Peter Pan went back to Neverland. Mork has finally gone back to Ork. Mrs. Doubtfire has returned to England. Genie has been set free. That’s the way I’d like to think of the passing of Robin Williams.
The childlike smile that entertained us all for years was quietly battling depression. It’s a disease. We often treat it like it is a mood; however it is literally a chemical imbalance of seratonin, neuroeprinephrin, and dopamine (look at me remembering something from college!). Because on the surface it looks as if someone just has the blues people tend to treat those who have it incorrectly.
Robin Williams is no different than many comedians or entertainers for that matter. Often those who perform or use some creativity as a major outlet are depressed. It’s where their uncanny talent comes from. Altering one’s life experiences and observations into a palatable form is responsible for most of what amuses us. I can attest to this because almost everything I write about parenting and the music that I have created has come from a very dark place.
Nearly eight years ago I was a relationship with an aspiring writer. Timile Brown was known for being the sweet quiet girl who always had a smile on her face. In twenty years I was the first person to see past it and recognize what she described her wretched companion. She had just left a physically abusive relationship, was battling some demons from traumatic childhood experiences, and had headaches everyday since she was ten years old when we first started dating. However, these experiences made her a great writer.
Our first two years together-the first six months especially-were beyond hectic. Sometimes Timile and would be joking around while she was studying and out of nowhere she would black out and throw her laptop across the room. She had many days where she couldn’t get out of bed. She would not have graduated from college had I not been there. Many of her papers, notes for class, and presentations were written by me all while I was taking eighteen credits a semester.
It seems as if God was preparing me for what was to come. I was used to carrying both of our loads without missing a stride by the time Timile was pregnant and eventually battling cancer. It was overwhelming, yet defining. I learned how a writer sees the world during our time together. These experiences helped me find my own voice as a writer. By the time I created this blog I understood the channeling of one’s pain into words that were not accompanied with music.
I’ve recently experienced my own bout with depression. I may not have been clinically depressed; but I had the symptoms. Periods of withdrawal, chain smoking, just wanting to disappear, and all that is commonly associated with the disorder. It wasn’t until yesterday evening when I read about Robin Williams’ suspected suicide that I realized what drove me to that point. While I had been running nonstop the previous four years everyone around me treated me as if I hadn’t grieved over Timile’s passing. I did. Constantly being told that I didn’t made me think “maybe I didn’t.” There were times I did need to talk things out and loved ones felt they couldn’t handle it, needing unload after my grandmother died and shit got real, when I finally needed a hug and a soft place to momentarily lay my head sent me to the brink of a nervous breakdown. I wanted to curse everyone out who mentioned the words you need help and support group. People don’t realize how self-aware I am and I was insulted. I was even told by a family member I have mental issues.
I didn’t have it in me to take care of my daughter yet I still had to most of the day in a house by myself and almost all of my interactions with the outside world were via my cell phone. On the surface I was still Chad who laughed and joked through things. Most of it was a coping mechanism I used to get by. What I was desperately hoping for was for someone to look past the facade and notice that I finally needed to be vulnerable. Not to the same extent; but I needed what I gave Timile. When you’re strong for a very long time people don’t know how to react when you have weak moments. I needed to receive love in a manner that I understood and not have to translate what others could give. Yes, my daughter loves me with all of her heart. At the age of three, her capacity to give love is the equivalent to being given twenty dollars when you owe the IRS thousands; just to have to spend forty on that same person five minutes later.
I am feeling a lot more like myself these days. What helped me through this time was writing. The first project that saved me was an album I wrote, recorded, mixed, and mastered in four weeks. It gave me something to look forward to outside of hustling to make due and it turned out to be my best work. I finally gave in and started documenting my story in book form. I still write how I talk; but dammit I can tell a story that evokes emotion. That is the other side of being creative.
I say all of this because this may be the most important lesson reinforced by Robin Williams dying yesterday morning. It will happen again. It happens often in Hollywood. We all know someone personally battling this and we often write it off. You never know. The person smiling in your face or even trying to just make your day a little brighter just might be the one who needs it the most.