Inevitably the death of Robin Williams has provoked all kinds of comment, from those who knew him or felt they did lamenting his death through to lots of publicity for and talk about depression. But when I read this article on the BBC website it rang a few bells for me.
As a small child I was happy, but can recall having periods at junior school which I would now recognise as depression, and this increased into my teenage years, culminating in a strong desire at 16 to kill myself. It was at this age that I became a Christian, and it took a year of gradual healing before I was reasonably recovered. Then came Chris, marriage, children and the rest, as they say, is history.
Except history is still being written.
I had long been a happy character, mostly outgoing, often inclined to make people laugh (at one stage I was told that humour was inappropriate in serious work situations). Then we moved churches and within a year I found depression had returned. Not that it has been able to suck me in and swallow me - I could fight - but what I'd thought was in the past suddenly became very present, and has ebbed and flowed for me to a degree right till now. I've changed in other ways too, going from distinctly acquiring energy from being in company to needing my own quiet space to recharge, even to the point of putting earphones in to watch a movie on the laptop. Not completely ideal - I've just realised that I'm deliberately shutting everyone out, as I write this - and will need to deal with it.
There was a bit from that article that - to a degree - made me think "that's like me":
"We found that comedians had a rather unusual personality profile, which was rather contradictory," Prof Claridge says.
"On the one hand, they were rather introverted, depressive,
rather schizoid, you might say. And on the other hand, they were rather
extroverted and manic.
Maybe it was the grace of God that kept me from depression until recently? Some areas of my life have certainly not been either easy, nor had the foundations of conventional life that provide stability for most people in the last few years. I do know depression is not an unbeatable monster, but rather an ugly set of lies that will come and deny the truth to my feelings. The best defence for me is the truth, knowing who I am, both in Jesus and in my own self, and having a loving wife does no harm either.
And I do still have a (subdued) sense of inappropriate humour.
This isn't meant to be a sob-story, but it's altogether too easy to look at people like Williams, maybe even like me, and think "they couldn't possibly understand how I feel".