Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Reflections on the passing of Robin Williams

In a lot of the photos he is looking downwards.
I really must reflect upon this very sad news release.

"As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.” –This is what his wife said to the media. What an understanding woman.

"To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die."

"I miss you". You say, "Tu me manques", which means, "You are missing from me".

Not to add to the mourning, but to the understanding of depression and bi-polar disorder, I have to write something here. I have wrestled with depression over the years, starting in high school. At that time it was undiagnosed, undetermined, and fiercely related to menarche. Each time I had a significant incident that resulted in a depressive episode, it was worse, I would fall further down the well and have farther to climb. once my parents contracted cancer, and I achieved menopause, it was all the more near the surface.

Each life situation can either bend us or break us. I can find parallels with Robin Williams life.
He last worked on The Crazy Ones, a sit-com, once cancelled - it must have hit him hard.
"Modest in the ratings, expensive with a big cast (Robin Williams, Sarah Michelle Gellar) and produced by 20th Century Fox Television, what it did have going for it was a warm critical reception and Williams' clout."
Tonight's season finale Meet my ex-wife and Sydney's mom, the beautiful and talented, !

When I was caring for my failing parents, I finally couldn't cope any more. Firstly, dealing with it long-distance, it was terrible. Anyone in this situation will tell you so.

Long-distance phone calls to find out test results just didn't cut it.
Driving along the highway, 63 km to my job, I would have suicidal ideations: I would imagine my car rolling over, down onto the rocks. This is a huge sign of depression. It is a simple question: have you had thoughts of suicide that one can ask.

My physician diagnosed depression right away as I went in to get some sick leave on a medical certificate. There are 10 questions he asked, but you can also go on DepressionHurts.ca 
The problem is, however, that you cannot reach out. Bosses can be abusive, while fighting to make you do your job better, not realizing your mental state. We carry on, doing the best job we can, and cannot let others know how we are feeling. Co-workers had their own burdens to bear. Some gave me more burdens, as well.

Each time I had had an episode, I'd taken some time off of work, regrouped, sought counselling, and got myself back together. Each life passage demands much of us, if you add in life changes, such as moving, divorce, taking on a new job, empty nest syndrome, you readjust, if you can. I could not this time.

We all need something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for.

When I quit work, it was a relief. No more pressure to make decisions, to truck into work each day and perform in the classroom to please the students, parents, bosses. That said, there goes your self-esteem, your focus, purpose, the work to be done every day.

For me: I know I am going backwards when I feel agitated, irritable, snap quickly, have unreasonable panic attacks and feel my blood pressure rising.

No one is to blame for not spotting Robin Williams struggles. He was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. He did choose to self-medicate with drugs. The job of an actor is a flighty one, and I cannot imagine how it was to be lobbying for new work so regularly. Healthcare services are busily posting numbers for self-help lines. The problem is you do not know you need help, nor do you need what will help you, not during an episode.

My suggestions for family:

  • talk to your loved ones, be aware, but don't blame yourself if you do not see the signs.
  • Recognize the severity if symptoms are persistent, affecting daily life, social interactions, work or personal hygiene.
  • Understand the signs: depressed mood, greatly decreased interest or pleasure in activities, significant weight changes, insomnia or oversleeping, psychomotor agitation or sluggishness, fatigue and loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, concentration issues or indecisiveness, suicidal ideations or attempts. (For me it is agitation and impatience.)
  • Recognize the precursors of a depressive episode (sleep issues, weight gain or loss, drug abuse)
  • Remember it is no one's fault –chemical imbalances, who knows?

What is the cure?

I have continued to take medication on a regular basis. Once my family situation settle out, I buried my parents, we moved closer to a support network of family, and I realized how to cope with and accept my changed situation: volunteering and retirement, I managed to lower my Anti-depressants by 50%. When my husband began cancer treatments, and my children mourned the loss of their father, my ex-husband, I found myself with high blood pressure and went back on a full dose of Antidepressants, as well as blood pressure medications. 
There is no cure. Each time you face a situation, you react in much the same way. 
What might help: medication, meditation, antidepressants, yoga, exercise, healthy eating, keeping busy, going outdoors into nature, and so on. 

From a paper I wrote in 2007:

As the brain creates dopamine, in response to pleasure, the brain, if faced with excessive production of mimicked dopamine from the alcohol or drugs, naturally decreases its production and the patient has difficulty seeking the same pleasurable feeling with the same amounts of artificial sources. The brain removes and reduces dopamine receptor sites. Alcohol and drug abuse contribute chemically to the effects of depression. Not only does the patient need increasing amounts of unnatural substances to feel pleasure, but reduces available receptors (Nunley, 2003).

Depression is categorized by its etiology: medical conditions, postpartum depression, premenstrual depression, and seasonal affective disorder, for example, all result in depressive symptoms. Reactive depression is the response to an extremely negative experience: bereavement, job loss, miscarriage (Scheidt et al, 2007), rape. Depression can be brought on by an extreme response to life’s normal passages (moving, a new job, childbirth, being alone, bereavement). Depression can occur during the entire adult stage of life, but it is more frequently diagnosed in early adulthood with new challenges faced by those just beginning their path to adulthood and less frequently in late adulthood as a healthy adult adjusts to life in society (Sigelman & Rider, 2006).


Hilary said...

A very good post, Jenn. I'm sorry you must deal with depression but you have armed yourself well. Yours is the first nod to Robin Williams that I've read in blogs. I'm quite far behind in my reading though.

Karen said...

Thank you Jen.

One of the beauties of reading blogs is seeing ones self in the others blog post. Reading how the other person reacted and handled that situation. Thank you...

Olga said...

It was such sad news to hear last night. Depression is very real and very painful.

eileeninmd said...

Jen, thanks for sharing this post.. It was sad to hear the news about Robin Williams death..

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari Om
A strong and meaningful post. Thank you. YAM xx

William Kendall said...

I live with depression each day. Therapy helped me, but when I was at my lowest, for just a moment, I thought about the end. The next moment I pulled back from that thought, and it has never returned.

Roan said...

I can't believe he is gone. Depression is a terrible disease. I suer wish there could be a permanent fix invented.

Red said...

Education, education, education is what we need to solve part of the puzzle. We could support one another much m,ore if we knew more about the situation. You seem to have a handle on your situation. You've found things that give you satisfaction. I hope the people around you know and understand your situation. Not just a few bloggers.

Kay said...

This is such an excellent post, Jenn! Thank you so much for sharing not just your own challenges with this disease, but the scientific understanding. I see what you mean about the sadness in his eyes.

Jenn Jilks said...

Those with suicidal ideations from depression are at the bottom of a well. All they can do is reach out for the walls, which provide some framework. We are unable to reach out to others. We keep a social face towards the world, while sitting huddled in the dark. No amount of information would have helped me until I was diagnosed. Until then, I carried on in the world, facing my daily tasks, while suffering in the dark depths from the black dog of depression. Bosses, co-workers can be cruel, without realizing they are being so. Many are totally unaware of where you huddle.

We must look at the lessons we can learn.
However, as the CDC warns [Suicide Contagion], we must be careful of suicide clusters and avoid undue attention or sensationalisation.