The story of Robin Williams’ death in 2014 was tragic, one of the funniest men in my lifetime, taking his own life because of depression.
I’ve started this post a number of times. Inspired by both Brad Feld and Ben Huh – I have admired both men for their transparency (and I’ve told them both). But I haven’t had the heart (or will?) to complete the post and actually make it “live.” I guess I felt like one more voice wouldn’t really matter. Until Robin Williams’ death.
Depression is a reality. Not something having a “positive attitude” overcomes nor a simple series of platitudes that will help you rise above and pull yourself up by your bootstraps. I’ve endured through two bouts of depression in my adult life. For me, it was chemistry compounded with circumstances of being an entrepreneur.
Don’t get me wrong, being an entrepreneur had risks that (I thought) I understood when I took them on at the time. In retrospect, I understood the something about risk, but I didn’t understand anything about the loneliness.
Some of my close friends understood, while others pulled away because they (and I) didn’t know how to deal with it. Thankfully, the closest people in my life didn’t pull away. Thanks to my wife, Kathryn, for not pulling away.
You see, when people don’t know how to deal with uncomfortable situations in their lives, they generally withdraw from the situation. I saw that when my wife went through a battle with cancer nearly 20 years ago. There were people who said they would be there for us and weren’t. I don’t blame them, they didn’t know how to deal with the uncertainty and confusion of cancer, so after the platitudes and emotion of the diagnosis, they withdrew to a safe distance to live their lives. A distance that was comfortable for them – but out of reach for us.
That’s the challenge of depression. When you have a friend in the midst of it, you have to decide to walk with them through it. Or not.
If you decide to be there for them, you have to walk all the way through. Part way through won’t help them. Pulling back to a safe distance will make it more comfortable for you and this time, it’s not about you.
For me, the act of making this post creates anxiety. It’s personally risky. What will you, a normal people, think of me? But the reason to do this post isn’t about you, it’s for the person that’s struggling with depression. For them my risk is super small, especially if it helps just one person walk all the way through and not give up.
There were days when dealing with depression that simply getting out of bed was the toughest decision of my life. There were other days that I thought the world would be better off without me.
Life is hard, and it seldom turns out the way you expect. But people who love you and show it, do make a difference. So will you do me a favor? Will you walk through it with one person today?
This week. This month.
I promise it will be uncomfortable for you. But, it may just save their life.
No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.
– Robin Williams
Join us on 5/25 for a live, interactive AMA to hear more about this important topic and how we can all help out in our communities. We’ll be joined by Brad Feld, Managing Director at Foundry Group, and co-founder of Techstars. Register here.
This was originally published here.