Robin Williams made you uncomfortable? You have no idea.
Ed note: I sent this column to many of my people and asked if I was doing wrong in publishing it. They essentially said that, if I value telling the truth, I need to publish it. But it will likely hurt my business. I decided I want to be a better person than a better reporter. So here it is.
I was so touched and moved by the response to my column on Robin Williams. The dozens of letters and the hundreds of comments meant so very much to me. People told me it made me, in their eyes, a better person, a better writer, and a better journalist.
The only black spot for me, other than Williams’ loss, was this: Would you have responded that same way if you knew I was telling my own story as much as I was telling his?
If you knew that that column was inspired by my own life-long struggle with mental illness as much as it was by Robin Williams’ … would you still think I was a better person, trust me as much as a writer and a journalist, make you think advertising in The Source or The Champion as valuable as it was yesterday?
Sadly, I think many people would like, trust and value me and my endeavours less.
THIS is what it looks like to be mentally ill, and to not think like other people do.
They like you less, trust you less, and value you less.
I can be empathic, but I can never relate, or there must be something wrong with me.
So you learn to try to hide it. Williams had an edge – comedians are SUPPOSED to be a little nuts. But are your school teachers, your accountants, your politicians? Not so much.
Not at all.
So we hide. Not from the people who love us and get close to us, we’re not magicians, and Star Trek never afforded us a cloaking mechanism (No, I’m not sure loving Star Trek isn’t part of the illness. LOL). Many, many of my loved ones have fallen prey to my craziness, at one time or another. And benefitted from it, at other times. I’m a mixed bag (and please, spare me the bag comments, ha, ha.)
They love me. I don’t need them to value my sanity, they just value ME. What we need isn’t just from them – but from the workaday people whose trust we need, and who just don’t understand that we’re every bit as trustworthy today as we were yesterday. Yesterday, you read my coverage as is. I think tomorrow, you’ll read it differently.
I haven’t changed a bit, nor has my journalistic talent. You have.
You could totally judge me for the way I’ve treated the people in my personal life – just as you could have yesterday – but I’m just as exceptionally good at my job today as I was yesterday, and always have been. And when I tell you I have mental health issues, I will still lose many of you. Even though nothing changed but your perception.
We don’t need to talk about Robin Williams. We need to talk about THIS. We need to talk about creating a safe place for people who think differently than most of society.
Einstein had two suits that looked exactly the same, because choosing an outfit for himself each morning was just too stressful for him. He couldn’t go for walks in his own neighbourhood, because he got lost. His parents were told to put him in a trade school because he was incapable of learning. Think about that.
I’m no Einstien, but I HAVE been approached by MENSA, I DO have a crazy high IQ, and I CAN see what others can’t. And I still lose my car keys a couple of times a day. I still can’t balance my chequebook. I’m still mean to friends when I don’t want to be.
I always wanted letters after my name that made me credible. Instead, I got ADHD, PTSD, and OCD. Maybe not the letters I was looking for.
But I’m still credible. I’m still very good at what I do. PTSD makes me react with fear and anger that isn’t real, in my personal life … but never as a journalist.
So the end result is, I’m nutty as squirrel poop … and still someone you should value, trust and maybe even like (or not, depending on whether you just did something really bad, Ha, ha).
I believe one of my first promises to you was that I would never strive to make you comfortable. In fact, I know it was, as many of you thanked me for promising it. You guys appreciated that once, and I’m asking you to appreciate it again. I’m saying now that the promise remains … it’s just WAY more uncomfortable than what you thought. I’m asking to you really examine your knee-jerk views.
Mental illness can be fought, won, lost, conquered.
But it would be so, so much easier if the fight wasn’t on all fronts.