What a tragic loss. Today the world lost a beautiful incredibly talented man. RIP Robin Williams. Rich, poor, male, female, famous, unknown………… it doesn’t matter…..Depression has no bias. No-one is immune. It can strike any of us when we least expect it. To varying degrees we all have “I’m not good enough demons.” And until we wrestle those inner demons head on and conquer them, they’ll be there lurking in the background waiting to drag us down into the darkness when things get tough.
You may be wondering how I know this? Well 25 years ago, I almost committed suicide myself. I suffered a nervous breakdown and was severely depressed. Every ounce of my “I’m not good enough demons” reared their ugly heads and it felt as though they were literally strangling me. Day by day I’d gear up with my suit of armour pretending everything was fine, but deep down inside, I was hurting like crazy and far from fine.
One moment I was a confident, vivacious young women in her early thirties, full of life and positive anticipation, running and incredibly successful school of performing arts. Then after being dumped by who I thought was the man of my dreams I suddenly felt totally worthless.
I soldiered on pretending I was okay but I was far from okay. After doing so for about 6 months I started experiencing anxiety attacks daily and had no desire to get out of bed. And when I did, all I could see was what was wrong with the world. My previous “rose coloured glasses” approach to life had disappeared, only to be replaced by a “murky pair of black lenses.” It was as if the firm ground that I’d previously stood on had turned into quicksand. Every day I slipped deeper and deeper below the surface until I could barely breathe. My world became incredibly dark and lonely.
Well meaning friends and colleagues told me to look for the light at the end of the tunnel. But that made me feel even more isolated and alone as there certainly wasn’t any light in the tunnel I was in.
After soldiering on for a few more months, the pain became altogether unbearable. So I decided it was time for me to “check out” and commit suicide.
I planned to take an overdose of anti depressants that night after teaching my favourite classes. Only trouble was I couldn’t find the damn things. So I rifled through my bathroom cupboards but I couldn’t find anything remotely capable of killing me. The entire situation would have been comical had I not been on the verge of suicide.
So I fell in a heap on the cold bathroom tiles, sobbing hysterically. The critical voice in my head reared its ugly self, berating me mercilessly: “you’re so pathetic! You can’t even organise your own suicide properly!”
I was curled up in a foetal position, rocking myself back and forth on those cold bathroom tiles, listening to the deep primal screams coming from somewhere deep inside of me when the phone rang. There was no way I was about to get off the floor and answer it, so I let it ring out. But it rang again and again. The third time the phone rang a gentler voice inside of me said “get up and answer it.” I think I was worried that something bad might have happened to my mum or dad. So I slowly unfolded my wasted body and picked up the phone.
One of my beautiful students’ mothers was on the line. She said uncertainly, “Are you okay?” I responded “no but I will be.” And in that moment she read between the lines and realised what I meant. She said she’d be around shortly and made me promise I wouldn’t do anything. So I promised but I had no intention of keeping my promise. All I wanted to do was get off the phone and come up with Plan B.
I realised I’d have to move quickly and leave the house before she arrived. As I grabbed my car keys and walked towards the front door I remember saying to myself “oh well, you’ll have to drive your car off a cliff. I hope you can get that right and not end up a paraplegic!”
Much to my surprise just as I was about to open the front door, someone rang the doorbell. Standing there was another on of my student’s parents, with a huge bouquet of beautiful flowers in her arms. She said, “We know you’re going through a rough time at the moment so we want you to know how much we love you.”
At that precise moment I remembered an analogy Robert Kiyosaki had shared with us in a personal development course of his I’d attended. He said that when we’re “off track,” we’ll often get a tap on the shoulder to alert us. If we ignore the first tap, the second one will be much harder. And if we don’t listen to that one, next thing we know, we are flat on our backs with the smell of diesel filling our lungs and the Mack Truck tread marks across our belly, wondering what the f— hit us!
As I stood dumbfounded in my doorway with the flowers in my arms, I thought “maybe I’m not meant to go after all? He doesn’t love you, but lots of other people do, so maybe ITS TIME FOR YOU TO LOVE YOURSELF from the inside out instead of constantly searching for acknowledgment from others that you’re okay.”
In that very moment, I made a pledge to myself: I promised that I would never feel that bad about myself ever again. I would never allow anyone to rob me of my self-esteem. When I made that pledge, the real work began. Was it easy? Gosh no! Was it worth it? Absolutely.
I know now that what I thought was my biggest nightmare actually turned out to be my “biggest gift.” Some would say I suffered a nervous breakdown. But I call it my “Break Down to Breakthrough” to the real me. In the moment I chose to live, I chose to build myself up brick by brick, day by day; to be the confident happy women that I am today!
I share this story in the hope that someone who is struggling with depression will read it. And know they are not alone. And even though there may be no light in your tunnel right now, trust me it will reappear. If you are suffering from depression and pretending like I was that you’re okay PLEASE REACH OUT TO SOMEONE RIGHT NOW and tell them how you’re feeling. Many of us have experienced depression and many of us have conquered it and gone on to lead incredibly fulfilling lives. In my case it was the making of me. Suicide is NEVER the answer.
If on the other hand you know someone that’s suffering from depression, really be there for them. Pick up the phone and check in on them daily. Give them lots of hugs. Buy them flowers in bright happy colours, tell them you love them and are there for them no matter what. Find something they used to enjoy doing and organise to do it with them (even if they don’t want to. ) Get them moving. Staying stationary keeps us stuck. Changing our physiology by walking, running or exercising changes the chemicals in our brain. And we produce feel good endorphins.
If they don’t want to move, drive them to a park where little children are playing. Young children’s energy is infectious. As is baby animals. So a trip to the pet shop could be a great alternative? And make sure they nurse/pat the animals.
And most importantly encourage them to get professional help. Set up an appointment for them and turn up and take them. Arrive with plenty of time and help them get dressed. When people are severely depressed they move slowly and take twice as long to complete even the easiest of tasks.
Never underestimate the power of a simple gesture. A smile, a hug, a phone call could just be the thing that saves someone’s life.
With love and aloha,