It was 2003. My sister-in-law was visiting us. It was a weekend, and her, my wife, and our niece were going to go up the coast to a fish shack just over the Ventura County line. They asked if I wanted to join them. I said no.
The fly-by-night telecommunications company for which I worked had just closed its doors, but I had quickly found a job at a similar company. I started that following Monday. And all I could see was a hopeless, endless succession of dead-end jobs, one following the other, none leading to anything, no hope of doing anything better, anything more meaningful. I was trapped. I was in the grip of my depression.
Depression can be triggered by anything—or it can be triggered by nothing. It can have warning signs; or it can come upon you like Judgment Day, as a thief in the night. It robs you of you, turning you into someone other than who you were, altering you irrevocably. You are suddenly or not so suddenly this person you weren’t before, a distorted image of the person loved and cherished by others, an image of yourself dark, twisted, sent into the world too soon.
My depressive episodes, stretching back to the late Nineties, have usually been triggered by the combination of pointless work, or lack of work, and the curious malady of my stutter which made me despair of ever being able to do anything other than what I was doing. But triggers don’t always happen. As Robin Williams shows, people who have it all can feel as if they have nothing. Fame, glory, money: they don’t matter. When depression strikes, it doesn’t discriminate. It will take the high and the low, the rich and the poor. It’s very democratic in that way.