SUICIDE AMONG THE STARS

Mental Health/Bipolar Disorder/Suicide
by – Sheri de Grom

Our world shook this past week with collective sadness. We didn’t want to believe what we’d heard. Robin Williams’ suicide should not have happened.

There were brief moments in time when Robin Williams would admit to being bipolar (due to his manic behavior) followed by long stretches of the darkest depression.

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Perhaps his publicist or his wife told the media they wanted no mention of bipolar disorder in the remembrances of this gifted star. For me, a mental health advocate for reform, I see Robin Williams’ tragic death a wasted teachable opportunity. One out of five men with bipolar disorder commits suicide. The general public cannot name two accurate symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Mr. Williams spoke at Mental Health Conferences and at large gatherings of individuals with mental illness diagnoses and never once did I hear or learn later of his hiding behind his disease. He spoke openly and with great humility.

Decades of substance abuse, anxiety, rehab stays and relapses caused him endless self-doubt and shame. These feelings are normal for anyone but Robin Williams was a super star living a public life. Like so many with bipolar disorder, his instant witticism in interviews and stand-up routines were beyond the ability of all others.

It’s well know that a patient misdiagnosed as clinically depressed when they are actually bipolar is a time-bomb waiting to explode. The patient without the proper diagnosis doesn’t receive mood stabilizing medications.

Antidepressants, if prescribed alone for the bipolar patient, rather than with mood stabilizers or anticonvulsants are often a deadly mix.

I witnessed this first hand when my husband was admitted to a mental health unit for the first time on December 7, 1987. Tom was diagnosed as single episode, major depression and prescribed so many antidepressants, he was more a zombie than himself. Tom told me the combination of his medications felt as though he were putting his finger in a light socket each time he swallowed yet another one and it activated.

It was impossible for me to know who Tom would be from one hour to the next. He’d think nothing of spending $10,000 for gold and precious gems for a jewelry design he’d sketched without any idea of which market he’d be able to place the piece in and for the highest price.

Tom ordered the $10,000 in materials one day when he was manic and two days later when he’d already moved into a depression so deep he couldn’t get out of bed, the materials arrived and I’d once again lock them in the safe for a day when he might remember the design he ordered them for.

Sixty-five percent of all diagnosed bipolar individuals are also addicts per the Menninger Institute. The individuals will do anything to escape the hell the disease causes.

Tom is not an addict as most people define it with drugs or alcohol. When Tom is manic, he spends money as if however much he spends, it will be instantly replaced by some magical means. Spending money is Tom’s drug of choice.

Robin Williams said in an NPR clip, “Do I perform sometimes in a, in a manic style? Yes. Am I manic all the time? No. Do I get sad? Oh yeah. Does it hit me hard? Oh yeah. Oh yeah.”

All too often a patient with a set medical regiment will be doing so well, they decide to take a “drug holiday.” They don’t like the side effects of the drugs: weight gain, feeling sluggish, dry mouth, numbed feelings and for the artist, lack of creativity.

Not being creative is enough to make most any artist stop what they perceive to be the problem and relapse into old behavior that’s familiar and they can control.

Early in our marriage, a piece of Tom’s blown glass won first in show at the Monterey, CA Museum of Art. The award was equally prestigious as he was still active duty military and world-renowned glass blowers had entered the competition.

Tom's Blown Glass

Tom’s Blown Glass

A friend of ours made a comment I didn’t place much meaning on at the time, but I’ve thought about it numerous times since the event. At the reception to honor the artists, our friend approached us and said, “Tom, congratulations. You do your best work when you are depressed.”

Nearly one-third of those who kill themselves visit a physician in the week before they die, and more than a half do so in the month prior to committing suicide.

The media reported that Robin Williams had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This is not an unusual diagnosis when an individual has taken medication for bipolar disorder for many years. The symptoms of the bipolar disordered individual mimic Parkinson’s disease and are misdiagnosed time and time again.

Tom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease for two years and was prescribed medication wherein one of the medications main side-effects is suicidal behavior. Once all of the medications, to include his psych medications were taken away, the symptoms for Parkinson’s disease disappeared.

Parkinson’s disease is the same as bipolar disorder in that there aren’t any blood tests or other definitive tools for diagnosis. Both diseases are diagnosed from a set of symptoms.

It’s critical the mentally ill patient have an advocate who honestly cares about the care they receive. Misdiagnosis causes more harm than the diseases themselves.

The great majority of people who experience a mental illness do not die by suicide. However, of those who die from suicide, more than 90 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder.

Thank you for reading with me and being concerned for everyone facing the challenges of mental illness in today’s world.

 

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About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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124 Responses to SUICIDE AMONG THE STARS

  1. catfromhell says:

    What a great post! Thanks! We too live with a bipolar person. My major complaint is Doctors. Each time he sees a new one, which happens quite frequently in a rural area as new Doctors cycle through about every 3 years. They all want to adjust his meds. It can take quite a while for him to adjust to the changes and sometimes they don’t work as the Dr expected and the ups and downs can rapidly cycle out of control. Nellie and I send you much strength and love.

    • Thank you for reading with me and leaving a great comment. I’m sure if we were together in person we could carry on at least a 48 hour rant about doctors and every word would be true. I well understand what you mean about changing doctors and how hard it is to re-establish those new relationships. This is especially true when most of them think they are higher than God when it comes to knowing what’s right. I mean that in no disrespect for God. It’s simply that some mental health workers are too difficult to work with and after 27 years, I’ve learned to tell them we can’t work with them and walk away.
      It took me many years before I grasped the concept that many of the doctors were grasping at straws in dealing with my husband’s bipolar disorder as he’d been misdiagnosed as single major episode depression in the beginning. I finally got smart and each time a new doctor wanted to add medications to what Tom was already taking, I insisted something else had to be taken away. However, I was out of town so much with my career, new medications made their way into his daily regime and have caused catastrophic physical illnesses as the years have gone by.

  2. huntmode says:

    Sheri, what a powerful piece and what an advocate you are. In my family, one of the surest signs that my eldest brother was cycling was a sudden upsurge in spending for himself and for anyone he came into contact with. The beginning of Pat’s illness dates back to the late 60’s, early 70’s – we knew something was off when he came home from bootcamp before going off to Viet Nam, but had not seen manic behavior before. There was an attack with high casualties and Pat was one of the few survivors and it broke him. There was such confusion at the time and such misdiagnosing for years… cocktails of drugs, locked wards, etc. I believe Pat lead the way, with many others, for what meds worked and what did not. He passed away in 2005 and I was so thankful his poor body and spirit could rest at last. Thank you, Sheri, for addressing this in such a personal way. Huntie

    • Huntie, I’m so sorry to learn of your brother Pat and the anguish he must have gone through and then your family as well. I’ll be addressing the Vietnam era veterans during the month of September while I’m focusing on National Suicide Prevention Month.
      The medications can be so destructive and there’s so much misdiagnosing. Even with the correct diagnoses, it can take months or even years to get a medication dose right for any one individual patient. Each individual is different and then after months or a few years, the medications that had been working, stop and you start all over again.
      Each day can be radically different. Tom has had the terrible gunk in his throat and has stayed in bed all day. He may get up late this evening and watch TV for a few hours. Tomorrow, I will chase down my own medical issues and then start making the calls on behalf of Tom. Miss Priss is happy, tomorrow is her day at the dogie spa. Sheri

      • huntmode says:

        One out of three, Miss Priss, wins! I am sending you lots of light and prayers for your and Tom’s medical issues and a speedy – may it be so – recovery. Huntie

        P.S. I look forward to reading your writing on this subject. While all our vets should receive the medical care they need, our Viet Nam vets have earned multiple times over the care they need and deserve by virtue of having been reviled when they came home. A shameful time in our history.

  3. Sorry I haven’t visited for so long Sheri —
    This is a wonderful article — good for everyone to see — and you’re right — a lot of missed opportunities in *not* giving people the full story on Robin’s death. So many people could be helped — but again, it’s treated like it’s shameful.
    One of my favorite musicians – Phil Ochs – was bipolar and killed himself back in 76. I go to Phil for inspiration again and again –he had so much to say. (In fact, his song “There But for Fortune” is in one of today’s posts.) The world is a darker place without him and without Robin Williams – and without the people who suffer from this disease.

  4. Sheri ~ This is so powerful. I think a great misconception from those who have never been near depression is that the person should be able to just “shake it off” …. or go eat ice cream and feel better. But the truth is that we never know what hides beneath the smile we see on someone’s face. Awareness is crucial!

    Your husband’s work is beautiful. And this statement spoke measures to me, “Tom, congratulations. You do your best work when you are depressed.” I have a friend that writes music….and his most moving pieces come from dark times.

    Bless you and Tom. ♥ You make me want to be a better person.

    • Paula, Thank you so much for stopping by to read with me and your oh so kind words. I’ve been meaning to get to your blog as you provide some of the most ‘down-home delightful’ thoughts and photos I have the pleasure of seeing. You bring out the Kansas farm girl in me. God Bless you and your family as we continue living this hot spell and may you be safe. September is National Suicide Prevention Month and suicide will be my primary focus for the month. Again, thank you, you are a treasure to all of us in this blogging world. Sheri

      • Drop by anytime, Sheri….my blogging has been sparse this summer, but perhaps I’ll pick up the pace this fall? (You can never take the country out of a country gal, now can ya? 🙂 )

        Thank you for all the awareness you bring to us.

  5. Thank you for sharing your heart and your experiences. I always love your straight to the heart of the matter approach. This article is hits home for me. Jeanne Marie

    • Jeanne Marie – Thank you for stopping in to read and comment. I’m forever in awe of your beautiful posts and where they allow my mind to travel in peace and contentment. September is National Suicide Month and that’s where I’ll be spending much of my time. I made a pledge to keep Tom safe – although I didn’t actually know that’s what I was doing when I said my wedding vows, “in sickness and health.” Suddenly, everything came into focus when God led me to the window and allowed me to ‘see’ exactly what those vows meant. I’ve never regretted a day. I always appreciate your taking away from your valuable time to read and comment. Sheri

      • Wow! Wow! I feel exactly the same about you and your writing. Thank you.
        I have been married long enough to know exactly what you mean. We have been through Hell and back and sometimes I think those promises from long ago have been a large part of what we hold onto when we are tumbling down the hill. My husband is the one who holds on when I let go and it amazes me so much that I stay and keep on trying. I never thought we would be together long enough to grow old together, but that is how it has evolved and I can’t picture not having his love and support, in spite of the hardships. I admire your commitment to Tom and I enjoy your writing so much. I will participate in National Suicide Month too, so I look forward to your contributions. I am so glad you enjoy my blog. Jeanne Marie

  6. kkessler833 says:

    Wonderful post! I wish you the all the best with your difficult situation. I will check out Tom’s work!

    • Thank you – Tom is no longer able to blow glass but I’ll be putting some of his work on my blog from time to time. He has ventured back into jewelry design on a limited basis. The crystal at the top of my blog, in the left hand corner is a piece he made for me. If you click on the crystal, it will automatically take you to his shop page where the work he’s now doing in silver is listed. He is no longer able to blow glass because of his health.

      • kkessler833 says:

        You are welcome and I did check out his work on Etsy! Beautiful! I am there, too. My shop is Towhee Hill Studio. I hope he gets better and can blow glass again!

        • Thanks for leaving the name of your Etsy store. I’ll not only pass along the name to Tom but also to our circle of friends that love fine art. Tom would love to blow glass again but at the present time his lungs are too weak and during the 1987 earthquake in CA he lost his gas lines and everything a glassblower needs to work with.
          I hope you are feeling better. I’m still thinking about that spectacular ‘Apple.’

          • kkessler833 says:

            You are welcome! I am sorry Tom can’t blow glass. I am sure he misses it. Thanks for looking at my Etsy shop and promoting me to your friends! I really appreciate it! Glad you like Apple so much!

  7. Angie Mc says:

    Sheri, another powerful and thoughtful post. My husband and I met working in mental health and he continued on in the field to become a Clinical Psychologist. He’s currently a commissioned corp officer with the Public Health Service, prior Air Force, and has a specialty in suicide prevention. Needless to say, we’ve been talking about the tragic death of Robin Williams and pray that all who love and miss him will be comforted in our time of grief. I cried when I heard the news.

    Another note, I’m touched by your love for your husband. Very touched. I send my very best to you both ❤

    • Angie – Thank you for taking the time to stop in and read with me and leaving a meaningful comment. Suicide is almost impossible to predict yet I become angry when I hear professionals tell family members, etc. that there was nothing they could have done differently.
      In many cases I disagree completely. Tom has told me many times that I’ve kept him alive but I elect to run with it being God’s Will Being Done as He’s answered so many prayers of mine. Thank you again for stopping by. Sheri

      • Angie Mc says:

        I hear you, Sheri. On one hand, there is a kindness about not going to the past of a grieving family to see if something could have been done differently to save their loved one. Yet, as families and communities, we need to be brave and look to those who have found ways to live when suicide tempts. My husband and I, too, see God’s abundant grace as too often dismissed as an important aspect of active management. Families need ways to identify and manage mental health challenges within the context of family; we need good information, support, and encouragement. This isn’t about looking to blame but rather to give all involved HOPE and tools that work.

        You are very welcome and again, thank you, Sheri. I’m glad to know you and your family ❤

        • Angie – I like you and your husband’s approach. As I’ve said before, when I said my wedding vows, ‘In sickness and in health,’ I’d thought about the promise but had I really thought deeply enough. I would have married Tom anyway, I loved him unconditionally and I received that unconditional love in return. Family is the most important element in keeping the individual safe and if the family isn’t keenly enriched by God’s love, I don’t know how they’ll make it. I was the one on first to look for the little clues for Tom, that it was time to once again pack his black bag and take him to the hospital once again where they could keep him safe. I’ll be writing more about how I’ve kept Tom safe so that indeed, he has the opportunity to see that tomorrow can be a beautiful day. You are knowledgeable in that the day isn’t always the next day or even the next week or month – but with enough love and conviction that you are doing the right thing – love will prevail and you’ll come out the other side wiser and better for having been there together. Sheri

          • Angie Mc says:

            You stated to succinctly and beautifully, “Family is the most important element in keeping the individual safe and if the family isn’t keenly enriched by God’s love, I don’t know how they’ll make it.” Oh, Sheri, there is sooooo much to say on this topic. Thanks for being a voice of faith, hope, and love regarding mental health challenges and how best to support the individual in need and their family who is so concerned ❤

  8. AZVHV.wordpress.com says:

    I found it so sad that someone who appeared to have everything felt in that moment that he had nothing worth living for.

    • Unfortunately when the incorrect chemical imbalance presents itself in the brain and explodes, the thought process leading to suicide seems the only answer. I don’t believe we’ll ever know the real answer other than a gifted man was in such emotional pain, he couldn’t stand to live another moment.

      • AZVHV.wordpress.com says:

        It’s so sad and very troubling that no one can see it coming… we need to do more. Is it research or attention that is lacking?

        • I believe suicide prevention is a combination of both knowledge and attention. Because you support veterans, I wanted to let you know that I’ll post a blog during September regarding Veterans and suicide.
          You are probably aware that my husband is a veteran. He’s told me time and time again that if it weren’t for me and the animals, he would have checked out a long time ago. Every individual needs a purpose to live for. We cannot send our veterans home to an empty apartment or house or even back to his family if he cannot find a purpose that’s worthwhile to him/her to live for.

          • AZVHV.wordpress.com says:

            Agreed Sheri. I’ve been closely observing the controversy here in Arizona regarding the unforgivable failure of our Veteran’s healthcare system resulting in many preventable deaths. I too am a veteran, though my service might be classified as unremarkable and I have no residual issues. Still, I have been reluctant to take advantage of any Veterans healthcare benefits as we sadly need to question their quality.

            • I wanted to scream and throw things (and that’s not my normal behavior) when the Prez reported to the American Legions National Conference yesterday that he was convinced no lives had been lost due to the scandalous secret waiting list that veterans were on. I often wonder if the Prez thinks we believe something if it comes out of his mouth! Our veterans and their families are more savvy than ever and for whatever reason, the current administration fails to understand such a simple concept.
              Thankfully we have my BC/BS or Tom would have been dead many decades ago. Without BC/BS, his healthcare benefits would have consisted of Tricare and the VA and that’s not exactly a blue ribbon combination for anyone.

              • AZVHV.wordpress.com says:

                Typing on my phone, I can’t be sure whether I deleted or sent my last comment.

                Don’t get me going on the naivete of our gov. regarding healthcare of any kind. Along with you and me, I am certain there were a lot of other stunned people after yesterday’s revelation. I can’t decide if the powers that be could possibly be that stupid or if it’s an elaborate whitewash in hopes that they won’t have to fix it. Being a Realtor who’s wife is also self employed, I am obliged to acquire my own health insurance. It wasn’t easy (or inexpensive) this year but we are absolutely dreading our options for next year.

              • AZVHV.wordpress.com says:

                Wow, both You and BC/BS, Tom is a very lucky guy 🙂

          • AZVHV.wordpress.com says:

            Thank you for your initiative and many thanks to you husband for his service.

            • My last year of federal service was with the VA and it was also my most dis-heartening year. Top management refused to entertain one idea set forth for the improvement. I could go on and on but I’ve never seen so many veterans suffer so much in one place and at one time. If you want to look for white collar crime – you have to go no further than the VA.

  9. This was a wonderful, sensitive piece, Sheri. You clearly demystified this illness. You are a fantastic spokesperson for the mentally ill.

  10. Jim Lantern says:

    Reblogged this on Timeglass Health Journal and commented:
    This ties in with my article about Blood Glucose balance Disorder and Bipolar Disorder at Timeglass Health Journal http://timeglasshealthjournal.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/blood-glucose-balance-disorder-and-bipolar-disorder/
    And thanks for your comment at Timeglass Impulse about Celtic Woman.

  11. Like so many, I was beyond shocked and stunned by Robin’s suicide. But, after experiencing the suicidal side-effects of two medications in the past 40 years, I suspect he was experiencing something similar. I know people with bipolar who become suicidal from their meds. It’s a tricky balance for sure. As Letterman said, “I didn’t know he was in so much pain.” We’ve lost a brilliant light.

    • Mary – Thank you for stopping in and taking the time to comment. You are so right about the medications a diagnosed bipolar disordered individual takes can be deadly or they may help the individual have steady and continuous levels of moods. What I do know is the individual must have someone with them that’s passionate about the well-being of the individual no matter how difficult it may be at any given time. BP is not a disease an individual can walk away from. It’s simply not safe.

  12. Claire says:

    What a powerful piece – thank you so much for sharing it.

  13. Bonnie says:

    This is a wonder insightful piece.
    Thank you Sheri for sharing it.

  14. Sheri, I’ve read various tributes to Robin Williams recently, but this is the first that has educated me – I haven’t seen much of the coverage of his death, but I think your post should be required reading.

    • Andrea – Thank you for such a nice compliment. It pains me when something so preventable and tragic could have been avoided completely. It’s unfortunate the media prefers to focus on his drinking and drug use vs the fact that these uses were a means to an end to avoid the disease that caused him a living hell. Further it signifies the tragedy of what happens when doctors are not clued in on what other medications and illnesses the patient is coping with.

      I can only look in from the outside but from the numerous opportunities I heard Mr. Williams speak at conferences and reached out to others with like illnesses, he was everything a man of his stature could bring to show others they too could continue the fight. He always offered encouragement over ‘the beast that wants to kill, at all times.’ He always spoke from the heart and I always felt on these rare occasions, we saw the real man of Robin Williams. He didn’t just throw money at helping people, he contributed in such a way that individuals received help in a tangible way, and immediately.

      There’s much the world at large can learn from the untimely death of this great star. He was misdiagnosed and I watched this act almost kill Tom over and over so many times. The second item everyone that deals with mental health is the patient must have someone at their side serving as their advocate at all times. It’s not an easy task. I won’t pretend that it is. You always have to be front and center above all else. But, unconditional love and total involvement in Tom’s care is what has given us the quality of life he’s had up to this point.

      Thank you for checking in and taking the time to read and comment. I always appreciate hearing from you. Sheri

  15. Denise Hisey says:

    Sheri, once again you have proven yourself to be a wise and educated mental health advocate. I have never heard of the connection between Parkinson’s and bipolar symptoms before. I know there are many mental illnesses that mimic each other, but for 2 physical and mental illnesses to present so similarly is eerie.
    Thank you for continuing to educate us all.

    • Denise – Thank you for stopping in to read and comment. It means a lot that out of your busy schedule you have the time. Whenever you learn of someone that is both mentally ill (and been taking any type of medication to help control the illness) and they are then diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, please encourage them to go a step further and have all medications evaluated. Insurance companies are more than willing to pay for that (and I’m working with a mental health coalition to turn this facet into law so that it will be included into law and all insurance will have to cover the cost).
      Tom suffered severely the two years and I’ll readily admit it was a living hell for me also. It’s no wonder those with mental illness have their lives shortened by so many years. You’d be surprised how many medical doctors are unaware of the connection.

  16. What needs to happen is what you’re doing, talking and informing. Shining a light where it’s badly needed. Without this how can those who need to gain an understanding, and compassion. Without compassion what hope is there for any of us? You’re a gem, Sheri. Thank you. ❤

  17. Thank you, Sheri.
    This is a truly worthwhile and thought provoking post.
    Best wishes to you.
    Emma.

  18. Marie Abanga says:

    Thanks for this yet another masterpiece Sheri. As for me, talking and writing about my mental health is part of my therapy. Indeed, I stigmatize stigma.

    • Marie – The stigma of mental illness and receiving help for the illness continues to haunt those seeking treatment yet today. Thank you for taking the bold steps of talking and writing about your mental health and the part your therapy is playing in your recovery process. I believe it’s also important for the individual(s) the closest to the one with the illness to be involved in their own therapy in order for lasting relationships to evolve and survive a lifetime. I would never have entered therapy if Tom hadn’t been insistent. I had no idea what a toll his illness would have had on me if I’d battled alone. Sheri

  19. Thank you very much Sheri for sharing. You moved me with your story. The blown glass bowl is stunning and if this is a representation of his art, his work is amazing!

    I had the mis-fortune in May to go to a former colleagues funeral. He committed suicide…mid forties leaving behind a wife and teenage daughter. The funeral was attended by over 250 people (he was well liked). I bring this up because the fact of his suicide was not the elephant in the room, but was openly talked about during the service by the pastor and friends. I thought this was actually very good to not hide the pain the family was suffering and he had been suffering.

    Keep fighting the good fight, it is appreciated!!

    • Kirt – Thank you for the kind words. I’m pleased the family and pastor of your friend opened up the discussion about suicide and didn’t hide your friend behind meaningless words. Today, even the military (where we are still having a suicide ever 18 hours) gives the next of kin the option of listing the cause of death as suicide or not. In reporting the number of suicides in this country per year, the active duty military are not included in the total count.
      Tom’s blown glass I show in this blog was taken with a point and shoot camera. No digital anything. The thing that made this win so sweet is the winner won a place in the Walter White Gallery in Carmel and as you know, that’s a significant win since Walter White, at the time, allowed no other work than his own in his gallery. Additionally, Chihuly had a piece in the competition! The names of the artist weren’t known until after the judging. Sheri

  20. Sheri, I like so many others don’t pay attention to things that don’t touch us directly. It’s posts like this that open my eyes and expose me to aspects of bipolar I didn’t have a clue. Your blog is a continual source of information and continues to open my mind and eyes. Thank you for the effort you used to create this, like so many of your posts this completely engaged me. Please take care, Bill

    • Bill – Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I’ve just now joined the human race again. Our A/C went out the 2nd day of 99 degree heat! I think perhaps it should have given me material for remembrances of childhood and all that. (You know, short story material)! However, what it brought Tom and I was pure misery and I think the dogs suffered more than we did. Maybe writing about being in the heat as a Medicare aged adult will render stories this winter but I rather doubt it. I’ll be at your house reading soon. You are indeed a prince. Sheri

  21. Dace says:

    we all can agree that certain things should not be hidden. We need to talk about them, we need to educate and we don’t need to be ashamed. But to go even further, a lot of mental disorders are caused by society. Some people have different chemical balance or dis-balance and majority of the society tries to put everyone into boxes and medicate every time somebody doesn’t fit the norm.

    Mental disorders need to be looked at from all kinds of angles to makes sure that so called “normal” people are not just freaked out due to something that they don’t understand or something that makes them feel uncomfortable.

    • Dace – Well said. A big dose of kindness would go a long ways in helping everyone be sane. We find ourselves living in a world where everyone seems rushed, but why. I declared a few weeks ago that I was going to be rush free. I thought that would remove anxiety from my life. Want to know how long that declaration lasted? Less than a day! Even more disgusting, I’m the one that took myself out of my new found calmness.

      Just this week I told a medical professional I was feeling really down and he asked if I knew the reason why. I told him yes that I thought so. Rather than ask me why, he offered me another medication and I declined. I told him if I were prescribed another pill, it would be one more pill I would be taking the remainder of my life. I’m trying to do away with medications, not take more. That seems to be a difficult concept for the medical community to understand.

  22. Thanks for this insight. My son has attempted suicide a few times when he was younger. He is addicted to drugs and alcohol. He will stop taking medication so that he can get high. He then becomes manic then crashes. It’s continuing cycle.

    • Kim – I’m so sorry to hear this. You have a difficult health issue of your own and then to have an out-of-control son makes things even more difficult. Are you hooked in by any of NAMI’s support groups. They have a 12 week free class titled, ‘Family to Family’ (I think that’s the title) and it’s an excellent opportunity to learn and meet others in similar circumstances. It also provides valuable assets you may not have been aware of. NAMI should also have weekly support meetings in your area. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. You may always contact me by e-mail. I often go several days without checking my messages, but I do get to them. Sheri

      • Thanks Sheri. My son is 37 and on his own. When he first got sick I was involved with a group called the journey of hope. We were educated on mental illness and had support group meetings. It was associated with NAMI. He has spent his life going in and out of jail. Always for robbery because he needed money for drugs. His first charge was for $10 the next for a walkman. The courts gave him 4 years then 7 years. He comes home next month and I just pray he stays compliant and gets into a program that he is satisfied with. He gets in these homes and tries to be an advocate for all the clients. He can’t live with me because I live in someone elses house.

        • Kim – It’s probably best for your health that he lives in a home where your he has to be responsible for himself. It’s a crime in and of itself that so many mentally ill individuals go to jail/prison instead of somewhere that they can get the help they need. It’s an endless cycle but then you already know that. My thoughts and prayers are with both of you as he faces this new chapter in his life. Sheri

  23. Jane Sadek says:

    You always put these things into perspective. Thanks so much.

  24. Tom’s bowl is brilliant and I love the color choice.
    I agree depression shouldn’t be locked in a closet but dragged out into the light and pulverized until it is understood and treated properly. We all have been depressed at one time or another, the regular kind and it sometimes feel bad enough you feel like throwing in the towel, figuratively. To be stuck, on hold every day, all day long must be hell.

    This post is clear and easy to understand, Sheri. We need more open talk and accessible help for those who need it.

    • Tess – Thank you. I love that particular piece of Tom’s – of course I love all of his art work. The amazing thing (to me anyway) is that picture was taken with a ‘point and shoot’ camera and I scanned the photo from the mid 60s into my blog. Tom was horrified when I told him what I’d done. That was of course long before digital photography and all that!
      I’ve seen enough clinical depression to know it takes the life out of people time and time again. It’s a further insult to them to say such things as: you’ll feel better tomorrow, just shake it off, you’re scaring me, I have feelings too, and on and on.
      September is suicide prevention month and that’s where I’ll be focused most of the time. As you pointed out, we have to talk about how to help those in need and take the stigma away.

  25. Elyse says:

    This is an important piece, Sheri. Thanks for sharing your side of the story.

    I agree that closing this discussion by the family is a missed opportunity. But I have been appalled by some of the nastiness that I’ve heard surrounding his suicide and that people have been attacking the family. So I think I too would pull back and lick my wounds.

    Hopefully, however, that will change with time, and the family will open up again. My impression is that they are good people, and I am hoping that having struggled with Robin’s illness, they will offer whatever advice, help, etc. they can.

    That bowl is spectacular. Truly.

    • Hello Elyse – I haven’t followed or seen any of the info thrown at the family. It’s unfortunate if people are playing the blame game. No one and I do mean no one knows what it’s like until they are on the inside looking out. We probably aren’t going to know what the tipping point was for Robin Williams. From what I’ve witnessed, there seems to come a time when the clinically depressed cannot seem to go on living no matter how hard they try. It’s critical for the bipolar patient to be properly diagnosed and medically compliant. Equally important, they must have someone in their corner that loves them unconditionally at all times. Not just for the manic or high times but for the long drawn out depressed times as well.

  26. pnissila says:

    Thank you for important clarifications about this disorder. As always, your posts are very educational. Hugs and blessings to you both…

  27. Sheri–This post, of course, hits me where I live. I was diagnosed as bipolar 20 years ago by process of elimination–they had to rule out every other reason (possible drug use, etc.) to explain my manic episode. I was one of the lucky ones who was correctly diagnosed. It was a med for severe depression (Zoloft) that sent me ALOFT, so it took one manic episode to show that I wasn’t just suffering from depression. My dad was bipolar, so that was another marker that led to a swift diagnosis.

    By the way, I didn’t know Tom had done glassblowing. His bowl is EXQUISITE! My wife, son, and I just went to a glass museum/studio on Tuesday and saw a glassblowing demonstration.

    • John, How did we get this far without you knowing Tom was a glass blower. Glass is his true love but with the California earthquake of 1987, that blew up his gas lines and kiln (sp?). It’s simply too expensive to build new ones. Tom was upset with me when I told him I had posted a photo of the bowl. I had taken the photo with an old Kodak in the 60s (point and shoot). I scanned the photo last night so there’s no digital playing with light and all the fancy stuff you guys do. We have several pieces of his glass but we’ve also lost several truly elegant pieces as a result of our moving so many times.

      If you go up to the top of my blog in the left hand corner, click on the crystal cross and that will take you to Tom’s Esty site. The last 5 jewelry designs he made are listed there. He taught himself jewelry design and then by trial and error how to get started making it years ago. Later, people started asking him to do high dollar pieces so he took classes at GIA. Like so many with bipolar, he has a multitude of intellectual and artistic gifts.
      Thanks for dropping by. Sheri

  28. gpcox says:

    The truth of Robin’s situation makes the news of suicide more of a reality, just as the need for proper diagnosis. Give Tom a big thumbs up from me for that blown-glass bowl – magnificent.

    • G.P., Hello and thanks for stopping by. People often twist their hands and ask why or even worse, they know why and refuse to acknowledge the reason. Until we learn to forgive the secret of mental illness and allow everyone that needs help to seek it, our country has no hope of ever becoming healthy. September is suicide prevention month and we’re still losing a veteran every 23 hours to suicide. More Vietnam veterans have committed suicide than we lost in battle. Those are sobering statistics. And, we can’t forget, we are continuing to lose one soldier every 16 hours to suicide and more of them are state side than deployed.

      • gpcox says:

        I knew the statistics were bad – but had no idea they were quite THAT bad. People don’t bother to get informed. Everything is rush-rush, abbreviated (like Texts) and generalized.

        • G.P.: You’ll be hearing a lot from me about suicide during the month of September and I plan to cover the veterans and their numbers, active duty and their numbers, Vietnam Veterans and a class no one is paying much attention to at all: the military spouse and other family members. The numbers are climbing and direct assistance for them is not being provided on any front. This is a critical population that we as the people of the United States must care for. I’ve always believed, once a military wife, always a military wife. I’m meeting with a coalition of health care workers AND recreational folks along with chaplains this coming week to try and pull a few different programs together. We know this is a program where one size does not fit all plus we hope to engage teens in constructive activities. The family members give so much and receive so little in return. Thanks for being there for them all, G.P.

          • gpcox says:

            Oh, don’t look at me, it’s people like yourself who deserve the credit for bringing all these topics to the public and doing something about it. Do you think Col. Mike Grice’s site might be of help? He has a newsletter and has many different links for making the transition, etc.

            http://orderstonowhere.com/

            • Thanks, G.P. I went over to Col Grice’s site and took a look see. He has a ton of information and I want to go back and check out his blog when I have more time to read at leisure. I also left a like for what I saw and a follow – more as a reminder to myself that I need to follow up. There’s so much work out there begging to be done and so few willing to take part. It appears the Colonel has dug in and is doing more than his fair share of helping veterans find a life once they return home. Thanks for letting me know about his site. Sheri

  29. inesephoto says:

    Sheri – I was waiting for this post. Thank you for highlighting the most important things that people with any mental disorder need: correct diagnosis and a dedicated advocate. The sufferers themselves can bear only as much as they can bear…
    Such a beautiful artwork is this blue vase!
    Warmest wishes
    Inese

  30. Lignum Draco says:

    The family’s wishes are to be respected but it is a wasted opportunity as you say.
    No doubt this news has hit you hard in view of the parallels with your husband’s disease.
    The suicide was tragic enough – what happened afterwards (on social media and the like) was senseless.

    • Lignum – Perhaps it’s a good thing I don’t spend time on social media – not much except for blogging. A discussion of suicide and the why’s and why not’s do not belong on social media. Unfortunately those that hang out and point fingers haven’t a clue as to what they are talking about. It won’t do them any good that September is National Suicide Prevention month in the US and a lot of educational opportunities will be free to the public. People pointing fingers aren’t ready to learn.
      Thanks so much for dropping in and reading with me plus leaving your comment. I always appreciate your taking the time. Sheri

  31. ksbeth says:

    sheri, this has shed a bright light on so many things. your explanation is straightforward, concise and fact-based, as well as being something you’ve experienced first-hand. this is something that everyone should read.

  32. mihrank says:

    Reblogged this on mihran Kalaydjian and commented:
    SUICIDE AMONG THE STARS

  33. AinaBalagtas says:

    This is such an invaluable piece, the society, and the government, should not miss. Thank you, Sheri!

    • Aina – Thank you for stopping by to read with me and taking the time to comment. Sheri

      • AinaBalagtas says:

        The pleasure is all mine. I admire you, sincerely I do–for those are often neglected by the ones responsible (e.g. the government, and the families as well). I agree with you, that if those people around him took the corrective steps to address his health and mental health needs, they could have avoided his death. So, thank you, Sheri!

        • Aina – Thank you. I may have mentioned to you that September is Suicide Prevention Month in the US and my blogs will be dedicated to the subjects in Sept. Suicide is a difficult subject but we must keep the conversation going.
          A TV station did a tribute to the life and times of Robin Williams last night but so much was side skirted, I was highly disappointed in the presentation. Perhaps I’m being harsh but I so want people to know that we are at epidemic proportions with people seeing this as a way out. We’ll never know the depth of his pain because all of the reporting covers each potential discussion with his great comedy. Thank you so much for your concern.

          • AinaBalagtas says:

            Sometimes, those TV stations aren’t paying attention Sheri, to editing. Often they’re cutting a lot, without knowing their losing the integral parts of the stories, to which the people, the viewers have the rights to know. Thank you for crusading and giving your heart into this. Very admiring really!

            • mihrank says:

              But suicide is not an economic problem or a generational tic. It’s not a secondary concern, a sideline that will solve itself with new jobs, less access to guns, or a more tolerant society, although all would be welcome. It’s a problem with a broad base and terrible momentum, a result of seismic changes in the way we live and a corresponding shift in the way we die—not only in America but around the world.

              And Media in the States – I have no comment!!

  34. shoe1000 says:

    Sheri
    Thanks for sharing your insights. Tom’s glass is beautiful.
    I appreciate the information about Parkinsons. I also appreciate the look at bi-polar. The Fanatic, who writes here also, suffers and watching her walk through it shows me how hard it is.
    More than anything thanks for putting out what needs to be put out. More and more of us are suffering and it is slowly becoming an epidemic and we will have to pull our head out of the sand and deal with the costs of our cultural malaise.
    Warmly
    Jim

    • Jim – Thank you so much for stopping by to read and even more for commenting. I knew you hadn’t been showing up in my reader and didn’t know why. I know you well understand how hard it is to watch someone you love walk through the desert of the bipolar wilderness and try to find their way out the the other side to see a cloudless blue sky once again. I so agree with you that our culture has turned a blind eye to the needs of the mentally ill and an even more serious blind eye to those of us that are true caregivers and want only the best quality of life for the person we love. You know and I know, we give constantly and it’s a 150% full time job.

      During the month of September I’ll be blogging exclusively about suicide and attempted suicides (on a very personal level) since September is National Suicide Prevention month. I’ll also talk some about the methods I’ve implemented to keep Tom safe from committing suicide. I’m not saying I have all the answers. I simply hope some of the solutions I’ve tried with Tom might help others as they battle to keep those they love, safe.

      • shoe1000 says:

        Sheri,
        The weirdest thing happens occasionally to me. I lose blogs somehow by “unfollowing.” Does that happen to you?
        I look forward to September’s posts. Thank you for all the kind words and hard work you do.
        Jim

        • Jim – Yes, that’s happened to me off and on. I try to keep a hard copy list but then time crunch hits and I lose a place that provides a good reference.

          One of my biggest complaints about the reader, other than not everyone I follow going into the reader, it’s filled with people I don’t follow. That aggravates me to no end.

          Take care and talk soon. Sheri

  35. M-R says:

    So his family made that ruling …? It screamed out that Williams was a manic depressive, and I can’t think why the family would want to hide the fact – especially as its now being called ‘bi-polar’ make is sound innocuous. Were it me in his family’s situation, I would far rather everyone knew he was bi-polar than allowing them to make uneducated guesses. It’s a condition. It’s widespread. It’s not something disgusting …

    • Margaret-Rose, Unfortunately, not everyone is the enlightened thinker that you are. It’s my understanding that Robin Williams’ family had some very nasty social media remarks made about them almost immediately after his suicide. It pains me when accusations are thrown about to cause more and more pain. There’s no reason for that. We lost a brilliant actor and comedian to suicide and it didn’t have to happen that way. I’ll be the first to admit that bipolar disorder can be a slippery snake of a disease to manage and Mr. Williams was not the most compliant patient with self-medicating and such. Bipolar is a serious disease and there’s no room for self-medicating. It always leads to disaster.
      I also am a firm advocate for a bipolar individual to have an advocate that’s 100% committed to them at all times. The advocate does not get to take a holiday. As I’ve written before, bipolar disorder is a third party in Tom’s and my marriage and it is here to stay. It’s not going to go away and our best opportunity of survival is for me to help Tom yet not enable him. It’s a fine line and one I walk each and every day. Thank you so much for reading with me and taking the time to leave a comment. I always look forward to hearing from you. Sheri

  36. Gallivanta says:

    Thank you for this Sheri. It makes so much more sense than all the media reports/speculation about Robin Williams. Tom’s prize winning blown glass is exquisite.

    • Gallivanta – Hello and how are you. I thought of you and your blog with all the blue hues when I was scanning the photo of Tom’s award winning piece. When I told him I’d scanned an old Kodak photo taken with a ‘point and shoot’ and then scanned it into my blog, I thought he was going to flip right there. We of course have the blue award winning piece along with several of his other pieces and I plan to work them into blogs as I go along but Tom has made me promise to get photos from him before I do any such thing. Unfortunately many of his pieces were broken during the years we were always moving but we still have a nice collection.

      I haven’t followed the media and what they have to say about Robin Williams and his death. Another blogger told me his family has taken a great deal of negative talk and I’m assuming perhaps the public is shoving blame onto the family. It seems second nature for some to always go after the negative side instead of playing up the positives this brilliant man gave the world he lived in.

      Take care and thank you for reading with me and I always appreciate your comments. Are you wearing fresh flowers in your hair today? Sheri

      • Gallivanta says:

        No flowers today, Sheri. I think I have picked the garden bare. I am sorry to hear that some of Tom’s pieces of art have been broken over the years. However it would be lovely to see the ones that remain. The good thing about lesser quality photos is that people are less likely to steal them, or your ideas. 🙂

        • Gallivanta – Oh, if you were here, we could build you multiple hair pieces from my garden. I worked outside last night but in the 100+ degree weather I only lasted a couple of hours. You have such a wonderful artistic eye, I wish you were near and I would bend your ear about the redesigning I’m doing.
          The clematis is the most wonderful color of pale lavender and would work itself beautifully into multicolored pieces for your hair. I have colors ranging from white through the spectrum of the color wheel to include mauve, lush pinks, pure white, and every color in between. I always think of you when I enter my gardens now and what a lovely time I have. May you have many blessings come your way today and in the coming week.

          I will be posting more of Tom’s work over this next year. Remember, you are the one that started me on my, “When A Man Loves A Woman” series.
          I think I’m going to blog about my mother’s flowers in her hair also. You reward my life richly in so many ways. Thank you.

          • Gallivanta says:

            Clematis are so beautiful but the one clematis I have in my garden is not flourishing. Over the fence at my neighbours, a small white clematis is about to flower. I have my eye on it because this year I am determined to get photos of its luxuriance ( and maybe a few for my hair 🙂 ). I would love to see your clematis, and it will be lovely to read more about your mother’s flowers.

            • I only have two blooms thus far but consider it a victory as I recently read the one I have seldom blooms. Yikes! How could this flower loving person give up garden space to something that rarely blooms? Tom took a photo for me a couple days ago. (He’s the guy that does more than point and shoot)!

              • Gallivanta says:

                Flower lovers always seem to be very patient with the slow bloomers or recalcitrant bloomers. The best part of this comment is to hear that Tom is feeling up to taking photos.

                • Yes, we try to do a bit more each day and not rush his surgery recovery. I have some flowers blooming this year that I have no idea what they are as they came in a wildflower mix. Guess I’ll ask Tom to photograph them and then I’ll post them for assistance. I don’t have words to describe how wonderful it is for me to see Tom out in the yard with his faithful dog at his side and his camera in his hand.

  37. Bruce Goodman says:

    Sheri, you write fantastic stuff, but this one beats them all! Thanks!

    • Bruce, Thank you from the bottom of my heart. My heart aches for Robin Williams and the greatness we lost due to his suicide but he was in too much pain to hold on for one more second. I’m a firm believer in that only one person can be totally tuned into the mentally ill individual and know when it’s time to go to the hospital for professional help. Unfortunately our hospitals are little more than housing facilities when it comes to mental illness yet they get away with charging the horrendous rates. A double problem for Robin Williams was the fact that he lived in the public arena and that had to make treatment even more difficult. Did he want to be treated? I’ve asked myself that question over and over. It’s a given, psychiatric medications will dull the senses and for creative people, that’s not acceptable.

      I appreciate your taking the time to stop by to read with me and to comment. Sheri

  38. Terry says:

    You have had to live some rough days and for me, I wish I could change things for you. Then again you may not be the awesome writer you are if you had little life to write about. What a wonderful honor to be able to touch and hold an idea in the form of glass from a talented friend and husband. Hugs

    • Terry – Here you are, the first to comment and I’ve held my reply to you for the last as I reply to comments both yesterday and today. I continue seeing the heart in your avitar and it reminds me of a piece of hand blown glass Tom once made. The heart was the most exquisite color of deep red. I have no idea how he managed to do it, but then he’s an artist who does one of a kind pieces and can rarely explain exactly how one of his creations comes about.
      The heart, about the size of 2 standard size desk top paperweights put together was actually 3 hearts inside one another yet the work was one continuous piece of blown glass. The smaller inner heart was the deepest red of the 3 and there are times it seems to glow. The middle heart envelopes the smaller heart and it has the appearance of a couple of wounds in it and then the outside heart has several intentional cracks and one place where there’s an intended shattered piece.
      Tom gave me this glass heart and told me it represented his heart. It was early in our relationship and I had no idea what out road ahead would hold, but I knew no matter what, I wanted to travel the journey with Tom.
      Thank you, Terry, for stopping in to read with me and commenting. You know I treasure our friendship and am looking forward to new adventures ahead for you. Sheri

      • Terry says:

        The beauty I have taken in of the description of the heart is something more magnificent than my imagination could see. What does one of his cheaper pieces sell for? It would be such an honor to be able to hold one in my own hands

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