Written By Mark Stromenberg, Canada
A few months ago, I did something I had never done before: I cried over an actor.
I’m not one to follow celebrity gossip or obsess over the lives of Hollywood stars. I’m not even overly excited to get autographs from the stars who’ve played my favorite television and movie characters. And unlike a friend of mine, I don’t have a list of the young and famous celebrities that I pray regularly for (though perhaps more of us should). But that morning, while eating breakfast, I found myself crying and I didn’t know why. I prayed about it, and realized it was grief.
The news of Robin William’s death by suicide swept through the internet like a storm. Though most of us have never met or spoken to him, he held a special place in our hearts. In his roles as John Keating (Dead Poets Society), Mrs. Doubtfire, the Genie (Aladdin), Hunter Patch Adams (Patch Adams) and many more, Williams didn’t just steal the show; he stole our hearts. He gravitated towards roles that stirred our hearts’ desire for love and beauty, passion and joy, and acceptance.
As the news frenzy dissected this tragedy, one fact quickly emerged: Robin Williams had struggled with depression. As one who has also been afflicted with depression for most of my life, and as one who has lost friends to depression and suicide, I was deeply affected by William’s death. Though I did not know him personally, his death cut me to the heart.
And I suspect I’m not the only one who has felt this way.
Those who have struggled with depression know all too well a certain demon that runs through the mind. He’s a crafty and slippery spirit, sapping joy, stealing dignity, and eating happiness. He whispers in a crowd and shouts when we’re alone. He accuses, he taunts, and he laughs. And some nights, he overshadows all, drawing the very soul from the body out through the stomach, whispering, “You’re alone; you’re broken; you’re unlovable; you’re a failure; it’s hopeless; it’ll never get better. You should just kill yourself.”
This is the demon called depression.
For some, he comes for a season. For others, he’s a constant companion. Some of us have learned to block him out by staying busy. Some of us have weakened his power through exercise, healthy eating, and medication. Some of us have fought his lies with recordings of good memories and encouraging words, while some of us have appeased him with compulsive destructive behaviors, even self-mutilation. And still others have made him a friend, becoming bitter, cynical, and hateful.
Depression is a serious thing; an illness that affects billions. There are so many books and blogs written on this subject with so many cures and coping mechanisms offered. Everybody has a different piece of advice, a special technique, and a unique insight for dealing with this demon that they readily push onto us. Sorting through all this (sometimes unhelpful) information, how do we know what to believe? If only there were a simple way to defeat depression once and for all.
A friend of mine, Brett Ullman, once told me that out of the thousands of emails he has received about suicide and depression, the common two elements for those of us who have survived are these: We talked to someone, and we found the help we needed.
And that’s what I’ve done. I’ve talked to people, and I’ve found the help I’ve needed. A large part of that was my faith in Jesus Christ and my Christian family. I’ve found peace in prayer and meditation, and I’ve found another Spirit that lives in me. This Spirit speaks life and love and hope. I’ve found a community of people who, in spite of their imperfections, encourage me, help me, and love me. And though the demon hasn’t left, I know now that whenever he whispers or he shouts, “You’re alone,” he’s lying.
You may be skeptical about the power of Jesus, but if nothing else, He was this: proof that one person can bring light and life and hope to millions in a dark and difficult world.
For Jesus is the light of the world. He said, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Have you accepted His invitation to follow Him?