I was shocked as anyone else when I heard about the death of actor Robin Williams. Even worse was finding out that he took his own life, apparently as a result of severe depression. The story hit home with me as someone whose father suffered terribly from this disease.
For at least ten years and probably longer, my dad was ruined by physical and mental disorders, including depression. Difficult circumstances that would be hard for anyone were overwhelming for him, and he got worse and worse as time went on. For most of my adulthood, I lived thousands of miles away from my dad, so our communication was limited to phone calls. I tried calling at least once a week, but for long stretches of time, months, he would not respond. His wife said he often did not get out of bed for days. I loved him so much, but we couldn’t maintain a decent relationship with those types of barriers.
At the very end, my dad was institutionalized and then lived in a group home. His family helped him get set up in an apartment, but he was incapable of living independently. The last time I spoke to him was just before Christmas in 2011. Nobody heard anything from him for a few weeks and his body was found at least 10 days after he passed away, apparently from a diabetic coma. I can only hope that he didn’t suffer and he wasn’t terrified by being alone and dying.
My dad had so many amazing traits that were muted by mental disease, but he was gentle, he loved animals and the outdoors. He was a sensitive introvert and loved reading, music, and nature. I am his daughter for sure; we were very much alike in many ways, including having my own brushes with anxiety and depression, for which I sought professional help.
Even though my dad lived in Oklahoma most of his life, he also loved California and the ocean, like I do. We took a family trip to Carmel and Monterey when I was six:
Who would have guessed that I would have ended up living close to this area as adult? I feel so grateful to see the ocean every day and I so wish my dad could come visit. I can imagine that we would take long walks together and he would wax poetic about the state of the world.
My dad was so proud of me and sometimes read my blog. In our last conversation, he told me I should write a book. Someday, maybe I will. Until then, my message is to offer compassion and support to you or anyone you know who is suffering from depression, because I know how much it hurts.
Most importantly, if you have any thoughts of not wanting to live, then you must get help. You are worth it and you are not alone. Please take steps to get better and share your gifts with the world. If you are desperate, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 which is available 24/7. For general information on depression, the NIH has some good information.
For other links to books and websites that have helped me, please visit my Resources page.