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Robin Williams

I am presently lying in bed having just discovered the news about Robin Williams. It is 4.10am and I have had a few drinks. This news has upset me as I admired this very funny man’s acting and comedic abilities. It led me to reflect on the nature of depression and why some extremely successful and physically healthy people become so ill that they contemplate suicide. Stephen Fry is another of these seemingly gifted and financially secure individuals who has in the past attempted to deny us his talents and character as a result of the dark veil of depression descending on him. What makes those whom we admire and aspire to, become depressed in the first place. Surely they have everything we can only dream of.

I myself have recently felt “down”. Upon my bald scalp I have a sponge type dressing stapled directly to my flesh using 10 clips. This is to protect the second wound I have had as a result of the excision of a squamous cell carcinoma in three years. The first left me with major scarring to the right side of my face. This latest episode has resulted in a £2 coin sized excision from my scalp replaced by an equal sized graft from the flesh of my neck.

The reason for these persistent carcinomas is the fact that I am a kidney transplant recipient and as such I have to take immunosuppressant drugs which reduce my body’s natural resistance to such cancerous attacks. I have also recently been photographed with the intention of biopsying several more areas and am now terrified of the prospect that the cancer has become aggressive.

I take 27 tablets each day to control my blood pressure, regulate my heartbeat (I also suffer from atrial fibrillation), prevent the return of gout, thin my blood, suppress my immune system (anti-rejection) , control my calcium level, protect my stomach lining and lower my cholesterol.

I have a daughter who lived with her mother until recently and whom I saw for paternal visits throughout her life. Although not an ideal situation, these valuable moments meant I was at least able to influence her upbringing to a very small degree.

My wife and I have been lucky enough to have always had financial security to the extent an NHS salary and limited Police pension provide but have never thought of ourselves as well off. Perhaps like many others, we are wrong to believe that more money would solve all our problems. Although I’m sure it wouldn’t make them any worse. We love each other and I am so incredibly fortunate to have such a caring and devoted wife. She is most definitely my rock.

All in all I feel like I have had more than my fair share of life’s adversities thrown at me over the years, yet I have never felt what so many describe as depression. Down, upset, pissed off but never suicidal gloom.

Why is it then, that these incredibly gifted individuals ~ actors, musicians etc ~ seem to become depressed despite their incredible talents, apparent good health, lavish lifestyles, the financial comfort blanket that royalties bring and the adoration of their many fans. Even if they have failed relationships then surely they have all the rest to fall back on. It clearly cannot be anything to do with these things and there must instead be deeper and darker reasons for the brain’s catastrophic mismanagement of neurons which drive them to take such drastic actions.

Robin Williams has battled with drug addiction and alcoholism for many years and of course this may well have affected the signals being transmitted and received in his brain. But I still feel that with fame and fortune comes access to the best possible addiction clinics and rehab units – but you have to want to be cured and it seems to me Williams’ depression was the cause and not the result of his addictions. Which then still begs the question, why was he depressed in the first place?

I’m rambling. I am no expert, I am just a fan struggling to understand why so many heroes die like this.

I am truly sorry to hear about Robin Williams, he brought great joy and happiness to many people but his untimely demise only serves to remind us that the psychological scars life brings, whether real or imagined, can run deeper and be more difficult to heal than any physical trauma.

Atheist And Non-Academic

I constantly find myself amazed and mesmerised by science programmes on TV even though I never fully understand what is presented. I likewise enjoy listening to classical music but could not distinguish between Mozart and Beethoven. When it comes to art I have no appreciation for abstract and a lot of modern art (unmade beds for example). Yet I love the Old Masters and even much surreal imaginative work.

The point here is that I come from a non-academic family and I left school aged 16 with a handful of Scottish Ordinary Grades but I wish I knew more stuff!! The sort of stuff that trips off the tongues of my heroes, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry, Christopher Hitchens and many others. I would have loved to have a blether with Hitchens before he left us but I would have been lost for words. Which brings me to my atheism.

I have not believed in god since my teens for a number of very logical (they seem to me) reasons and welcome the fabulous additions to those penned by Dawkins etc. The trouble is I now want to attend atheist debates and meetings as held by Humanist Scotland Society, Skeptics In The Pub etc but feel I’d be bamboozled by the language used, the concepts discussed and I’d feel marginalised by the shared academic backgrounds held by most of the others there. I may be wrong, but I strongly believe I am not the only atheist to feel this way.

I think it is time for the atheist movement to reach out to ordinary less well educated people who have come to their conclusions about the lack of any god, not through academic research, scrutiny of the bible until they could quote relevant passages or philosophical analysis but because it just seems right, logical and true.

After all, most religions are based on nonsense but it is nonsense wrapped up in flowery yet easily understandable language. Unless atheism explains the reasons for non-belief in a more accessible way then it will continue to preach to the converted!

Dawkins’ “Magic Of Reality” is the best example of accessibility I have read but unfortunately it is overtly aimed at children and probably children with well educated parents who are already atheists. We need a similar style book, an “Atheism For Dummies” if you will (although that title might just reinforce the us and them feeling), which can get the non-academics discussing the subject with each other.

I sincerely hope that someone cleverer than I might take up the challenge to begin a debate on this matter or even publish a “Dummies Guide”.

I apologise for any grammatical errors in this post which serve to confirm my non-academic status.

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