Glass half full folks struggle to understand

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 16, 2014

Robin Williams changed the subject in national conversation this week, or at least it seemed that way to me.

The popular actor and comic ended his own life Monday. The world was stunned.

It seemed as if his death opened a flood of news articles, blogs, and opinion pieces on depression. I found myself reading them and trying to understand.

“If I owned a gun, I might be dead,” a friend wrote in his blog. “That’s how much pain I was in about this time a year ago. In just a few weeks, it will have been one year since I tried to kill myself with a fist or two full of pills and enough alcohol to make a college freshman sick for a week.”

Unimaginable pain, powerfully described.

“I knew something was wrong,” another friend recently confessed. “I realized I had it all planned. I was planning to pull my car into the path of an 18-wheeler.”

The more I read, the luckier I felt. Depression is difficult for me to understand because, generally, it doesn’t catch me. For me, feeling sad for no particular reason rarely last more than an hour or two.

On the days something is bothering me, if you ask me about it, I’ll tell you what it is and then get busy convincing us both there’s not really a problem.

“I live a charmed life,” I told a doctor recently. “There is no reason for me to complain.”

Indeed, there is not. My job is stressful, but also gives me great fulfillment. I woke up this morning in a comfortable bed, had access to a hot shower and hot coffee, and plenty to eat today. I have both family members and friends upon whom I can call in a time of need. Honey can cook. A charmed life.

For me, the glass has always been half full. That could be genetics, my dad’s coaching, or a combination of the two. Regardless, I am thankful.

My intent here is not to boast, but to point out that those of us who don’t deal with this issue have an obligation to be educated, aware, and supportive of those who do.

Sure, there are people who wallow in shallow depression and just need a gentle push to move forward. But there also are those for whom moving on is impossible, those who need medication to correct chemical imbalances, and therapy to further help them chase away the darkness. We wouldn’t tell someone to just “get over” cancer, would we?

I hope that I never fully understand this disease. But because of the national conversation we’re having this week, I expect to get better at recognizing the symptoms, and pushing those suffering from it toward the help they need. I hope you will, too.