Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Depression is NOT sadness

In memory of Robin Williams' passing yesterday, apparently from a depression-induced suicide, I wanted to clarify something that can be very misleading.

We often use the word depressed colloquially to mean very sad.  But clinically, it does not mean this at all.  It is actually a lack of emotion.  It is a lack of energy.  It is a lack of interest, even in things that used to be interesting, important, or engaging.  There is a reason that the opposite of depression is mania rather than bliss.

You could see the manic states (which means high, uncontrollable energy, not happiness) in a lot of his standup and many of his characters (especially the voice of the genie in Aladdin).  And I would imagine that he was forced to fake the big grins he often wore. That must have been very difficult, fatiguing, and hard to maintain. 

This is a reason depressed people might turn to drugs or alcohol.  Especially people in the public eye who are forced to fake happiness or at least mask the depression.  For a comedian, I can't imagine how hard that must have been. 

My heart really goes out to him.  I enjoyed his whole body of work.  I laughed hysterically from the first time Mork appeared on Happy Days.  On the flight home from Singapore just last Thursday I sobbed uncontrollably while watching him in "The Angriest Man in Brooklyn." (In full view of the other passengers, who were not watching the movie and probably wondered). 

The world has lost a real treasure.

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