Granny Wendy: So… your adventures are over.
Peter Banning: Oh, no. To live… to live would be an awfully big adventure.
It was January, 1992 and I was lost and alone in Los Angeles. In looking for the hospital hosting my radiology meeting I had somehow ended up in East L.A. a most unsavory and dangerous place. In the days before GPS, I had to rely on a map and somewhere I had made a wrong turn. I said a silent prayer for safety and slowly made my way through the prostitutes and drug dealers converging on my vehicle. God was with me that day and I made it safely out of that area of the city and found my destination. At the end of the meeting that evening, I hit the interstate and headed back toward my hotel on the grounds of Disneyland. There, I would be safe and protected from the harsh world of reality I left behind. There, I would find magic. And, I desperately needed some magic in my life.
Even though I had only reached my mid thirties, a deep and darkening oppression eclipsed the California sun. My wife and two small children were tucked safely at home back in Louisiana and this country boy was a stranger in a strange land. I could not shake the feeling of dread and depression as the days passed even though I was staying just across the street from the “Happiest Place on Earth”.
And so, I decided to go see a movie. Just down the street in Anaheim I entered the darkened theater and sat through a showing of “Hook”, Steven Spielberg’s dedication to all things Peter Pan. And, in that movie, I found something deeply disturbing. I found myself. The character of Peter Banning, once the young, impulsive Peter Pan, had grown older and his self absorbed exterior of narcissism and type A behavior was disturbingly familiar to me. In one telling scene on an airplane, he chastises his son:
Peter Banning: (To his son, Jack) Jack, my word is my bond.
Jack: Yeah, junk bonds! [Jack hits the ceiling door in the plane with his ball, and causes the oxygen masks to drop down and scare Peter half to death]
Peter Banning: What in the hell’s the matter with you? When are you gonna stop acting like a child?
Jack: [laughs] I am a child.
Peter Banning: Grow up.
I did not realize it at the time, but I was already descending into the shadow world of depression. In just three years, I would spiral downward, every downward into complete and utter self destruction. By 1995 I would experience a total meltdown.
I bring this up because the actor who played Peter Banning was, of course, Robin Williams. To say I, like many in the world, was greatly disturbed by Robin Williams’ suicide is an understatement. Robin Williams was one of the funniest men in the world. His frenetic and manic antics made so many of us laugh. But, I knew, I just knew what was really going on inside that head. I knew because I have many of the same inclinations as Robin Williams. He has spoken many times about his depressive episodes and how he used his laughter to cover up the tears. Unlike Robin Williams, I was blessed to never fall into the world of addiction. But, I did find myself face to face with the specter of self imposed destruction.
Recently, someone very close to me heard the voice of destruction. I cannot share who this person is, but they shared with me how they heard a voice as if someone were sitting on their shoulder and urging them to hurt themselves. We discovered that this inclination was due to medication. And, thankfully, once the medication was changed those voices lessened and hopefully, will go away.
I have heard it said you should always “follow your heart”. But, I want to caution anyone about listening to emotions. Emotions are temporary. They change like the seasons of the year or the angle of the sun during the day. Our “heart” can often hear the voice of our emotions and we should be very careful what we listen to. In our previous book, “Conquering Depression” Mark Sutton and I have spoken often about the danger of making major decisions based on emotions. If my dear loved one mentioned above had acted on those voices, those emotions, the outcome would have been catastrophic.
I saw a Tweet about Robin Williams. It showed another famous character of his, the Genie from Aladdin. An image showed the Genie hugging Aladdin and the words reflected the idea that as the Genie, Robin was finally “free”.
Let me caution anyone very carefully, as I am sure Robin Williams’ family would, that contemplating self destruction is never the best answer for gaining “freedom”. There is a lie here that death is somehow a better alternative than living everyday with emotional pain. Remember, emotions change and they can BE changed. Mark and I will soon be releasing our new book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression”. What has amazed us over and over are the testimonials of those who read our previous book and felt that it “saved” their lives. Something in our book changed their emotional outlook.
I mean, how can you even wrap your brain around that outcome! Something I experienced; something I worked through with the help of God and my family and friends; something I endured in spite of the voices calling for me to give into the terminal darkness; something I managed to write about — to bleed all over the page — to bear my soul has helped someone in their moments of utter despair? Thank you God for allowing me to have that outcome. And, God I pray now for anyone who is feeling the heavy hand of self destructive emotions and I pray for every family touched by suicide for peace and understanding and the strength to endure.
For, I believe anyone can find hope again. I will miss Robin Williams. I am sorry his pain was so unendurable that he chose the path he did. For those of us left behind struggling with a world that seems absolutely insane; a world that makes no sense at times and yet, a world that still has moments of peace, tranquility, and hope — my prayer for you is that you NEVER make major life changing decisions in the heat of your emotions. Pause. Pray. Think. And reach out to someone for help!
This blog post will appear on our Conquering Depression website. And, we have not spoken about our current book on that website because the new book is coming out. But, if you need help now — please seek it. Talk to your doctor. Talk to your family. Talk to your friend. Buy a copy of “Conquering Depression” and use the LifeFilters. It’s only about $10 and then, you can pick up the new book in September. But, don’t wait for help. Get it now!
To Robin Williams’ family I say thank you for sharing this incredible man’s talents with the world. I close with another quote from “Hook” — a movie that made me see that I had to become a child again and see the world through the eyes of my children:
Peter Banning: [sees Tinkerbell on the Peter Pan statue] Tink!
Tinkerbell: Say it, Peter. Say it and mean it.
Peter Banning: I believe in fairies.
Tinkerbell: You know that place between sleep and awake? That place where you still remember dreaming?
Tinkerbell: That’s where I’ll always love you… Peter Pan. That’s where I’ll be waiting.
We all need to believe in something. If you have followed my blog and if you check out our new website, you know Who we believe in! And, He is waiting to give you hope again!