August 13, 2014 at 5:11 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Robin Williams’ depression a familiar battle
Robin Williams, depression, gay news, Washington Blade

Actor Robin Williams took his own life this week after a long battle with depression. (Photo by Eva Rinaldi; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

I am among the untold numbers of people who remain deeply saddened by the death of Robin Williams, who took his own life in his home outside San Francisco on Aug. 11. I sat stunned on the couch in the den of our Dupont Circle apartment as my partner and I watched news reports that indicated the celebrated actor and comedian committed suicide after suffering from what some have described as “severe depression.”

Reading the details of how Williams hanged himself with a belt in the bedroom of his Marin County home nearly brought me to tears.

This tragic news hit too close to home because I am among the millions of Americans who live with some form of depression.

My doctor diagnosed me with the disorder in September 2012 after I sent him a late night e-mail in which I admitted that I was likely experiencing many of the symptoms associated with depression: mood swings and a lack of energy in particular. The best way I can categorize this disorder for those who are fortunate enough not to live with it is that it is comparable to walking through a thick fog that leaves you disoriented and saps your strength.

I had done enough research before reaching out to my doctor to understand that I had likely lived with the disorder for quite some time. I had — and continue to have — a very fulfilling personal and professional life and a family that unconditionally accepts me as a gay man, so there was no reason for me to feel so bad.

I simply reached a point where I wanted to confirm my own suspicions and do something about it.

I am fortunate enough to live with a mild form of depression that allows me to function normally with a low dose of prescription medication that costs less than $2 a month with insurance that I am privileged enough to have. I am also fortunate enough to have a doctor and a partner who continue to remind me there is nothing wrong with me simply because I am living with a disorder.

There are days when I struggle with mood swings and a lack of energy for no apparent reason, but overall I am able to life my life on my own terms without any disruptions.

Others who live with depression are far less fortunate.

I have never been someone who wants people to feel sorry for me, and I certainly don’t expect anyone to start now because I have publicly discussed the fact that I live with depression. It is simply a part of my story.

Williams’ untimely death provides a stark reminder that millions of people in this country and around the world live with this disorder, and some of them unfortunately lose their struggle. I celebrate this amazing man on the sad occasion of his untimely death and keep those who live with depression and struggle with it in my thoughts.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

  • El Dorado

    I have never been someone who wants people to feel sorry for me, and I certainly don’t expect anyone to start now because I have publicly discussed the fact that I live with depression.
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    Often people who don’t suffer depression think because you tell them you do that’s what you’re looking for, someone to feel sorry for you. They don’t understand that depression saps you of more than energy. It can make you want to withdraw from life. Some people don’t want to get out of bed because being asleep is a state of not being conscious and facing the depression and pain of life. It can result in you losing your job, keeps you from having relationships, sometimes you don’t eat or bathe, and for some it result homelessness.

    Medication doesn’t always work and if you can’t afford therapy you won’t seek it. Sometimes you just wish you could end your life but at the same time fear taking the extreme step. Sadly, some people like Robin Williams who apparently had everything, a loving family and friends, a successful career, fame and fortune and the resources to seek the best medical care still can’t cope with it and end up taking the extreme step. Others try and escape it with drugs and alcohol.

    It’s even worse when your partner or family tells you that you drag him/them down and he/they can’t cope with your illness so it’s just easier to walk away from you. Unfortunately for many they feel isolated, completely alone and unable to find a solution. Don’t look down on people with depression, dismiss them or judge them. You may just drive that person to the extreme!

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