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Robin Williams & the Love Affair Between ADHD & Depression

August 15th, 2014 05:00:00 am

Robin Williams & the Love Affair Between ADHD & Depression

In my first book, Managing the Gift: Alternative Approaches for Attention Deficit Disorder, I wrote a whole chapter on the love affair between ADD/HD and depression. It first begins when we take highly creative, energetic, outside-the-box thinkers and overall powerhouses and constantly shove them down the cattle shoot of public education. Even if they're funny—like Robin Williams, who I'm sure was a bright child—there is still the message that you're an “outsider.” There's a sense of isolation, of not being like everyone else.


Williams' humor may have come from a drive to win people over. Bright children constantly batter adults for answers to questions, or feel a need to do something when they are supposed to be doing nothing, or to do something other than what they are supposed to be doing. Humor can be a powerful defense mechanism, a way of being more likable.


At some point, that first little case of depression hits. You feel even more isolated. You may feel shame, like you have disappointed everybody. That somehow there's something wrong with you. Depression can actually suppress some of the off the chart spikes of creativity, energy, observation, humor, and driving curiosity. In a depressed slump, people might observe a lower level of energy and say, “see, I knew you could do it.” When the depression lifts and you go back to your normal, high energy self, the cycle begins all over again: “Why can't you be like the other kids? Why can't you just do this without challenging it? Why can't you?” What a child hears is: “you're really only okay when you're not you.” Children carry these kinds of lessons into adulthood.


I'm sure that when Robin Williams had the chance to utilize his comedic genius—that when all of his ADHD traits were working for him—depression had no place. It's the time between the lines that's hardest—the times when you're expected to live like a normal person does. Being in between jobs—even if the job is Good Will Hunting or Mrs. Doubtfire—doesn't suddenly make your mind slow down, your curiosity go away, or depress your energy. Williams tried other things; he had issues with alcohol and drugs. These were ways for him to self-medicate into normalcy.


There will be some out there who will declare that if he had gone on ADHD medication, none of this would have happened. “None of this” would have included some of his brightest, over the top, brilliant performances, his sharp insight and amazing abilities. Those would have been lost.


Was there another way? Absolutely. Williams had to lose the fact that there was something wrong with who he was. There were many things he could've been doing that would've managed his ADHD without suppressing it, helped focused it and channeled it into more creativity. Somehow, his life was too large for everybody around him. Robin Williams has been one of the people I've pointed to for years as someone who never medicated; someone who showed what a genius—comedic and otherwise—and humanitarian an ADHD person can be without medication, without labels.


Though he led a successful life, he didn't escape the damage. If you're an adult today that struggles with ADHD, go work on the damage. Make sure you don't work on it with someone who wants to give you a disability. Understand that the world disabled you with its belief system of you. The world disabled you with its belief system of you. Now you need to pull those poisonous weeds out, you need to take charge, you need to put things in place to help you manage the gift—and curses—that come with ADHD. But not a disability. Never a disability, unless you choose to make it one, or someone chooses to make it one for you.


Robin Williams will be missed. He was definitely a hero, and still is.  

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