Thank you, everyone, for the outpouring of kind words about my Robin Williams post last week (click here to read “What I Learned From Robin Williams’ Passing”). A bunch of people shared it on Facebook and Twitter. It appears to have resonated at a time people were looking to make sense out of a confusing, devastating turn of events.
The most thought-provoking conversation I had about it was with my mother, who was driving home when we spoke on the phone. Sometimes cell reception in her area is spotty (and sometimes it’s downright crappy), which will be evident as I recall our conversation:
Mom: “It sounds like Robin Williams had things under control… hello? Are you there? Can you hear me?”
Me: “Yea I’m here. You’re going in and out, though.”
Mom: “How about now? Is this better?”
Me: “Yea, that’s better.”
Mom: “What I was saying was that doesn’t it sound like Robin Williams had his issues under control for long periods of time? I mean, he would go back into rehab when he needed to, but he seemed aware of the problems he was fighting.”
Me: “You’re right, from what I’ve read he’s been battling this for decades, and…”
Mom: “Hold on, I want to say ‘hi’ to this neighbor.”
(I hear my mom’s window roll down, and she issues a friendly “hello.” I can picture her waving in my head.)
Mom: “Sorry about that. They just moved in.”
Me: “No problem.”
Mom: “Anyway. He was doing well for a long, long time. But this still happened.”
Me: “Yea, it’s terrible.”
Mom: “My point is that…”
(I can tell by her voice that she’s looking for the right word.)
Mom: “…just, um…”
(Her voice turns again. She’s found the word.)
Mom: “Don’t be cavalier, David.”
My mom didn’t have to say much else, and, as it turns out, she didn’t, because we were distracted by another neighbor, my friend Sean, whom I’ve known my entire life.
Her point was simple: don’t mistake acknowledging or understanding your issues for having conquered them. Just because you’re able to articulate your challenges, your triggers, your downward spirals, or other elements of your depression or mental illness doesn’t mean you’re immune to them. Self-awareness may provide insight, but not always strength.
It’s a valid point, and one definitely worth remembering. I can’t dismiss my depression or take it less seriously just because I think I may understand it better than before. I don’t want to be blindsided because I’m overly confident or unconcerned.
If this year in any indication, then I’ve been doing well at listening to what’s going on and fighting back. I’ve identified and muscled my way out of two depression episodes, both of which I wrote about. The bigger of the two was back in January (Read my post: “I Wish I Could Stop”) and there was another one in June (Read my post: “Mental Health Check”).
And that, my friends, is an excellent reason to say…
..Keep it up, David!
(And THANK YOU, Mom!)