Oh Captain, My Captain

Originally published on August 12, 2014


I still remember the day in the fall of 2011.
YOU haven’t seen Dead Poet’s Society? YOU? It’s like made for you!” My friend said to me as we watched our girls toddle around my living room.
“It’s all about poetry and literature and living deliberately. You must see it.”
You see, I was an English Literature major and teacher and am a ferocious advocate for standing up for the causes in which I believe.
And so that fall I watched the movie, and I cried. I was so moved that I cried.
This morning, I cried once more.
I am crying as I type and tears are wetting the keys of my laptop. I cry for myself, I cry for the world and I cry for the Captain.

Oh Captain, My Captain.
Robin Williams, the almost superhuman actor who, as President Obama said, “was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between….was one of a kind.  He arrived in our lives as an alien — but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit.  He made us laugh.  He made us cry.”
took his own life yesterday after a fierce battle with severe depression.
Robin Williams, a supreme talent and a good soul and an icon felt that life was too hard to go on living. He saw the dark door in the distance and decided to walk towards it and when he opened the door, he could not stop.
I am so sad. I am so sorry.
Back in this winter I wrote about my own Postpartum Depression, but I also recently wrote about more acute mental health struggles. The sadness that I feel regularly and the things that are hard.
I can empathize with Mr. Williams.
People ask me quite often “What could you possibly be worried about?”
And I understand where they are coming from. I am not a famous actor, I am not rich, nor do I have notoriety or that kind of talent,
but I have a loving family and two beautiful children and a nice house in the neighborhood where I always wanted to live and a job that I love.
But depression has nothing to do with what you have or don’t have; Or, I should say, one thing that it has to do with having or not having is the presence or lack of certain chemicals in the brain.

Before this past winter I had never experienced depression. I could understand it on an intellectual level, but certainly not a personal one. And had I not gone through the Postpartum and the resulting PTSD, I probably would have been so confused by Robin Williams’ death.
He was so amazing and gifted and beloved. He was always with a smile.
But just because someone is smiling, just because someone has things that you value as being great, it does not mean that they are not facing an internal battle.
Robin Williams lost this battle.
This breaks my heart.
My social media feeds are flooded with messages of kind words about this actor–this man–and I don’t wish to add a meaningless note to be lost in the sea of tears being shed for him this morning.
My wish is this:
I wish that people would understand,
and if you can’t understand then at least take my word for it. I have never lied to you before.

Mental illness is just as serious and real and debilitating and life threatening as cancer or Parkinsons, or the recently-made-popular (via ice bucket challenge) ALS. And I do not say those things glibly because my family members have died from those medical diseases or are currently struggling from them today.
So I ask you, as your friend, as a writer that you don’t know but like to lurk at online, as a family member,
please take the time to look a little more closely at the people around you.
Look to see if their smile has changed. Take notice if they are canceling plans and spending the day in bed. Count the times you see them cry.
And if you notice something,
There are always ways to help.
Take them on a walk.
Sit by their side.
Hold their hand.
Tell them they are not alone.
And if you are feeling these feelings of loneliness or fear or sadness, I am here to help you. It does not matter that I have my own mountain to climb. I am here for you.
I was featured on ABC News earlier this year in order to raise awareness about postpartum depression and women contacted me, strangers, saying that my story inspired them to seek treatment.
If I can continue to help, nothing would bring me more peace in this entire earth.
I can point you in the right direction. I have resources. I can be on the other end of the telephone line.
You are not alone.
So we can weep together for Robin Williams and the roles that we will miss out on him playing and the life that was cut so painfully short.
But we can also honor his memory.
We can live deliberately, as my friend said, back on that cold, fall day.
We can stand up.
We can fight.
We can win.

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