We all are feeling a bit sad today. The passing of
Robin Williams is a loss for us all. He was able to touch
each of us with his brilliant performances. While he
could bring us to fits of laughter he was also able to give
us deeply human characters we will long remember. I have
read that he was battling the demons of depression. Perhaps
he was just tired of the battle. My heart goes out to the
family he left behind. While depression seems so
personal to the one who lives it, the heartache of this
ailment also affects everyone in the family.
My Mother suffered from depression. As a young child I did not
understand it's implications. All I knew was that something was
wrong and I kept trying to fix it. That was an impossible task for
a young girl especially when my Daddy's busy career often took
him out of the country for weeks at a time. I was left alone with
a woman who was suffering and as a consequence I was
suffering as well.
There were increasing hospital visits for unknown illnesses.
I was packed off to live with friends. It was a very lonely
and confusing time for me. Then one Sunday after my Mom
and I had returned home, she locked herself in her bedroom
and called her sister and told her that she planned to swallow
a bottle of pills because she was so unhappy. She just
wanted everything to be over.
My Aunt drove out to the suburbs and packed our bags. We drove
into the city where my Mom was admitted into the hospital while I
waited in the lobby. I remember clutching a stuffed bear and trying
to block out the waves of fear.
I lived with my Aunt and Uncle and their two sons
for a while. My teachers at school arranged for a
home study program for me so I would not fall behind.
It was a structure and normalcy I needed and I was
able to better cope with my situation. But it was
one that was not allowed to continue. Daddy was in
South America. From his hotel in Rio he arranged
for me to stay with a family who lived in our suburban
village. Although I wanted to stay with my Aunt, I was
told I had to return to my school, so I was packed off.
It was the darkest time in my young life. Although everyone
was kind to me, I felt like an intruder. There were the
whispered comments they thought I did not notice. The
stigma of having a parent who had suicidal thoughts.
Depression was a topic that was swept under the rug. It
was unacceptable in our perfect little suburban village.
While I was living with my heartache, my Mom was
battling her own. Her depression was so severe that she
was given electroconvulsive therapy several times over
a course of a few weeks. I did not know about it until
it was time for her to return home. A housekeeper was
hired and my Mom spent her days in bed. I would try to
sit with her and try to talk with her but the therapy
caused memory loss and she did not know who I was.
My childhood finally came to an abrupt end.
I was far too young to fully comprehend all that was
happening around me and helpless to be of any
assistance so I slipped into a world of my own.
I became very withdrawn. My once perfect grades in
school dropped. The only thing that brought me joy
was horseback riding. I spent every free moment at
the stable. I spent hours on the back of a horse
sailing over higher and higher fences. My horse and
my dog were my only solace.
Daddy enrolled me in a private school and I
started to thrive under it's caring teaching
staff. My life came out of the shadows.
When I went to college I minored in psychology
partly because I hoped it would help me to
understand my Mom's illness better. While
it did help me to understand her, the pain
of her illness touched us all.
Eventually her illness improved. The bouts of depression
lessened. She was able to find a degree of happiness.
Sadly, there were big gaps in her memory, especially of
her memories of me as a child. I treasure my own
memories of her as we were able to spend the last few
months of her life together.
While I believe that the illness of depression is better
understood by the public today than it once was, I
also know that a loved one's battle with the illness
becomes a battle that all the family members must face.
I hope that Robin Williams is now in peace and that
his family members can find the way to cope with
Big Texas Hugs,
Susan and Bentley