Their Own Private Battle

“Heard joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor…I am Pagliacci.”
― Alan Moore, Watchmen

I have never been truly depressed. Certainly not the kind of dark depression that overtook Robin Williams. Unfortunately, I’ve been around several people who suffer legitimately from clinical depression. It is as much a crippling disease as polio.

We will never know what was going on with Robin Williams. He made everyone laugh, but his life was just like the Pagliacci joke. There was darkness offsetting the light. Depression against the laughter.

I wish he had sought help before leaving this world the way he did. I wish he could have found balance. It’s shocking that someone with the amount of talent he had can be taken from us so easily. It reminds us again that life is short. When you are truly depressed, life can be unbearable and impossible.

The truly depressed individuals are the ones that don’t get saved. The ones that don’t announce their depression to the world, unfortunately often express it in their final act.

What does it all mean? What should we take away from this senseless thing?

In my experience, the world is indifferent to the depressed until something like this happens. In the days that followed, I saw plenty of information on social media about clinical depression. Robin Williams’ death was the spark to start talking about it. In fact, I read a deeply personal story from one of my friends who shined a light on his own pain. He was profoundly affected by the death of Robin Williams. His Facebook post was a glimpse into his own personal fight and it brought out plenty of empathetic comments.

In the wake of this terrible tragedy, maybe we should try and be a little more empathetic all the time. Maybe it’s time to discuss depression out in the open. Maybe it’s time to make some changes in our own little world and remember everyone is fighting their own individual battles.

Of course, those battles may not be depression. It could be uncontrollable pain. It could be a lack of self-worth. It could be anything. What if we open ourselves up to those around us? Bring some love into the world. Bring some forgiveness. Bring some kindness. Brighten someone’s day. Make someone you don’t know laugh. It’s not a solution and it probably won’t drive the demons away, but it can make a difference.

That’s how I’m going to honor the memory of Robin Williams. How about you?