Real talk on Parkinson’s, depression and Robin Williams

Many of the people I know in the Parkinson’s community have this go-to attitude and optimism that a lot of people would find surprising. To me, it’s par for the course. We’ve been introduced to so many people who aren’t going to wait for a cure, they’re going to help find it. And with that, comes a willingness to bravely look PD in the face with a smile. 

That said, I would guess that many of them struggle with bouts of depression. A lot of us do, whether we have PD or not. I’ve been having similar conversations with friends lately as they struggle, too, with the fact that they are the people others rely on to help build them up and make them smile. Those people sometimes don’t feel like they have anyone else to talk to. If you’re the one who needs to make others laugh and look at the bright side, it’s hard to admit you have your own demons. 

It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot since the news of Robin Williams’ death. Yes, he was a funny, funny man. But I honestly wasn’t surprised that behind that depression was lurking. A lot of people jumped on the bandwagon to blame his Parkinson’s diagnosis on his depression. His wife had said she wasn’t ready to tell people yet. 

For the PD warriors I know, many of them went through the same thing. Upon hearing a diagnosis like that, you have to go through all stages of grief before you can become empowered to make a difference. Some kept the secret for years, telling only close family. Others told some friends and hid it the best they could until the cat was out of the bag. 

Even getting past that, where they’re over the initial shock, depression is a common symptom for PD patients. And it’s something that I take really, really seriously. 

Our friend Bret Parker had a column on the Huffington Post recently, where he addressed PD, depression and Williams. It was brave, and it was powerful, and I wanted to share part of it with you.

We don’t want to scare our friends or families into thinking that is the path we are heading down. So many are already flocking to Fox’s optimism and reassuring themselves on social media and in conversations that now, more than ever, they will keep fighting and that we will find a cure in our lifetimes. And they will wear that trademark optimism and smile.

I don’t think you have to be battling PD to know exactly what Bret’s saying. I know that I have a problem with trying to “fix” people, or help and be there for everyone. I often have a smile and a joke to go along with it. But I have my days on the other side of the spectrum. We all do. And there’s nothing wrong with that. 

Dad and I were talking the other day about this very thing. There is nothing wrong with depression. It doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you foolish. And it’s OK. But if it starts to interfere with your ability to live your life, it’s time to reach out for help. And there’s nothing wrong with that, either. 

Pretending that it’s not a problem in anyone’s life — but especially those with PD — is going to cause more damage that acknowledging it, embracing it and working to do what we can. 

So here. Click here and read about anxiety, depression and Parkinson’s. How to get help, what the research says and more.

Here’s some more information from the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, that notes up to 60 percent of PD patients have mild or moderate depression.

And if you need help finding local resources, let me know. I can search for you. 

 We can know in our hearts that people are here for us. But depression can make you feel completely alone. And I won’t stop saying it: You are NOT alone. 


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