Barbie Perkins-Cooper, Author

Living Life in the Country As A Writer, Photographer

Dearest Readers:

Early last night while checking my phone I received a news alert — Robin Williams is Dead. “Oh my God…No…the man was brilliant. What happened?”

As I read the news blurb, I could not believe that such a brilliant, gifted talent — the guy who made me laugh, cry and feel so many protected emotions reportedly had taken his own life. Why? I ask…over and over again.

Robin Williams and I have something in common — DEPRESSION. Robin Williams fought the demons of depression, alcoholism and drug abuse while starring in many movies that made us laugh, cry, and ask probing questions. He was a gifted man who could ad-lib hysterical quotes that left me wiping my face while watching and listening to him. One of my favorite movies starring Robin Williams was “Awakenings.” He was brilliant in every movie he starred in. This morning, as I write this post, I feel such a loss. Never will I laugh at him in “Mrs. Doubtfire,” — all I can do now is cry when I watch his movies because I understand what depression does to us.

But what is depression? An estimated 19 million people suffer with depression, according to the website, WebMd.

I could list many of the symptoms of depression here, according to the website; however, because I battle depression, I have experienced many of these symptoms, including the inability to sleep, lack of confidence, sudden, debilitating sadness, tears, unhappiness…anger. Depression is genetic for me. My mother suffered with depression, making her develop into an angry, miserable woman. She died alone, without any friends. I watched her as the demons of depression slowly took over her ability to laugh or enjoy life. All that was left of her before a stroke was an agitated, angry, bitter woman with a spiteful, poisonous tongue that could almost chew me up and spit me out. In 1988, I chose to break away from her after she emotionally abused me for the final time. I walked away without looking back as hot tears gushed from my eyes. I still loved my mother. Isn’t that what a child is supposed to do — to love our parents, regardless of how they treat us? That week, I went to my family doctor asking for help. I was horrified that I might become like my mother. I did not want depression to destroy me.

I have spoken about depression in my posts previously, and when I published my book “Condition of Limbo,” I discussed how difficult depression was for me during my father’s terminal illness. Depression isn’t something easy to write about. People do not understand it. They laugh or joke about depression, saying cruel things such as ‘she’s mentally ill,’ or ‘she’s just not right…’ Friendships are broken and you suddenly see yourself standing alone. Why? Simple. People do not care or maybe they are afraid that if they get too close to the person who is depressed, they might ‘catch it.’

I battle depression daily; however, I have found ways to get me going again. When I feel the depression wrapping me in its destructive, demon crushing arms, I thrust my hands out, as if I am brushing the depression away. I find myself forcing myself to either take a walk, to enjoy the freshness of warm, coastal air, or I step onto the treadmill and walk briskly for 60 minutes. I remind myself that if I work out and walk towards depression, I can survive.

Never have I been tempted to take my life due to depression. Yes, I have experienced many tears, and I have battled days of simply turning off the lights, pulling the shades, ignoring the phone or door bell, and closing myself away in my home. Fortunately, I have a wonderful doctor I can talk to. He understands and listens to me. For two years, I went to a therapist, sharing my most compelling thoughts and childhood experiences with her. She taught me how to confront my demons and I am a much stronger woman for sharing depression with her and my medical doctor.

Maybe it is true that only someone who suffers with depression can understand it. How I wish Robin Williams found a way to work through whatever pain he was enduring when he chose to end his life. Isn’t it strange that those of us who loved his talent, those of us who watched him on-screen and in person, really thought he had his life together. After all, he was a brilliant actor who could laugh or cry, right on cue. Words cannot describe how much he will be missed. I doubt another comedian or actor will ever equal Robin Williams. Rest in peace, Robin. The world will miss you so much, but your legend will continue — in all the characters you truly brought to life. Today, I plan to watch “The Birdcage” and “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and “Awakenings,” while the tears of depression wash away — for one more day.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams!

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