Thursday, 14 August 2014

Robin Williams

Manic, that's what the BBC news said about him. That he had suffered from depression all his life and had fought with drugs and alcohol. It isn't a fight with drugs and alcohol, it's the fight about depression and already this morning in the Guardian a report about how people with depression are very often not helped.
Have you ever heard that expression that talks about how we all hear a different drum? Many people go at a different pace, some of them a lot faster than others. I saw a video clip of an interview with Robin Williams yesterday about golf. It was very funny, he was talking at ninety miles an hour and everybody who listened to it recognised the truth.
People who race cars and motorcycles, for them each second is split and split again until a second is a long long time. For somebody like Williams you just go and go and go. There you are out in the limelight and you love being there because that's where you feel best, you feel effective, you're brilliant and it's where you feel right but the trouble is that you have to go back to the speed where other people are. You're way past the winning post while they are still coming up the straight so you have to try and slow down and then you come down and down and down.  And you're exhausted, you're worn out mentally and physically and you can't  bear the coming down and that's why you need the drugs to keep you from spinning up and down endlessly.
Boredom is the result, boredom is at the top of depression. Despair is at the bottom. Boredom is terrifying and the beginning of the downward spiral where you can't bear company, or you get as far as Tesco and then you can't go in, not because you don't want anything but because you can't make a decision.
I didn't used to be depressed. I can remember when all I needed was to have my husband come home from work and my child from school and I could stop writing and come down just as far as I needed to because love was enough then. Depression can teach you that nothing is enough and then you panic. I don't go out in the evenings very often unless it's to something formalised because I can feel myself thinking 'what the hell am I doing here?'
 It's not other people, it's me, I'm bored. I can't sit there because I feel like screaming. I can do it with wine, I can do it with concert music and with a decent play but even in the middle of all that if it's a live performance and I don't sit on the end of the row with the exit in sight I have horrible panic attacks where I can't breathe. I choke and cough and sweat.
My evenings have to be all absorbing otherwise people suffer because I complain and I become cynical and I witter on about stuff they aren't interested in. My close friends call it 'Liz ranting'. At that point I will do anything for a decent argument, for a decent discussion about something which is important to me while other people talk about normal everyday things. I just want to get out and go home.
I can remember hearing about Mozart and how his wife read to him when he composed and I feel that he needed the gap filling so that he would not give up. It amazed me that even he could have his concentration shot because there wasn't enough going on.
We all do it. We say 'if you work you can have wine, tea, coffee, whatever the hell'. I read, watch television, do crosswords all together, I can't just sit there. Very irritating for other people. What a complete pain depression is for all of us.
I understand what Robin Willliams felt. In a very small way I'm the same when I'm giving talks. I get myself on to a tremendous high, I love making people laugh, I adore being the centre of attention and then I come home and I drink wine because I can't stand the coming down, the aftermath.When the audience has gone home, when the book is finished, when the race is over what do you do?  You fill that bloody great big hole inside you with chocolate, with wine, with cigarettes or whatever makes you feel better.
Robin Williams brought a tremendous amount of pleasure and laughter to a great many people and God knows they are grateful to him but the price of such lives is huge. And it's the loneliness and despair of depression that kills you.


  1. Marvellous. I identify with so many things here that I can't list them. I play classical music (no voices) as I write to keep depressive gremlin thoughts at bay. .
    I am loving your blog, which makes me think and makes me smile now and then, To make people think and smile even though one is very sad oneself is a gift to the world, as Robin Williams well wx

  2. Liz what a lovely post! Beautiful, sad, funny and honest.
    If only we could make people understand the impact they have on others, perhaps we could help to fill the come down void? (Not that I have any objections to chocolate or wine-their medicinal value is much appreciated here!)
    Your visits to talk to our readers always generate interest and conversations before and after. You make an impact on people and it is no fleeting thing. You are remembered with happiness and affection in Hartlepool.

  3. Thanks people, nice to know we're all in there together. Liz