With the death of Robin Williams, at his own hand, caused by severe depression, it appears to me that this blog needs to be written. That is because it is something I know about, and I am seeing that there are many who still do not understand, and are writing bad things about what has happened.

Depression comes in two forms – the rare form which is just a sadness that won’t go away and is treated by MAO Inhibitors, which actually work to change your mood through the drug. The more common form is called clinical depression, and is a physical illness, caused because your brain does not put out the endorphins your body needs, and is treated by SSRIs. These are known by names such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, and other brand names. I would not be arrogant to try and tell anyone what they need – Paxil works perfectly for me.

Paxil basically stops the stoppage of endorphins in my brain so they can’t be spread throughout my brain, and raise my mood naturally. They must be taken with some conditions, such as not using NSAIDS (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.), which can interfere with their use. Because it is a physical condition, I cannot ever quit using my Paxil.

Some problems people have – alcoholism, drug-use, over-eating, nymphomania, shopping til you drop, and such other disorders – can be related totally to depression. I was a drinker for years, and when I finally quit drinking, I started having anxiety, mild agrophobia, panic and other stress conditions that were finally diagnosed with the help of a very good psychiatrist, and I underwent therapy with a psychologist and a medical therapist twice in order
to come to terms with it.

And in these economic times, with a Congress that won’t give anyone help, doesn’t seem to care about the people, the people that are losing their jobs, their homes, cannot feed their children, cannot get another job, and especially men who feel useless because maybe their wives are having to support the family (men suffer sometimes worse than women, but women suffer too), and the problems raised by lack of money or sleeping on the street, or a having to ask for government help when they have always been self-sufficient, depression is actually an illness running rampant now.

Sometimes you just need someone to talk to, but if it is bad enough to need chemical help, you need to start out with a psychiatrist because s/he is who has to prescribe, and watch over, your pharmaceutical usage. Once you have it under control, most regular doctors will prescribe your meds for you.

My depression appears to have started when I was very small, when I was led to believe that my father did not want me. I later learned that my mother had abandoned him, and was lying to me and my sister, but by then the damage had been done. I was also continually told that I was no-good, and was going to hell, practically every day of my life. There were some good thing – being in the high school band was a big help for me – but once I got out of school, and moved away from the home I was raised in, I began drinking. I drank for about 15 years, all through the years of Vietnam, and the crazy 60s, but I finally quit in 1973. I had been raped, and had slept around promiscuously, and given away three daughters by then. I am certain that even though I felt rather numb by then, like nothing could touch me any longer, my subconscious decided to let me know otherwise.

Not all the bad things happened to me – my sister being burned badly when I was 16 and she 13, my stepdad who favoured his own two children over me and Patti, the deaths of more than one friend to violence of one form or another, giving away my children, and apparently my distancing myself from friends and family distancing themselves from me, leaving me to fend for myself, all worked over the years to bring me to a state of depression strong enough to cause me to go suicidal, and then to develop PTSD.

It does not seem appropriate for me to detail every little thing in my life that lead to my problems – I got my first therapy in 1989, which carried on into the early 90s. Then I got a job that made me very happy, and was involved in several activities that made me feel good and whole, and I got off the Prozac which I was then taking.

In 1995, the happy little world I had built for myself collapsed, and I went suicidal for the first time. Between my friend Joyce and a cat I had, I was dragged back by into the world, got into MHMR, and was put back on Prozac. After a year or two, I discovered the Prozac was making me mean, and I got on Paxil (apparently going through menopause clashed with the Prozac). I was working again, and doing well. But I was not happy – I was just living from day to day and minute to minute. Finally I found another job I loved, and was doing well for two years. I even tried to get back off the Pax, but a change was made where I worked that left me in a position I hated, and I once again went suicidal.

I saw a psychiatrist who put me back on the Paxil, and went through another round of therapy with a mental practitioner. I finally realized that it was probably time for me to retire, and stay on the meds. I retired (forcibly, actually) at 62, but worked for several years as a temp, mostly to pay for my Paxil, because I had no insurance. But once I got to 65, and became eligible for Medicare, I finally quit working completely. Life still didn’t go smoothly – I discovered two of my friends were not really my friends, and that was discouraging. But I finally got into my housing in 2009, and today I am truly happy.

Yes, I get a body blow now and again – the blog I recently wrote about my sister’s death was enough to take me back to a bad place – but staying on my Paxil (with an occasional Klonopin for extra stress) allowed me to get through this without further damage to my psyche.

Now I am not alone in this – my story is not unique – I would not even write about it, but really, folks, you make a judgment on someone like Robin Williams, and you are most likely making a bad judgment on him/her. Even if you don’t understand the exact reasons why, you need to accept that there is a reason. In Robin Williams’ case, I know there has been some publicity about his depression and his therapy, but really, he was a very public person.

How many of you, meeting him, would expect him to crack jokes to you, and never let you know he was hurting. His publicist and agents were probably on to him continually to keep a sunny face to the world.

Have you seen the commercial about how painful depression can be? This is true. Depression can be physically painful. You either cannot eat, or cannot stop eating. You either cannot sleep, or you cannot, or don’t want to, get out of bed in the morning. You are either a workaholic, or you would rather sit in front of the television, not really seeing it, or anything going on around you.

If you have a panic attack, you believe you are having a heart attack. The symptoms are exactly the same. Then you call 911, and they come and either take you to the hospital, or you refuse to go. Because once the EMTs are there, the panic seems to stop. Then you are left feeling ashamed, or embarrassed, or worthless.

I’m not kidding you, and I bet most of you know someone who is going through exactly the things I’ve mentioned, and you may not know what is “wrong” with them (WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU – SNAP OUT OF IT), and that is just exactly the wrong thing to say to someone going through this. If your loved one, or your friend, will not tell you what is wrong, it is because they are ashamed or embarrassed to say anything to you. Sometimes it may take an attempt at suicide to make you understand. Sometimes the person will go through the motions of suicide, but doesn’t really succeed. That is a cry for help.

But tough as it may be, if you see things like any of the above in a friend or loved one, try your best to get him/her to get help. Sometimes it won’t work, and things go to hell. But most of the time, it can help. If someone wants to talk about something, don’t be tempted to say things that sound trite or uncaring. Listen, pay attention, they are crying for help.

I am always open to listen to people. Being able to talk about my problems, my fears, or just my experiences, helps me a great deal, and always did help. That is why I expressed myself so much over the episode with my sister’s death, and learning about it the way I did. It helped me heal. I am okay, not in any danger of falling back into the destructive things that hurt me for so long (over 30 years), and I will be there for anyone who wants to talk to me.

Please read and think about this. I care for you, and all those who are hurting mentally, as well as physically.

Love to you all,
Carol Stepp
Austin TX

About carolstepp

Music is about the most important thing in my life, and I follow a large number of musicians, particularly Irish, Scots, Classical, Crossovers of any of these. I was writing a blog about Celtic Thunder regularly on MySpace, and now I have left them after a year, and will start writing my blogs here. I am 70, retired, living on Social Security, and have a lot of social network fans.
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