Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.
What a week it’s been, huh? A week where it seemed for one brief moment the world was united in grief for one very funny man.
I talk of course about Robin Williams, and I, like everyone else felt incredibly sad that the world was lesser for losing this amazing soul. He was of course the quintessential crying clown…putting on his make up to make the crowd laugh while he was hiding great sadness beneath.
I loved him in Patch Adams.
I didn’t feel disbelief like I did when I heard the news of other celebrities who left us way too soon…like I did when I heard Michael Hutchence was gone, for example. I thought briefly that was a media hoax.
I’m not sure why I was sad but wasn’t shocked by the passing of Robin Wiiliams. Perhaps it was because he had spoken openly, though not often, of the darker thoughts – of his ongoing battles with depression and drugs, and of his suicidal thoughts.
When my ex left me, and I was financially battered and struggling, people asked me why I didn’t confront him more about the money. Why I didn’t demand more. Why I didn’t go to child support and “go” him.
There were many reasons. A naive belief that things might of worked out at the time. Silliness. A sense of integrity for myself. Why should I beg for crumbs from the bread I helped to make? And this truth that while he had a history of hiding himself emotionally from me, I had also supported this man through bouts of depression.
When I pushed about the money and what might have gone wrong on that front, he told me he wanted to take his own life.
I find it hard to put into words what it feels like to hear those words from someone you genuinely love. To believe them. To call a Crisis Assessment Team (CAT) not knowing where he was or how much weight those words carried.
I was shattered.
Thankfully he didn’t take his own life. But I was deeply scarred and still am. I’ve no doubt he was serious at the time. There was so much dripping from those words. Confusion, a sense of being overwhelmed, guilt, shame, embarrassment and in the end a broken, disengaged man.
I also believe that as he felt stronger and no longer felt so lost, or disempowered, he continued to say he felt like giving up on life as an emotional means to keep me from pushing for answers he either would not or couldn’t give. That’s painful too because here’s the thing…are you ever prepared to risk it?
No. Of course not. I can’t begin to imagine the demons he fought on and off for years. When he was happy, he was brilliant. When he was sad, it was all consuming. It was tough as a partner to weather that. He certainly wasn’t depressed all the time. Not outwardly. In fact it was years before I recognised it. But when it came on it sometimes lasted for months.
You question yourself as a partner. You ask yourself if there was more you could do to make them happy? You take responsibility for their darkness and sadness, no matter how illogical, and in the end, you walk on egg shells and you lose a little piece of your own self in the fighting for them to be ok.
I recently found among a box of photographs, a hand written letter by my ex. A letter asking for forgiveness, apologising for not being the best husband, and thanking me for my support.
Ugh. It was tough to read it in the here and now because I never thought he’d acknowledged me In all if his struggles. Such was my pain. He wrote this a long time before he left. How had I not seen all the signs?
I thought he was just unhappy. Not unhappy with me. Or our life together. Just so unhappy in general. Depression can be like that. There’s a lot of people walking that line every day I now realise.
I am to this day still scarred by his depression and his reaction to it. On some level I still fear what might happen if I push back against his arrogance, annoyance or apathy too much in regards to our kids, or child support or whatever.
And he knows it of course. But would I risk it? Nope. I still wouldn’t.
He’s fine now. He seems to be. We aren’t mates. We don’t Hang out. We share children and we are polite. As grown ups are. He cares about me as i do him of course.
But really, I wouldn’t know.
He seems to be. Of course I hope he is.
This week proves yet again that we never know what lies beneath the surface of anyone. All we can do is show compassion, kindness and empathy to others. We simply never know hear lies beneath, and that we cannot blame ourselves if someone’s battle is too much.
Depression is a complex issue and I’m certainly not pretending to have the answers, but for the millions who live with and battle anxiety or depression every day, and their partners and love ones, it’s real. So very real.
If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out. In Australia you can contact Life Line on Life Line
Or Beyond Blue