Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Genie, I'm gonna miss you.

When I woke up yesterday morning the first thing I saw on my Instagram feed was just simply a photo of Disney's Aladdin and Genie in an emotional embrace. No caption was needed, although in my tired haze I felt confused as my eyes glanced to the comments filled with teary-eyed emojis and variations of "rest in peace". That is when I learned that, at aged 63, actor Robin Williams had passed away.

The news was truly devastating and I scrolled with a heavy heart through my social network feeds reading everyone paying their respects to a wonderful actor who brought so much joy to people's lives. Flubber was one of my favourite movies as a child, one that I went through a phase of watching almost every single day. Good Will Hunting is still one of my all time favourite movies to this day, with Robin's role being one of the most stunning performances I have ever seen. The tributes paid to him online yesterday were a true testament of how talented and loved he really was.

What broke my heart was when I read that he had been dealing with severe depression towards the end and had tragically lost the battle as he decided to take his own life. When you stop and think for a small moment about the sheer amount of misery and suffering a person must have been dealing with to see no other option than to take their own life is absolutely terrifying. However, even in 2014, the world still needs to open its eyes and realise it is absolutely real and is happening on a daily basis across the entire world. It is heart-wrenching that it takes headline news such as a celebrity death for people to talk about it and to realise that this is actually going on behind closed doors. No matter how joyful a person seems to be, no matter how much they laugh, regardless of how loved they are or how much money they have, you can never fully know what a person is going through. Depression can affect absolutely anyone. Depression is a mental illness - an illness - that should be taken as seriously as any other physical illness. It's like an emotional cancer. It is a killer.

From the ages of 15-17 I suffered from depression without fully understanding that it was an illness and it wasn't just all in my head. It wasn't just me being stupid. It was something I fought with inside my own head for a long time. My school attendance was terrible, I didn't want to go because I just simply didn't have the confidence to step out and interact with people because I didn't believe that I was worth anyone's time. I felt that people didn't like me without them even giving me any reason to think this. I became quiet and reserved, and even found every day social situations difficult, for example paying for something in a shop was something I dreaded at times. This led to me being unable to perform to the best of my ability in school, my effort and motivation was at zero and so my grades reflected this. I lost connections with certain people and hindered myself from making any new friends. My final year in school was probably the worst for my attendance and I didn't even attend the very last day because I felt that no one really wanted me there. I isolated myself and made myself feel completely alone due to my depression. I assumed that I was a burden to many people, and staying in bed by myself seemed like a better option than bothering anyone else.

A lot of the time, people assumed I was being lazy. That I couldn't be bothered with school, that I would rather stay home and watch TV. It's very easy to just "assume", though isn't it? The easiest option is to tell someone to "just get up and go" or "you'll be fine". But in actual fact, when you're depressed and the people closest to you decide to turn a blind eye and just "assume" that you're fine, anyone who has been through or who is going through depression will agree that it just adds to the damage being done. Just getting up and out of bed may be a person's biggest struggle that they have to face every single day.

Through my depression I realised that bottling it up and keeping it all to myself was the worst thing that I could have done. So I opened up. I opened up to a therapist, I opened up to my mother who I was fortunate enough to be able to open up to as she has been the most supportive person throughout the entirety of my life, and I opened up to a friend. Thankfully, talking to people helped me a great deal and made me realise that I was suffering from a mental illness and that it wasn't just all in my head. As miniscule as my problems were compared to those of others, they were still something that caused a great deal of misery and hindrance in my life. The problems that I faced meant something to me, and that is ultimately the only thing that mattered. Once I finally realised all of this I slowly but surely began to build up my confidence again. I took steps in order to change my life, from the small to the large. The biggest step I took was moving overseas to go to university for 8 months where I met new people, formed new relationships and learned a great deal about myself. Slowly but surely I refused to let my depression get the better of me anymore. I realised that I was in control, that I could do something about it.

However, everyone deals with depression in different ways. What works for me may not work for you, but I can assure you there is always an answer. The first step is realising that you are not alone and that it is not all in your head. What you are going through is extremely real, it matters a great deal, and most importantly, you can be helped. Whether it be through talking to someone, medical treatments, psychological treatments, whatever you feel works for you is what you need to do. Taking action to battle your depression is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength because this is something you wrestle with every single day. You are a fighter. You are in control, the illness is not. A light at the end of the tunnel can't often be viewed when you're in such a mindset, and it's difficult for people on the outside to realise this if they haven't been through the same thing. If you feel like you don't have anyone to talk to, there are always people there that you can reach out to. This is a masterpost taken from tumblr of every single helpline that you can contact, whatever your issue may be, there is someone out there who will listen and whom you can lean on.

I can only hope that Robin Williams will be remembered for the joy he brought to the world and not for the tragic illness that took him.

Suicide is never the answer to depression. Life is beautiful when you finally get rid of that black rain cloud inside of your head. Reach out to someone.

You are not alone.

"To live would be an awfully big adventure."

Rest in peace Robin Williams, 1951-2014.



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