Smiles are free

Sometimes it takes a situation in the spotlight to make people re-evaluate their lives. Bad things happen all over the world, and many times people will soldier on through them, putting on a brave face at all costs. When something bad happens to a famous celebrity, however, it’s almost a shock to the system for many people.

Maybe it’s because there is the instinct to believe famous people should have endless money and friends at their disposal, allowing them to battle any problems they might have. Maybe it’s because famous people have such a large audience that when something bad happens to them, you get to see the reactions from so many more people, thus giving their situation more weight. Whatever the reason, many times when a celebrity dies due to anything that isn’t a natural cause, it makes people pause and reflect upon their own life.

Robin Williams is a perfect example of a celebrity death shining a light on a big problem in life, that of depression. It’s made even more shocking because Robin Williams was a comedian, someone naturally gifted at making people laugh, someone surrounded by comedy. It almost doesn’t make sense that he would kill himself. If one knew nothing about the silent nature of depression, it would seem impossible to understand how he could suffer from depression. “He’s so funny on TV! He’s always laughing! People love him!”

When someone like Kurt Cobain died, people would lament it, but the pieces sort of fit from a superficial point of view. “The grunge musician who seemed like a tortured soul, killed himself? Yeah, I can see that.” It was easier to look at that from afar and move on from it, without looking at the root cause of it. With Williams, though, it shines the light on how depression can affect anyone.

I myself reflected on my life when I heard the news. I’ve had my battles with depression in the past, and I tried to put myself in his shoes. I wondered if his ability to be so funny was a blessing and a curse for him. I am not trying to put myself anywhere near his comedic talents, but as someone who tries their best to be witty and entertaining at all times on twitter, and in real life, sometimes there is almost a self expectation put upon myself that I need to be “on” at all times. That if I’m not being funny, then people won’t want anything to do with me. That is why I started this “Stanchion thoughts” blogs because it helps me get my real feelings out instead of bottling myself up all the time.

My “witty” nature sometimes feels like an anchor. It is however an anchor I would never get rid of. I love making people laugh, I love entertaining people, and almost all of my self esteem comes from that. However, it leaves me feeling like I can never take time off and just be sad around other people if I’m having a rough go of things. I hide my sadness from everyone because I don’t want to burden them, and because quite honestly, I don’t think anybody would want anything else from me but me being entertaining. “Yeah yeah, that’s sad, but dance for me clown, make me laugh!”. I have no way of knowing, but I honestly wonder if Williams viewed himself in the same way. Having this insane ability to make people laugh, loving to make people laugh, but then having no way of making yourself smile, wondering why you’re so sad.

So despite how low I would get through the years, I would always suck it up. “I’m sad, but I mean, how sad is sad? Other people have it worse, so I should be able to get through this” I said to myself often. Even during the darkest point of my life, where I was no longer even able to eat for a month due to anxiety attacks (if I tried eating anything remotely solid I would choke on it, it was horrible and awful and I honestly didn’t even realize at the time it was because I was depressed and anxious. The only thing I could eat? Bananas. Sweet sweet bananas.) I didn’t tell anyone what I was going through, because it would have almost been like admitting I was flawed, which would have made things even worse somehow, or so my inner minds logic informed me. Sometimes the things we do to avoid confronting our own issues lead us down the darkest paths.

It took me a long time, and I am still not happy, but I am not at the deep end of the depression pool anymore. I still have a shoddy support system in place, but at least I’ve gotten to the point of letting some of my thoughts and emotions out. Just talking to people about my issues, even lightly, and them not laughing at me or mocking me for them, has allowed me the strength to try and face my demons and become a stronger person. (If I went back in time three years and told myself I would be writing this blog, past Wyatt would have laughed at first, then panicked and tried to break my hands so I could never write again.)

Many people will have their own stories to share over the next couple of days. Some people will have far darker battles and stories. Some people will have lighter ones. Some people will lie and use “depression” stories simply to get attention. It doesn’t matter in the end what stories people tell, as long as they are talking. It’s good to bring depression into the spotlight whenever possible, regardless of why.

As with all things in life, though, time moves on and most people will take their reflections and forget all about them. It’s easy to hashtag #letstalk and go about your week, falling into old routines. One day you’re saying #letstalk , the next day you’re tweeting about what a fucking dumb ass this customer who walked into your store is.

That’s why the one thing I hope people do take from Robin Williams death, and actually take to heart, is that depression, self esteem, self worth, it’s such a rocky road for people. There might never have been a a worse time than the present day for people with these issues due to the keyboard warrior world we live in. A quick look at any comment section reveals pretty quickly how mean spirited some people can be,  and many times for no other reason than the fact they themselves are unhappy and feel the need to lash out at everyone around them.

In the olden days, someone would have had to have sent a carrier pigeon to someone’s house to let them know you disliked their article pinned to the community message board, and it would have taken weeks. Hell, the pigeon might get eaten by a wolf and the person might never see it.  Today? You can click a button and let 50 different people know how awful you think they are and that they are just the worst bag of dicks you’ve ever seen, in mere minutes. It’s never been easier to be mean then it is now. People who are unhappy tend to live in a world of negativity and like nothing more to bring others into it.

It blows me away sometimes the effort people will go to just to let someone know how little they value them, in an attempt to lower that persons self worth. It’s one thing to bitch aloud to your friends and online about shit (we all do it), but it’s another level to hunt that person down online so they can directly know that you think they should somehow feel bad about themselves. “THE ROCK MUST KNOW THAT I THINK HE’S A FUCKING AWFUL ACTOR, I MUST TWEET THIS AT HIM, YOU GOD DAMN SON OF A BITCH.” What the fuck guys? Why do this?

Sadly, many good people get caught up in this and it can affect them terribly. Whether it’s them being the victim of the negativity, or whether it’s because they get sucked into the negativity themselves (it’s so so SO easy to be around a negative person and not even realize they’ve affected your outlook on the world to be as negative as theirs), negativity, well, sucks.

You probably have several people you know that are really negative people, that attack people around them, and make the world a generally worse place to live in. It’s awful to see how bad people can treat people purely because they have anonymity behind them, or because they have the distance of the internet between them and the target of their anger. It’s on these days that you can easily lose faith in humanity.

The one thing you can do, however, is try and be nice, once a day. Just try and leave a nice comment for someone, or try and pull back on a negative comment. Just once a day. Even if you think it’s a stupid, shallow comment, sometimes a nice comment can go a long way for people. For some reason people find it really easy to leave a negative comment, but not a nice one.

“That waiter was awful, I’m going to complain to the manager!” is said far more times than “That waiter was amazing, I’m going to talk to the manager!”.

Will saying a nice thing here or there solve major problems? Of course not, I’m not naive enough to believe that. Depression is too complicated to boil down to it being caused by reading negative comments online. But creating a more positive environment is such a healthier option than getting lost in a negative one and can sometimes be the bridge people need to open up and try and tackle their depression. People still need a support system, people still need friends, family, inner strength, drugs, and many other things to battle inner demons. It just wouldn’t hurt to try being nice when you can. It makes the world a better place.

I tell myself this every day, because I used to be a negative person who hated all the happy people around me. I hated everyone around me for being so happy, and most of all, I hated myself for being unworthy of being happy. As a result, I lashed out like crazy in my head, coming up with so many negative things to say about people. It only seemed fair to trash other people in my head if I was spending the rest of the time attacking myself. This sadly made me a very miserable person.

It took me a while, but I eventually learned to move myself into a positive frame of mind, because being negative is so tiring and draining. It really does take a lot of effort to be willfully negative at all times.

It’s still a work in progress. I still have days where I just want to rip people to shreds over stuff. At least nowadays I am only thinking negative things about people who deserve it, but even then, I always tell myself to be strong, and that maybe that person just had a bad day, week, month, life and me being strong in the face of their negativity will be the right thing to do. This flirts dangerously close with me bottling everything up inside and “sucking it up” but my support system has gotten good enough that I at least have an outlet for my emotions.

So yeah. This has officially entered rambling time, and god knows who even listens/reads this and takes anything away from it, but my optimistic hope is that people try and be a bit nicer to each other, whether in real life or online.

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