Robin Williams, Kate Spade, and Anthony Bourdain: beloved celebrities and talented people who succumbed to their battles with depression in recent years. Though they all gained their popularity, celebrity status, and loving fan base in different ways, the conversations that surrounded their deaths were just the same. How can someone so talented, rich, respected, and living the perfect life do such a thing?
Perception is Not Always Reality
It's a common misconception that people that have money, status, friends, followers and accolades are happy people. Sadly, the people that appear to have it all, share every aspect of their lives on social media, and make sure to never miss a smiling selfie are the saddest and most lonely of all. Why? Because we get so caught up living up to ideals that we forget what we are living for.
People worry about the "weird ones" that don't fit in with the crowd but never think to see about the funny aunts, the overworked parents, the role models that seem to have it all together, or the strong friends. But here's a newsflash: They can handle it and they will get over it... until one day they simply can't. The thing about depression is that it's a silent killer to everyone else but the person that has been battling it and the people closest to them that felt the pain or tried to help.
Why Suffer in Silence When There is Help
We don’t become addicts, dependent upon pills, exhibit reckless behavior, or commit suicide because we want to hurt our families, lose our credibility, or find ourselves in a downward spiral. We do it because we’re trying to control and mend things ourselves or find an escape from our reality. We want to remove the overwhelming weight of hopelessness, condemnation, state of confusion, shame, depression, loss, or pain we’ve experienced. We currently live in a world that lacks empathy, can’t wait to run negative stories, and finds joy in exposing the weaknesses of others. Who wouldn’t feel conflicted when dealing with and opening up about their afflictions?
The world wonders we don’t just get over our feelings or just talk about what we're experiencing instead of acting out, withdrawing from or taking our lives. But before judging or saying how differently they would have handled it, does the outside would ever wonder what the people they're discussing were facing? Do they ever think of how difficult it would be for someone who is looked at as a role model, the strong friend, or the perfect family member to come out and say there is something terribly wrong with them? Better yet, how does someone expect us to explain our thoughts and feelings whenever we don’t understand them ourselves? Sometimes it’s easier to fake a smile, laugh, or good time instead of trying to explain our pain or feeling of despair to people that we know won’t understand.
Once Dose of Double Life
To my family, friends, and social media I was often told I was perfect in some form or fashion. I had a Pinterestesque life, educated, and gaining social and professional momentum. I seemingly had everything I ever wanted. Since I was a child I always strived for excellence, acceptance, and perfection, but there was just one problem: I wasn't perfect. Though I was still a nice person, accomplished many personal goals, and had many opportunities coming my way, I felt an immense void, extremely depressed, out of place, misunderstood and frustrated. The pressure became immeasurable and my means of fixing or controlling only made it worse. I found myself overcompensating often, experiencing a loss of direction, fueling daily arguments in my head, very impressionable, becoming overwhelmed with pressure and trying to find any relief to the internal riot I was feeling. It got to the point that I just completely lost it.
I wasn't myself. Nothing made sense, helped, or comforted me anymore. The things I once enjoyed and my usual means of cheering up were ineffective. I began thinking, doing, and saying erratic, harmful, hurtful, and off the wall things. It wasn’t a good time for me or anyone attached to me because they undoubtedly suffered too. The latter is what hurt the most. I can remember receiving a text message from someone congratulating me on an accomplishment and how she wished she had my life, meanwhile I was sitting my counselor's office contemplating treatment centers because I wanted to end mine. I wanted to be anyone else on the face of the planet but myself. I had to take a break from social media, crowds, and seeing my family and friends for a while in an effort to not only address my demons, but also to find what they've been feeding on.
Though I can characterize those experiences as the most painful, tumultuous, embarrassing, and regrettable times of my life, it was also those times that opened my eyes the most. It's the chapters that made me seek mental and spiritual counseling and understand that I am not and will never be perfect, and I can't expect perfection from myself or anyone else for that matter. It showed me that had I spent more time learning, growing, and accepting my real self, instead of trying to be the perfect Morgan that I and everyone else wanted me to be, things could have been different. Moreover, it made me judge less, empathize more, and perceive the world through a different lens.
Gentleness > Judgment
Anyone can smile for a selfie, but not everyone can be happy. A million online friends or followers can't stop someone from experiencing loneliness. Many people have popularity but few have real power. Making more green doesn't rid you of the blues. People that are truly happy and strong don't have to convince you that they are such. Money, pills, promotions, and power can never purchase peace of mind or fill a void. Though the previous may seem obvious, we tend to forget how profound those realizations are.
Most people are fighting a battle we know nothing about and dealing with fears, regrets, and insecurities too painful to discuss. Instead of finding joy in their past failures or making a conversation piece out of their downfalls or struggles, maybe we should be more empathic and supportive. No one is perfect and everyone encounters trouble, despair, or hardship at some time in their life. Show empathy, keep a caring heart, and foster an open yet confidential means of communication, because today may be their lowest point but tomorrow it may very well be yours.