Living in the Garden of Depression


Robin Williams Depression

Robin Williams died today in what is being called an ‘apparent suicide’ after battling severe depression recently. It is shocking, sad and in some ways, disturbing. After all, Robin Williams committed suicide.

I usually don’t pay much attention to celebrity deaths, as far as I am concerned they are just people, nothing more or less special than you or I – unless it’s George Clooney, of course. When Paul Walker died, I was going to give up the internet if I saw his face in my feed one more time. People die in car crashes every day, I didn’t think it warranted constant coverage. But here I go, caring about Robin Williams.

Hollywood has had its share of suicides, so it’s nothing new, but it’s different and more profound. Despite his battles with substance abuse and depression, Robin William was not surrounded by the drama of downward spirals that we have seen from other celebrities. On the surface, he appeared to be a simple, endearing man.

Many people will never understand his death, they will never grasp what would cause a man who appeared to have everything – including countless fans and an abundance of love – to take his life. Some will berate him and call him selfish, others will have more sympathy for his family than for him. But there will be an overwhelming number of people who will understand what he did; who will feel a tremendous sadness and kinship for a man they never met because they know his pain.

As I have been processing this over the last few hours, I’ve thought about the genius of his gift. I wonder if his humor was a defense mechanism, masking his pain for so many years. I don’t claim to know how long he was depressed or what sort of treatment he sought. But I do know this, whatever he felt was incredibly overwhelming and it would have been very hard for even those closest to him to save him.

Imagine a garden you’ve planted from seed, cultivated with love. When the seeds break the ground, they seek sunshine, warmth and nutrients. The seeds have no control over the weather, they are as dependent on it as we are on our minds. You may have control over the location of your garden, the frequency with which you tend to it and the amount of care you give it. You can’t control the weather.

It may be sunny one day, rainy the next. You prop the vines in the hopes they will flourish once the rain passes. And they may, until the next rain comes. The weather changes, sometimes without warning. Sometimes you can see it come, much like the triggers a depressed person avoids, you try to protect the plants before the storm. The intensity of the labor can get frustrating, especially if there is no relief in sight.

One day, a tornado or hurricane passes through. Even though you see it coming, you can’t stop it and you may not be able to seek shelter soon enough. The plants are torn from their roots, the garden completely destroyed.  You may have thought you could protect it yourself, that the storm wouldn’t be that bad or you simply didn’t know how, or were afraid, to ask for help. Your neighbors and family couldn’t help or didn’t know you needed help.

The garden is now gone, as is Robin Williams and many like him. Our minds are like the garden, there is a storm somewhere looming and many people make it through life without feeling a tornado or hurricane pass through. Some people manage to pull themselves through but live in constant fear of the next storm. Others, like Robin Williams, can’t weather it and are destroyed. Still others will tell you to build a greenhouse or buy your vegetables at the store because you simply don’t know what you are doing and there is no need to tend the garden. If only it were that easy.

While thousands of people mourn the death of Mr. Williams, the mourning of those of us who have weathered the storm will be much different than those who have never seen it and can never understand it. Believe it or not, many people will also feel relieved. Relieved that depression isn’t just relegated to ‘regular people’, and more importantly, relieved that it will get much needed attention


  1. Masshole Mommy says

    My brother’s girlfriend suffers from depression and I don’t think I really understood until I knew her and saw it first hand.

  2. says

    Such a great post and as someone who has experienced depression myself and with others, the comparison to the weather and garden is perfect. It’s such a great way to explain to those who may not understand.

  3. says

    My sister has bi-polar and is heavily depressed. It is hard to understand her manic depression sometimes because I dont understand it. She has tried to kill herself twice, but someone always caught it. I fear there may be a third time when there is no one around.

    • Karen says

      I am so sorry to hear about your sister. It is such a scary situation. My neighbor was bi-polar and she had a very difficult time. In the end she lost her battle. It’s not easy for anyone. I hope your sister finds some peace in this life that allows her to want to stay.

  4. says

    I found his death both shocking and disturbing. Yes, celebs take their own lives too, but Robin seemed so grounded, albeit in his own zany way. He made me laugh out loud yet that couldn’t sustain him. I will miss him and Joan Rivers very much. My prayer is that we continue the conversation about providing adequate mental health services to all who need it and lift the stigma around the subject…. I pray.

  5. says

    This was a great analogy. I didn’t realize how much I looked up to Williams as a role model of sorts until I heard the news. I cried (which is not like me at all) for 30 minutes, and then off and on the rest of the day.

  6. says

    Beautiful post. As someone who actually suffered from depression I can truly relate. I wasn’t afraid to ask for help because I knew that’s what I needed in order to get better. Here’s hoping that others would get the courage to do that as well.

    • Karen says

      Asking for help is the hardest part of it. It takes a lot of courage to admit what is going on, there is so much fear of what happens next and how people will perceive you. Hopefully, we can get over that stigma.

  7. says

    This is such a beautiful post. I normally don’t pay much attention to the ongoings in Hollywood either, but Robin Williams’ death really hit me. You have inspired me to share my FB post from that day: “I can honestly say, never have I logged into FB to find so many tributes devoted to one person. Robin Williams, a Gift to the Globe, a Master of the Medicine of Laughter. Let us cherish our Medicine People, those who give so generously of their hearts and souls to lift us up. Farewell, sweet man. You are so loved ~*”

    • Karen says

      Thank you, that’s a beautiful tribute! I think his death hit a lot of people for different reasons. Hopefully, it will bring more understanding.

  8. says

    Beautiful and heartfelt post. I was so shocked and saddened by his death. He is more than a celebrity to me – in many ways, I grew up on his movies, his smile, and twinkling eyes. Robin Williams will be missed and it pains me that people can call him selfish without ever understanding even a drop of what he was going through …. just terrible.

  9. Stacie says

    In the last few weeks, it’s brought on many discussions… it saddens me that it took this event for it to become ok to speak about the topic. If nothing else, I hope that is the silver lining. No shame.


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