Robin Williams died yesterday and most of the world who knows anything about popular culture began mourning.
I did not.
It was a strange feeling, not being sad because of the tragic death of a talented person. I was disturbed by my lack of horror at the news, but still couldn’t make myself feel anything.
It’s not that I don’t love his movies, or think he’s brilliant, or wish he’d not reached that level of sadness and depression. In fact, I immediately thought of his movie, “What Dreams May Come” where he travels through heaven and hell to save his wife who’s committed suicide.
I couldn’t stop thinking about that movie, the irony, and I couldn’t sleep last night.
I forgot to take my medication the morning before, and when that happens, I get these awesome bouts of insomnia. I take an antidepressant to help combat a pretty raging case of PTSD. My doctor says there are most likely “other issues” going on, but that we are just going to tackle the PTSD for the time being.
I’m lucky that I only have to manage one mental med. I have plenty of friends that are juggling two or three or more. But I’m functioning on one for now. Most days, I realize, it’s just barely functioning but it’s better than the alternative.
My trauma started building the day that I was born. My family was neglectful, artistic, abusive, creative, manipulative, and musical. There are so many good points and bad points to the family that I grew up in, I stopped trying to weigh them against each other long ago. I just accepted that’s how it was, that’s who I am, and I lived with it.
But two years ago I found out a few things that I didn’t know. Things that tipped the scales permanently to the dark side, so to speak. And this tipped me into the dark realms of PTSD – complete with nightmares, social phobias, flashbacks, melt downs, severe depression and suicidal tendencies. I was pretty much a shadow of my former outgoing, social butterfly self, and I had no idea what to do about it.
So I started painting. Not gorgeous, tragic masterpieces on canvas – I painted the rooms in my house with discount paint from the “Ooops!” shelf at Home Depot. Bright orange, dark grey, neon green and deep purple. Only, I didn’t paint them all the way. Most of the rooms I only painted half way. Half way up, only one coat, two and a half walls but not the others. It seriously looked like a crazy lady moved in, and that was the truth. I was a crazy lady and a half.
But I still had a family to take care of, little children and a husband that I adored. And I knew what it was like growing up with a mother who was talented, crazy, and completely lost in her own grief. I did not want that childhood for my beloved babies.
So after a dark night of no sleep, many thoughts of ending my life, and how to do it with the least amount of pain to my loved ones, I decided instead to live. I decided to call a doctor first thing in the morning. I decided to put those people I loved first and to take care of myself for them. Instead of trying to find a way to slip away without hurting them, I decided to find a way to be present without hurting them.
That was two years ago. This morning I woke up and realized that I’m no longer that shell of a person. I’m no longer drowning in that lake that poor Robin Williams lost himself too. I got help. I got meds. I got advice. I read books. I talked to my friends. I talked to my husband. I talked to my kids. I made sure every day that I was as kind as possible, to myself and to my loved ones, because life had not been kind to us, it was up to me to change that. Kindness became my mantra.
Kindness, forgiveness, love – to myself, to those who harmed me, to those I love.
It is not easy. I still slip. I still have very dark days. But I am not giving up.
This morning I woke up. I mean, really woke up. I finished painting one bathroom. The one that looked the worst. There were big smears of blue paint all over the white walls. I was amazed that it only took me about an hour to smooth it out and make it look like a sane person cared about that bathroom. Two years of ignoring it, and the issue was solved in an hour. If only every issue in life were that simple.
I still have many rooms to finish painting, but I’m not giving up. I may even hire someone to help me finish all my manic painting projects. Because, after all, we can’t possibly expect to make it through this life alone, but it’s up to us to reach out and ask for help.
Rest in peace, Robin.