Reflections for Robin

Sorry for my absence last week.

It was tough going for me, and many people I know.  Robin Williams’ untimely death created an impact on a lot of people, myself included.  Although many of us did not know him personally, we felt his loss deeply because he was a part of our lives, because we identified with him, because we saw ourselves in his silent suffering.  Saw a part of ourselves reflected in his actions.  He was such a bright light, as many of us are, which is why we couldn’t understand how someone who possessed and projected such joy and laughter could be so devastated and alone inside.  We subconsciously understand that he was very much like the rest of us.

He struggled with the same secrets that many of us know intimately.

Addiction is something I am very familiar with and have dealt with personally.  My addiction is with food.  I never saw it as an addiction until recently.  I just thought I had no will power, was big boned, had a “fat” gene, etc.  Food addiction is tricky.  It’s an addiction of shame.  It isn’t widely talked about and certainly isn’t one of the most recognized of addictions, but it is a very common addiction that many times, goes unnoticed.  There are many different types of food addictions as well.  Bulimia, compulsive eating, anorexia, emotional eating and sometimes a combination of those.  They are all shameful and they are all just as difficult to overcome as any other addiction.

Maybe even harder.

Because we are taught to “clean our plates” and have to eat for sustenance 3 times a day, it makes controlling eating addictions that much more difficult.  Everywhere you go, people are eating.  There is food everywhere you turn, it’s made fast, appears inside clothing stores, it’s peddled up and down the beach.  Trying to control an addiction that you are confronted with on this level of availability creates a feeling of helplessness, of not knowing where to turn, how to cope, and how to heal.

Depression is another struggle that I have known intimately.  Depression is difficult because it is hard to explain, even to yourself.  I wondered many times, why can’t I just “perk up”?  Why can’t I “snap out of it” and just be “happy”?  And I longed for happiness, craved to feel good and normal.  Even just being slightly less depressed would have been a welcome emotion!  So since I couldn’t figure out how to do that, and since people don’t enjoy being around someone who is unhappy, I chose to isolate myself.

Devastating and dangerous.

And it is difficult for others to understand also.  Friends and loved ones don’t know how to help so eventually they end up turning their backs.  Not because they don’t love you, because they feel hopeless and don’t know what they can do, or because being around you brings them down.

And so the cycle continues…until the ultimate decision is made.

I have never come to the point of planning my suicide, so I can’t relate to that level of depression, but I can only imagine the pain and mental conversations were so bad that suicide seemed like the lesser of the evils, the only escape.

I found my way out of both by taking small steps toward the light.  It wasn’t easy, and there are still days that I fall back a bit, but when I look back at where I was and where I am now, the difference is overwhelming!  I’m not sure if I will ever be completely healed but the journey has brought me understanding.  And that gives me the strength to keep moving forward, to keep finding new ways to embrace happiness, to connect with my Higher Power and with true joy.

Recommitting with each set back.

There have been many things and people who have helped me along the way but I’d like to hear what has helped you with addiction, depression or any other difficulties in your life.

What have you done to pull yourselves up and begin the road to recovery?

Where did you find your inner hero?

How have you helped others in their struggles?

I feel we owe it to ourselves and to everyone who is silently struggling with a shameful secret, whatever it may be, to open up.  To shed light on our inner battles and share them so that others can find a way to understanding and belonging.  And we can all participate in a larger scale of healing that is so very needed at this time.

I look forward to your vulnerable shares…


3 thoughts on “Reflections for Robin

  1. Addictions and depression are both silent killers and can be so easily hidden behind a mask of normality and “pretending we have our shit together” that we present to the rest of the world. I have personally been much farther down that dark path of depression as far as I could walk and still come back. Just that one last step short of where Robin and so many other beautiful but troubled souls have gone. What stopped me? How was I able to find my “inner hero”? a phrase I love btw! The truth is I am not sure, except I knew that there is a certain beauty and uniqueness in the life experience that I knew I would miss and an understanding that any pain I was trying to get away from would just follow me to the other side. Something that Robin himself taught me… you for sharing your beautiful vulnerable self RahelIlumine you have given me and so many others permission to do the same.


  2. Heather says:

    Hi Rachel, great post. I have to say I have been deeply affected by Robin’s suicide like so many other people. An overwhelming sadness at the loss of such an illuminating person who entertained the whole world. An amazing genius who shared so much laughter and reflection on the craziness of our lives. It really did seem like his energy and intellect was out of this world. I think I was so affected because even later in life, after having gone through so much, he succumbed to the demons inside.
    A true wake up call for anyone who has been dealing with addiction or depression in life…it is a lifetime battle that many people do not understand. It is something that cannot be cured with a pill, a week-long retreat, or articles online. Maybe it is not curable at all, only manageable. It is how you learn to deal with it that matters, not trying to erase or ignore it. I truly believe that how the U.S. is dealing with depression, by labeling every emotion as a mental condition and subscribing a pill, is starting to really show its ugly face to the world. People are getting way too accustomed to quick fixes for all their problems. Just take a pill and everything will be o.k. Because you should naturally be happy, right? But, maybe we are not supposed to be happy all the time. Maybe we have to deal with these constant mental battles for a reason. Addictions to anything are a way to deal with these battles, a quick relief from the pain. The ironic part is that the actual addictions then become the cause of the suffering. For some people these battles create a lot of suffering for everyone around them. Robin understood this and it is reflected in a lot of his comedy and drama. He had great advise for the world yet in the end he did not have the strength to follow it himself.
    For me, this is another reason we need to look at how we deal with mental disorders, depression and addictions. Maybe they are natural fluctuations of mental states, that we as humans, have to learn to deal with. I think that it touches on the underlying way we approach problems now. I worked with at risk kids in a wonderful Outward Bound program that was created to help kids learn to deal with conflict. I learned a lot along the way. But one thing I saw was that a high percentage of the kids were on one to four different kinds of psychotropic drugs so that they would behave better, listen better, perform better. The insanity of it was their parents, schools and law enforcement were saying don’t take drugs on one side and then shoving them down their throats on the other… If this is how we are teaching people to deal with problems I don’t see we have much hope.
    This world is stressful and some people have to deal with much bigger and darker demons than we can imagine. I hope that we are able to explore the human psyche and find better ways to deal with the problems we face. I wish we could have found a way to help Robin because I know he helped so many people just by sharing his laughter. But maybe he shared too much and didn’t keep enough of the best medicine for himself.


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