The above photo of me & my girls was taken a couple years ago here in Squaw Valley.
Note to my readers – I’ve been out of town the past week with only a smidgen of internet access. I won’t be back online regularly until Friday, August 22nd. I’ve missed reading your blogs, and I’ll be sure to catch up with them upon my return!
This has been a strange, heartbreaking week for many people and the ripple effect of this sorrow began on Monday.
Last Monday I scheduled an innocuous-sounding appointment that I dreaded attending. It was my one-on-one session with Lucy’s puppy instructor Belinda. Yes, the same instructor who asked me to leave her puppy class due to Lucy’s incessant barking and aggressive behavior.
I had been anxious from the moment I woke up that morning. My general anxiety and social anxiety have been much greater since I recently lowered the amount of my Seroquel medication. I tapered from 100 mg to 50 mg, a significant drop, and while I was relieved that my grogginess had dissipated, I was bummed about my heightened anxiety. My psychiatrist suspected that my 100 mg nightly dose of Seroquel had most likely been tamping down my anxiety; therefore, when I reduced the medication, my “hidden” anxiety would emerge.
I hate anxiety almost as much as I loathe depression, and I felt grateful that depression had not reared its hideous head as well. I hoped and prayed that over time as my body adjusted to the lowered Seroquel, my anxiety would drop.
To my relief, my session with Belinda went a lot better than I expected. During our time together she spoke with me about Lucy’s specific behavior challenges and how best to approach them. Although I felt anxious going into our session and I felt anxious leaving it, I was proud I didn’t cancel it, which I had been tempted to do earlier that day.
I headed home with Lucy, picked up my daughter at her friend’s house, and looked forward to chilling out. After I walked in the door and settled down, I checked my email. That’s when I read the news – the news I’m sure you know about by now. I read about the awful fact that Robin Williams’ had ended his life.
I’ve been a huge Robin Williams fan since the late 1970’s, ever since I watched him on “Mork and Mindy”. I grew up in Los Angeles, and when I was in my early teens, I stopped off at Vicente Foods, an upscale market. As I stood by the registers, I spotted actress Pam Dawber, the actress who played Mindy opposite Williams’ unforgettable Mork. Despite my living in L.A. I hadn’t seen many famous people, so that moment was very surreal and exciting for me. Unfortunately, she gave me a dirty look because I kept staring at her from twenty feet away. I was in shock, I think – I didn’t realize that I was being rude.
The evening of Williams’ death, my mother told me she stood next to Robin Williams on her way into a taping of the popular television show “This Is Your Life” featuring the actor/ musician Dudley Moore. My father, a violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was friends with Dudley Moore and he’d visit him at his Venice home to play music together. I assume that Robin Williams and Dudley Moore must have been friends, I imagine. (I don’t have internet as I write this, so I can’t verify it!). My mom noted that Williams was acting strange, most likely loaded on cocaine, alcohol, or both substances.
Last year when I was depressed, I went through a Robin William phase in which I watched him in a lot of different shows to take my mind off my depression. I took in my fourth or fifth viewing of one of my all-time favorite movies “What Dreams May Come”. It’s an amazing film directed by the brilliant New Zealander Vincent Ward in which one of the key characters takes her life, and has extremely heavy themes but has an uplifting ending. I rented some of Williams’ hysterical comedy DVD’s and I splurged and bought the entire season of his television show “The Crazy Ones”.
During that phase, out of simple curiosity, I researched the internet to see if Williams had “come out” with having bipolar disorder. I couldn’t find anything official, but I didn’t do the greatest net search either!
After learning of Robin Williams’ death, I cried and spent the rest of Monday evening in shock. Like millions of fans, I wrote on Facebook about my reaction. I received supportive, positive responses and I noticed many of my Facebook friends had written of their sorrow as well, especially bloggers in my Mental Health blogging community.
Tuesday morning our family was out the door early, and headed on a long-awaited trip to Lake Tahoe. Driving through the Bay Area we listened to the radio only a little bit, as each news report began with the coroner’s report of Williams’ method of death, and we didn’t want the girls to hear it.
Williams’ suicide method hit too close to home for me, for I had considered using the same method as he did after I took the medication amitriptyline (Elavil). Hanging was a method I had never before considered in my life, even during other times in whch I had been acutely suicidal and had to go to the E.R. Without a doubt, I believe the amitriptyline made me want to hang myself. I’ve discussed this topic in more detail in my post “The Power of One Pill” and “The Green Bathrobe Belt” in this blog.
So what to make out of all this? I don’t know. We thought we’d have internet access from our remote cabin. This is a special place that we’ve visited each year. Craig discovered it on Craigslist, appropriately enough, and we get a great, affordable rate. The owner likes us so much that she buys toys for the girls to play with. During past visits, we’ve been able to get online from this area, but the signal no longer works. Despite my intense frustration, I know that my being cut off from the net has been my blessing in disguise.
Up to the first day of this trip, I’ve become dependent (well, addicted is more like it!) upon my daily habit of checking emails, reading blogs and being active on Facebook and Twitter. Being involved through these outlets has brought me some bona fide internet friends, some of whom I feel closer to than most of my “IRL” (in real life) friends. Being unable to correspond with my internet friends unexpectedly and “cold-turkey” has been VERY frustrating and isolating.
However, if I did have the 24/7 internet access I’ve been accustomed to, I would be reading way too much about Robin Williams. Please believe me when I say I don’t mean to sound selfish, but I don’t think it would be healthy for me to do that right now, if ever.
From just the few main facts I heard about Robin Williams on the radio last Tuesday, I’ve been deeply troubled and I have thought about his agony and the effect his suicide has had upon his family a great deal. There’s no need for me to read more details and read about others’ reactions to Williams’ suicide during this time in which I am more emotionally fragile than usual.
Last Wednesday, we drove to Squaw Valley. We hiked on a beautiful trail with Lucy, who loved being off-leash in an exotic, new location. Today we visited the gorgeous Sugar Pine State Park that sits along Lake Tahoe. This area is one of the most gorgeous ones in the world, and we are incredibly lucky to be here.
In some ways, it has felt healthy taking this “mandatory break” from my technology to focus upon nature. Yesterday we stopped in front of Squaw Village with our laptop and my Kindle in tow, able to tap into a signal for a few minutes while the girls played together in the back seat without even one squabble. (A true miracle!)
This is a working vacation for Craig and he needed to download some documents. While we sat there I hastily checked my email. I saw a plethora of Facebook notification messages about my friends and acquaintances’ reactions to Williams’ suicide. I didn’t read any of them as I would have done if I had unlimited internet at my disposal.
Each day I can’t help but think about the Williams’ family, and my heart goes out to them. I know why he made his decision and I’d never judge him for one second for doing what he did. Since I’ve almost gone the same way I know it was not my fault nor was I “selfish” in wanting the worst pain I ever experienced to end. I only hope that he really is in a better place – that’s the only way that I can make sense of such heartbreak.