My head has been in weird place this past week. I have a lot in front of me and a lot behind me.
Being both bipolar 1 and also being a child survivor of suicide, Robin Williams’ death sent me spiraling downward at a time when I am trying to spiral upward. I feel empathy for the pain he has suffered and for his family. I can also understand why some people (survivors mostly) feel it was a selfish act, but what they don’t understand is that it is a selfless act in the mind of the victim. I say victim because the chemical imbalance in the brain that darkens the world and slows then stops time chooses its prey, they don’t choose death.
That is the one most vital thing people have to come to understand and the least understandable.
This is not sadness, but it is a sad situation. Depression is called depression for a reason.
Your metabolism slows to the point of not feeling hungry…ever. Or thirsty…ever.
Your thought processes slow to the point that your mind begins to formulate a thought and hours later, after distorted thoughts have come and gone, your mind finishes it.
You don’t know what happened in between. Worse than a drunk in a blackout, you function, but you are not conscious of it.
In the worst of it, your motor functions are crippled. You literally begin to move in slow motion. It’s called psychomotor retardation, and it’s not one day…or two or three, but every day for weeks, months and years.
I recall one day during an episode where I rose from my bed and put my feet on the floor. I was thinking about making some coffee. I, at some point, walked into the living room, opened a window, and sat in a rocking chair. There was a hole in the screen. The kids were at school. I have no clue what I thought about all day long, but when the kids came home, nearly eight hours later, I was still sitting in that chair. A wasp nest was in the corner of the window and it had been disturbed by me opening the window early that morning. So these wasps were now inside. A few were flying around the room. My face and arms were covered in wasps, and I could not, would not, move. I was an observer. They were crawling around on me, I felt them, and I did not care. I was thinking about making some coffee.
That was my day. I was totally not in control of my thoughts or actions.
I never self-medicated with drugs or alcohol. I was on medication for mood disorder, but this was a breakthrough episode. And I felt that I wanted to die. I did not want to put my family through me going back into a hospital for treatment.
In between these episodes, I was Professional Registered Nurse, wife, mother, student, employer, employee, Girl Scout cookie chairperson, Eagle Scout mom, soccer mom, drove the kids to tae kwon do, horseback riding lessons, softball practice, I was cheerleading chaperone and youth group leader. No one knew, but my family.
When I was manic, I was working sixteen hour shifts, a creative genius, devising staffing inservice manuals for CCU, and healthcare program designs, creating ceramic artwork that would blow your mind…no one faulted me that. No one much noticed the toll it took.
Even when you seek help, there are often complications, like there are with any disease. There are resistant strains, chemotherapy and talk therapy are both tricky. It’s expensive to treat. Responses are varied. It can take weeks or months to see the positive effects of medications, and many won’t endure that long. The medication that finally stopped all of this for me, after several experimental cocktails, was a third generation psychotropic discovered in 1996. I took it as an experimental drug. I was willing to try anything. My episodes were off and on from 1979. Some people are not as lucky as me, because everybody’s brain chemistry is different. It can take years, decades, to find the right mix.
I don’t know what Robin Williams was thinking, or even if he knew what he was thinking.
I don’t believe he chose death. I will never believe that he chose death.