I had intended to publish something very very different today – fun and some may say frivolous.
Then I woke up and saw the news about Robin Williams and the outpouring of love and sorrow all over my social-media feeds.
One of the main themes in my Twitter feed is the silence surrounding depression and mental illness: the great taboo you can never give voice to, for fear of making people around you feel uncomfortable.
I’ve not talked about this for years, so here it is. The Great Taboo.
I tried to kill myself when I was 19 or 20 – the event is so shrouded by silence I can’t even remember exactly when it happened. I won’t go into why I felt so crap about life, but I did. I now know that what I did was a cry for help, that I wanted to be found and thankfully I was.
What was so shocking about that time was how quickly The Silence descended. No one talked of it, then or since. Even I found it hard to tell people. I told a boyfriend once – he couldn’t believe that ‘someone like me’ would attempt it. Well it’s always ‘someone like me’, isn’t it? It’s not a special sector of hidden people going around planning it in the dark.
They’re right in front of you. In the daylight.
I wonder if people can’t handle the idea that someone might want to remove themselves from the earth because it’s a latent dark thought in all of us. Some of us are used to it emerging at difficult times – it’s the ultimate get-out clause, after all – but others steer well away from it, unable to even admit that it’s lurking there.
This week, I am attending the funeral of a person whose life was tragically taken away from them by a terminal illness. They entered my life for only a few months but my eyes are still blinking from the glare of their brightness. We find these situations incredibly difficult to talk about but we console each other with a stumbling shared disbelief of the circumstances.
Robin Wiliams’ life has been tragically taken from him too, by depression. It is the illness that dare not speak its name and one that we find much more difficult to talk about.
Let’s talk about it, shall we? Too many amazing people are being lost to it, or living with it on a daily basis to ignore it.
Caroline Criado-Perez on anxiety and depression: