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Word Of The Day

More details continue to come following the death of actor and comedian Robin Williams.

His wife disclosed that he had been recently diagnosed with early stage Parkinson's Disease. I have no idea if this factored in his death, but it got me thinking about physical and mental conditions, and holding that information private, for fear of what the public will think, or how those of us who have the conditions will be met by the public.

I know a number of people with mental conditions. Some have chosen to be open about what they have, others have decided not to. 10 years ago I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and have been open about it with people. Some accepted it, others dismissed the news. But ultimately, it’s not about what the public thinks, but of how we, who have these conditions or disorders, face them. I have my good days and I have my bad days. I’ve had more than a few very black days.

Robin Williams dealt with depression. Depression is one of the most common mental disorders, and it, like pretty much every other mental disorder, has a stigma attached to it. Others may perceive the one who suffers from it as weak, or question why they just don’t get over it.

That’s easy. It’s a physical thing.

While artists and creative types may say that we are full of emotion and intellect, our bodies are still composed of physical matter. Our brains are filled with chemicals. And if anyone took basic high school chemistry, you know one part too many of substance A with substance B, it can go boom. It’s no different in the brain. With OCD, there’s a chemical called Serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that passes information between neurons. Most people have the right balance. I don’t. So I short circuit now and then. Same general idea for those with other mental conditions. Something physical in the brain is not quite right. It’s not a matter just changing your attitude with a fresh cup of morning coffee. You can’t change molecules on a whim.

Being diagnosed with a condition, whether it’s Parkinson’s Disease, depression or something altogether different is a life altering event. It may shatter your views on who you are to your very foundation, but who you are as a person remains. What you have accomplished remains. And there are resources. And you are not alone.