I was wrong about Kurt Cobain. Very wrong. More on that in a minute.
There’s been a lot of talk about depression in the wake of Robin Williams’ death. Williams’ was apparently caught in what Winston Churchill used to call his “black dog,” a neurochemical imbalance that results in a crushing feeling of sadness and hopelessness. Depression is a mental condition–there, I said it–that cannot be solved by telling the affected person to “cheer up” or “get your act together.”
In fact, that’s the worst thing you can tell a depressed person. Repeat after me: They.Can’t Help It. And no amount of cajoling or scolding will change things.
Depressed people often known that they’re sad for no reason. Their lives may be unbelievably great–or at least absent of horrible stuff–yet they still are weighed down by these grey clouds that prevent them from enjoying life. You think they like being depressed? That this is their way of getting attention? That they’re just lazy?
Depression comes in various shades, ranging from light grey to the darkest black that can oscillate back and forth. Sometimes it’s just the time of year. Other times it’s unpredictable. And for some, it can be deadly.
When Kurt Cobain so famously checked out back in 1994, I was rather vocal about how I thought he was weak and selfish, someone who lacked the moral and physical fortitude to do the right thing. I now see that I was very, very wrong.
I’m still annoyed that he took his own life, but I’m much, much more understanding of why he did it. When a former colleague of mine decided he’d had enough a few years back, I was angry he did it–I still am–but I’m very aware of where his head was at when he made that choice. Depression can lead you down some very dark corridors against your will.
It is not–repeat NOT– that you’re weak. You’re ill. Your brain is not feeling right. You need help–or at the very least, understanding.
Margaret Wente wrote about Williams’ death the other day, quoting Stephen Fry who said that being a friend to a depressed person is hard, but it’s also the most important thing you can do.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I speak from personal experience. I’ve got more than a passing interest in the subject.
So when Gene Simmons comes out and says some unbelievably stupid shit about depressed people, he needs to he told to SHUT. THE. F**K. UP.
If you or someone you know suffers from depression, talk to someone. There’s a way out from under that cloud. Whatever you do, don’t just suffer in silence.
UPDATE: Simmons has tried to apologize for his comments. In fairness, you should take a look at this. Maybe he learned something. Maybe.