few years I have realised that depression shouldn’t be seen as a weakness, there are many good qualities common to people who suffer from depression and useful skills that are developed as they learn to live with depression. In lots of situations, I find that these are strengths that I can use.
As this article is published, I will wait anxiously to see how people who know me and didn’t know this respond. But I feel that now is the right time to be open and help others realise it is good to talk about their experiences. Lets educate others in what depression is.
Part of the reason I have confidence in this is because of how I have been treated by my employers when revealing my mental illness (felt strange typing that, but it’s true). I have had no prejudice from any employer or manager and have been provided full support and understanding. Believe me, I was anxious telling my employer when I first found out that I was suffering from depression and even more anxious when I told my current employer as I started with them. I told them from the beginning because I realised that I didn’t want to work in an environment where management didn’t know about my illness and have the dread of needing to tell them one day when I would already be struggling. Almost two years on and I have had no major bouts of depression, but I do know that I can reach out when I do and let them know that things are tough.
I want everyone to realise that mental illnesses are common, wide spread and not something we need to hide. You wouldn’t hide having a broken arm and in many cases this has more of an effect on your work and social life than suffering with depression does.
Don’t let Robin’s Last Gift go to waste
Join me, let’s use Robin’s last gift and talk about your experiences of depression, whether as a sufferer or a supporter. Let’s educate others and disperse the stigma surrounding mental health.
Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @timdixon82 and let me know your thoughts using #RobinsLastGift