Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Depression and a Loved One's Thoughts of Suicide

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 
his choice.

Big Texas Hugs,
Susan and Bentley


  1. Very well put by someone who truly understands. Thanks for sharing from your heart. What a blessing you are. God bless you! -Bev

  2. Beautifully written, Susan. I feel for the child you were, coping with something that you didn't understand, and for your mother, battling depression's evil grip. Thank you for sharing this. My father used to threaten suicide - as he fought the battle of depression and addiction. I understand what it's like to watch that from a child's point of view. I've also lost friends to suicide. It's all so heartbreaking.


    1. I debated about writing this but I was prompted by Robin's death. Depression should not be ignored. It is very real and is no more shameful than having Diabetes or High Blood Pressure. I believe it touches far more than we know because of the shame and ignorance of it's magnitude. Knowledge is power. Perhaps one day this illness and many others will be overcome. If I can help others by telling my story that makes me feel good. I only regret that my own Mom had to suffer and your Dad too.

  3. Wonderfully written ! I to have lost friends to depression and suicide . It is a hard thing for all to deal with and go through . These days there is more understanding and help out there then there was just 10 years ago . Thanks for sharing we all need to know the signs of depression so we can help others get the help they need !

    1. I do agree that there is more understanding now. I pray for the day when it no longer is a threat to anyone.

  4. Susan, thank you for sharing your story! I've lived with those who have depression and it's a daily struggle for them and those that love them. I'm hoping that there is some peace for Robin William's family soon.


    1. It's so much more common than we think. It seems that so many of us have been touched by it's pain. Thanks for your visit.

  5. Susan,
    We still have a world of things to learn about each other. Thank you for sharing. My Mother too, suffers from depression, at times. Nothing like your dear Mother, but it is hard for these around her, during dark periods. I can't wait to be able to sit down and talk face to face, someday.

    1. Me too Robin. You are the sister I never had but always wanted! Love you bunches!!

  6. Oh Susan! Your story and your words; I think they are the most beautiful I've ever read here. They are human and real and tossing the shroud off of a very debilitating illness that affect so many lives. I can just see you in there with your stuffed bear. I am so sorry for the child that was too young to understand. Do we ever understand? I'm sorry for the memories of you your mother lost. For in her losing them, you lost them too in many ways. I wish I was in your house and I could hug you. We would cry together over the passing of a brilliant man who thought he had to make everyone laugh all of the time. He was putting on a show for all of us. And it was very entertaining. And that was what he did to cover up what was inside. He just couldn't do it anymore. So very tragic.

    1. Thanks Brenda. Wish you were here too! I just read the words his daughter Zelda wrote. She quoted a line from The Little Prince. I think I cried for five full minutes when I finished reading those words. How sad I feel for her today. Her daddy was someone we all knew of but to her Robin was Daddy and I can only imagine how she must be suffering his loss.

  7. I see that Brenda commented just before me. This week, we have been emailing back and forth about the more personal subjects that are popping up and I thought of our conversations when I read about Robin Williams yesterday. Your post is so touching because you put your thoughts, feelings, experiences, etc. out there for all to read. Thanks for your honesty.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. Brenda is a dear friend and we can chat away for hours. You and I are both lucky to have her in our lives.

  8. What a beautiful chronicle of what was a very challenging time in many lives. Your writing is lovely. And, I relate so well to your story on many fronts, having been a young student (18 years) in nurses training working in a locked-unit of a psychiatric hospital assisting with electroshock therapy; living with my own depression as a child since as young as I can remember and thinking it was normal; spending a month in a psychiatric hospital as a working single mother with a family who did not acknowledge depression as an illness nor provide any form of assistance but mainly avoidance. I became an RN at 19 years old which helped me support myself and children who I gave birth to at age 21 and 23 while married. My life has been filled with many challenges - and blessings - but I am most certainly a survivor thanks to lots of prayer, psychotherapy and hard work throughout my almost 75 years of life. And, life is pretty good! God bless you and yours.

    1. I pondered for a while wondering if I should tell this very personal memory. I am glad that I did because I have been reading about how many of us have been been affected by the grip of depression. Avoidance of a painful situation does nothing but make the situation worse. We were all put here to hold each other up. We all need to reach out to one another and lighten life's load. I am glad that you are a survivor. It sounds that you have a strong character and the perseverance to get through a tough situation. I can only imagine how many lives you helped throughout your nursing career. God Bless you!

  9. Susan,
    Thank you for writing this. It brings up many painful memories of my Mama and of myself as a depressed mama.. I don't think I am even ready to talk about all of this yet. I know my depression broke and has never been as severe again after I went through an awful divorce and then remarriage to a man that cares about me..But while reading your words, I realize there were many dark and depressed years in my life and I am sure my children suffered because of it..
    Thank you for your transparency..
    Love, Mona

  10. Susan, thank you so much for sharing this chapter of your life, and your mother w/us. I am so thankful for you you were able to share a better time of her life w/her, especially in the end. I wondered as I read through your account of happenings, how you managed to progress into adulthood and live your life. My father committed suicide, as well as a SIL and cousin. I somehow came to understand and be at peace with what my father did, realizing their pain was just too much for them to overcome and life on the other side seemed to be the answer. I can only begin to understand the pain the family is suffering today. Once again, thank you dear heart.

  11. Hola Susan, te sigo hace un tiempo, pero nunca hice un comentario. Hoy me siento un poco identificada contigo. Mi madre pasó por lo mismo hace un tiempo, con el mismo tratamiento médico que la tuya. Es horrible ver como una madre se desconecta del mundo con todo eso, cuando debería ella cuidarnos y protegernos. Todo se vuelve al revés y una tiene que ser fuerte. Gracias por compartir tu experiencia, saludos.

  12. Susan, This is beautifully written. I can so totally relate to your story. My Mother also suffered from depression and was taken away several times for hospitalization. The image of you as a child was so familiar, it brought tears. Thank you for sharing your story and letting me know I am not the only one. Dianne

    1. No Dianne, judging from all the people I have heard from today, ours is not the only story. I have had notes from so many women who had a mother who suffered from depression or still is. I think that it is important that we discuss it and remove any stigma so that we can work to find a cure and to assist the family members as well. If my story was at all helpful to you then I am very glad.

  13. Susan querida, fiquei comovida ao ler seu depoimento, sua dor. Você é uma pessoa especial, pois Deus não escolhe os preparados, mas prepara os escolhidos. E se Ele escolheu você, pode ter a certeza de que algum motivo muito especial deve ter. Infelizmente nós não conseguimos enxergar muito bem quando estamos diante de um sofrimento grande, mas um dia, podemos compreender os desígnios de Deus. Que seu coraçãozinho fique reconfortado, e que você continue a escrever essas coisas lindas prá gente! Um beijão da sua amiga virtual!

  14. This was a remarkable and emotional outpouring of what surely has weighed heavy on your heart and mind for years. The death of Robin Williams has certainly not been in vain. I'm sure a national discussion will swell about depression and its corrosive complications and consequences. And that's the way it should be. A conversation should be on our lips. But it shouldn't stop there. After the conversation, there needs to be action. Action in bringing mental health to the same standard of physical health where insurance and sick days and sympathetic gestures are concerned. Action in understanding that not only is the victim hurting, but their family and all those closest to them. Action in seeing to it that every person is armed with knowledge as to what to do (and not do!) when they see or think they see someone in crisis.

    I cannot even begin to imagine what you endured. I am glad that in the end you were able to come to certain grips with it and that you came away with an understanding that your Mother was not "crazy" or delinquent in her parenting...she was just very troubled, and very scared, and very much in need of more than what the world in its narrow way of thinking could offer at that time.

    1. Thank you Alycia. Your kind words mean a lot to me.

    2. Susan - I had tears in my eyes envisioning you as a young child holding your teddy bear and being so confused about what was going on. I am so grateful that you and your mom had those last few good years together. Bless you for sharing such a personal story. Praying for you.


  15. I am so sorry for your journey with your mother. But how brave to post this, there are lots of people that are struggling silently to ashamed to get the help. By sharing you may have opened some ones eyes to what is going on in their family or to themselves.
    One of my good friends struggles and is seeking help but it is not a quick easy fix she is very open about it and most people understand and if they don't they don't matter. A big hug to you.

  16. Thanks for sharing your story. I went through similar. My Mom had electro shock treatment also. She was going through her menopause, she had 14 children and the life she dreamed of, she never had. At that time, she was classed an Mental. I was a teenager then and it was a very hard to see her this way. She recovered from this and lived for approx. 20 yrs. take care xoxo


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