FROM READERS: Robin Williams, depression and the burning swamp

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 | 7:23 p.m. CDT

Elise Schmelzer is a junior journalism major at MU. She has worked as an Assistant City Editor at the Missourian and will return to the newsroom in the fall. She wrote this for her personal blog on Aug. 12 and gave the Missourian permission to publish it.

It’s hard to find a light switch when the light is already out.


There are multiple resources and crisis lines available at the national level and specifically for mid-Missouri residents.

MU Counseling Center

The MU Counseling Center in Parker Hall provides free counseling services for MU students, walk-in crisis services and resources for friends, faculty, or staff that are concerned about a student.

Student services: 573-882-6601

Employee services: 573-882-6701

The center also offers a 24-hour crisis line operated by a private mental health organization.

Central Missouri: 1-800-395-2132

Southwest Missouri: 417-761-5555

Toll free: 1-800-494-7535

Mid-Missouri Crisis Line

A 24-hour, toll-free, confidential hotline for people in need of help. It is also called Deafline Missouri and can accommodate deaf and hard of hearing individuals.

Columbia: 573-445-5035 (Video/TTY)

Toll free: 888-761-HELP (4357)

Text: HAND to 839863

The Trevor Project

A national organization providing crisis intervention with a focus on LGBTQ individuals. It provides a lifeline, confidential chat and texting services and a social networking site. TrevorText is available Fridays 3 to 7 p.m. (Central time). TravorChat is available 2 to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

Trevor lifeline: 866-488-7386

TrevorText: Text the word "Trevor" to 1-202-304-1200

TrevorChat is available online

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When you’re alone in the dark and the dark is suffocating and swampy it sometimes overcomes that black hole at the center of us all that pulls our world towards us and gives us infinite mass.

On Monday we lost another wonderful, creative, brilliant human being to the swampy black. Depression is something about 10 percent of American adults deal with, including myself and a good number of my friends. It is completely concealable if the person chooses to hide it, but impossible to ignore.

When the sun is shining and it’s the weekend and there are mountains to climb and horses to ride and life to do, sometimes the weight of it keeps me in bed. It’s like sitting at the bottom of an inescapable, pitch-black well that is invisible and located on top of your twin bed that the afternoon sun is shining on so invitingly.

In these moments I am naked and my goosebumped skin is burning dully.

Sometimes I can rally and roll out of bed, sometimes I just can’t. And those days I hate myself for my inability.

These episodes have only been a regular part of my life for less than a year. My first bad moment of irrepressible weight was terrifying — a whole new dark to be fear. I watched Netflix, stared at the walls and wondered who I had become, where I’d gone wrong.

Knowing that I’ve done nothing wrong to bring this upon me is helpful sometimes. Knowing that a large percentage of the women on both sides of my family have depression sometimes eases the guilt. But these women don’t talk about their battles and victories with the mood disorder and it makes me feel alone among my blood.

Now I look at the news about Robin Williams' apparent suicide and hope I never have to wander the spiraling halls that led to his death, though I know those halls are not always far away and have known people who have walked them.

So I’ve decided to cast my net wide. Before this post, three people knew about my depression. I’m a naturally private person, but I also was afraid to be typecast by the stigma surrounding the disorder. I’m bucking the trend of my relatives and letting it be known. I’m bucking my own inner fears of being seen as weak or less than.

Like many other uncomfortable topics hushed by societal norms, I think the best way to combat the stigma surrounding depression is to come out honestly and talk about our own experiences when we are ready. Only then can we foster discussion, minimize misunderstands and build a support network.

Then maybe when we feel chained to our beds and couches somebody will be there to watch the walls with us. Maybe they will sit with us until we find the light switch.

“I used to think  the worst thing was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone.” – Robin Williams

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Stephanie Ebbs.

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Ellis Smith August 14, 2014 | 5:35 a.m.

"It [discussing depression] is completely concealable if a person chooses to ignore it..."

Now THERE'S a statement which can be challenged, and not only by the medical profession. The point of challenge is obviously use of the word "completely." I was under the impression that journalism students are instructed to avoid such "descriptors" as a matter of good form. Has that changed since my 51-year-old daughter was a journalism student? Or does such advice vary according to which journalism school a student attends?

Self deception has never been and doubtless never will be one of humankind's better or more useful qualities.

The first step toward solving or at least ameliorating the effects of any problem is to acknowledge that a problem EXISTS. This is equally true whether the problem is physical or mental.

In the realm of addressing physical problems* (which may sometimes only involve inanimate objects) the first rule is often given as "define the problem." No, that's actually the SECOND sequential step. We can't seriously define a problem we refuse to believe exists.

*-No less an authority than Harvard Business School years ago reduced solving physical problems to a step-by-step process. Their process is indeed useful, but they unfortunately chose to start with what should be "step 2."

(Report Comment)
Brad Ferguson August 14, 2014 | 4:28 p.m.

Rather than chastise Elise for something she wrote on her personal blog and shared with the world, it would be better to support her. People like Elise and myself who suffer from depression need support and compassion. I wish you the best in your journey, Elise.

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