Mara Wilson (of Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda fame) wrote a blog post dedicated to Robin Williams and it’s absolutely perfect and everything you hoped it would be. Originally, she had stated that she was taking a break from social media to take it all in and deal with her loss privately (and kudos to her for that). When she finally addressed it, she wrote an incredible post. And she ended it with this, which pretty much cemented it as the best post ever on the subject:
In her post, she makes a very good point: that in all of this, while needing to feel empathy, we need to be very cautious to not romanticize Williams’ anguish. That not all artists are tortured, nor is it a prerequisite to being creative. While depression is nothing to ever be ashamed of, it’s nothing to aspire to either. Anyone who truly struggles with depression will tell you that. Depression and anxiety shouldn’t be seen as the new gluten-free, and while part of me thinks it’s ridiculous that I felt the need to say that, the other part of me fears it becoming a trend. I make the comparison to being gluten-free because my thought on the whole subject is treat it if ya got it. And if you don’t got it, leave it alone. You bastardize those that do struggle when you romanticize a medical condition.
Most of my issues (at least of late) have been in the anxiety field. It would be easy for me to play them off as an occupational hazard, and while I have no doubt that my job exacerbates and possibly even triggers it on occasion, it would be a blatant fallacy to attribute it entirely to a job. I can remember the first time I ever had a panic attack. My mom had been admitted to the hospital with what we thought was a heart issue, and I was sitting in her room with various family members. All of a sudden, I felt the walls collapse on me. It became very hard to breathe, and it was almost as though, for no reason at all, I became 100% uncomfortable with all of my surroundings. Like everything was wrong, but closing in all at once. I escaped outside (thank goodness, there was a door to a little gazebo area right by her room), and I tried to come to terms with what had just happened. At that time, I don’t think I was well-versed enough to know that it was anxiety, and I’d be too pig-headed in the years to come to label it as such, even when I knew better.
That was ten years ago. In that time, I’ve completely come to terms with it, and I don’t mind talking about it. Talking about it, at least for me, tends to make it better in the long run, even if it makes me itchy in the process. Demons never seem to be as bad if you consistently confront them: you may lose some of your battles with them, but you ultimately win the war. I talk about it all the time now. I see a therapist and I talk. Therapy is nothing to be ashamed of. I think, for so long, I saw therapy as giving up, as admitting there was a problem I couldn’t fix, and subsequently, as a failure on my part. I can assure you, it is nothing of the sort. The one part of my thinking that was totally true was that making the decision to see a therapist is, in a sense, admitting that there is a problem that you can’t fix on your own. And that’s ohhh-damn-kay. It is okay to seek help for a something you can’t do on your own. I’d never try to paint the exterior of my house because I know that I can’t do it: I seek someone who works solely in house painting to do a good job and patch it all up. It’s the same with making the decision to see a therapist (although I sort of hate that I compared myself to a run-down house). If I feel myself getting to that point (but not quite to the full-fledged attack), I have a list of things I do to try and work myself back down: first, I do a set of breathing exercises that Dr. Phil the Super Therapist taught me. I do this while laying in floor making what Whitney appropriately calls carpet angels. Just like snow angels, but in the floor. If that hasn’t worked, I get up and do a handstand (thank God I have an office with a door and a boss with similar anxiety). I finish with coloring for a few minutes.
Yes. I am a thirty year old lawyer with a desk drawer of crayons and coloring books. And that is what works for me, at least in terms of non-medicinal attempts to prevent the panic attack before it starts. The point is that, sometimes, I can manage to reroute my thoughts on something so mundane and basic that my brain forgot what it was panicking over. Sometimes it all works, and sometimes it doesn’t. If after my five or so minutes of attempting to trick my brain in this manner doesn’t help, I can turn elsewhere, which is for a separate post all together.
I say all of this because it’s wholly hypocritical of me to write so freely about depression and anxiety not being stigmatized without really ever addressing my issues with it. I’ve alluded to them in the past, but never talked openly about them (at least not ’round these parts). I want to be open about it because so many people struggle daily without knowing how common it is, and without knowing that they are not ever alone. No one is ever really alone.
And when in doubt, color.