Depression: The Fog is Like a Key Without a Cage

I have been reading a lot about Robin Williams and depression since his untimely death . In fact, I think if you look up depression in the dictionary now it would simply say, see Robin Williams. That I am sure we all agree is really tragic because of the humor and entertainment he brought into most, if not all, of our lives. But, more importantly, it has really brought about a tremendous discussion about depression. Suddenly, there seems to be a ton of experts on the subject. Turn on any of the news channels and they are interviewing a new expert about depression. My question is, if we have all of these damn experts why doesn’t this country, and in particular the health insurance companies, take this illness more seriously.


Depression is not some new disease that is just now attacking people. I, for one, have fought with this monster on and off for almost all my life. Actually, I probably have had it all of my life but just did not realize that it was causing me to crawl under my grandmother’s house and eat dirt when I was two years old. It is probably the reason that I was such a little thug in my adolescent years always trying not to stay at home because I always felt very sad there. I would rather be out making someone else’s life miserable rather than being miserable myself. And yes, depression goes hand in hand with substance abuse. my DOC (Drug Of Choice) has always been alcohol. I would like to say I started experimenting with alcohol at a very early age, but I can’t. There was no damn experimenting. I just leaped in head first and swam to the bottom and drank my way to the top. I never really had an addiction per se, I really liked to drink, beer at first, until I found and was able to afford wonderful blended scotch.

Scotch whiskey to me became like a nectar from the gods, and it seemed to go very well with my depression and my anxiety disorder. It seemed that the four of us got along very well most of the time, but as I got older not so much. The depressions got deeper, the anxiety attacks more frequent, the need for scotch grew until I found myself in an emergency room one Saturday evening barely conscious. I thought I had a bad case of the flu that kept getting worse, but I was WRONG, by a mile. It seems that my liver had had enough, and said “screw you!I am working too damn hard and going on strike.” Hell, I didn’t even know it had complaints. I am sure we could have worked something out, but hell no, it just went on strike, no notice, just boom.

Well, after a couple of weeks in the hospital in Tuscaloosa, and having my lung punctured by a biopsy needle, and some goofy Anian (that is anyone from any where near the Mideastern countries) doctor trying to cure me with antibotics, and me not getting any better, a decision had to be made. Yeah, I was really enjoying the morphine but in one of my more lucid moments my best friend and I tried questioning the so called doctor about his treatment methods and he basically admitted that he did not have a clue whether what he was doing was working or not, I fired him, very impolitely if I may say so myself. Another doctor, whom I had known for some time. came by to see me and agreed to refer me to the University of Alabama at Birmingham hospital.  Great place, I recommend it highly.

Shortening this long story. I was taken there and the first thing they did was strip me of everything from the other hospital and put it in an incinerator, then sent me to pre op. Next morning I was on an operating table for four hours while they repaired my lung and inserted three tubes into my liver to drain off the infection. For the next five weeks I was fed more morphine until I was finally better. Strep infection was all gone, and I was 45 pounds lighter; no longer smoking, and really feeling good. As soon as I was able I did seventeen glorious days at a beautiful retreat being told about the evils of alcohol and I got all better.

Today, I have some fairly serious scars, still have my depression and anxiety, and yes, I still taste my scotch from time to time, but in very controlled moderation. I had gone to the Veteran’s Administration Hospital here in Tuscaloosa after leaving the no alcohol place and saw a wonderful shrink. I will not share her name because she has moved on to bigger and better things. She worked with me like a private patient for three or four months monitoring my medication until she got just the right mix where I really felt good for a change. The depression was not gone, nor was the anxiety, but the lows were not nearly as low as before and the panic attacks were not nearly as severe or as often. Of course, the highs were not as high either, but it was a good trade off. That was twenty years ago and I am still managing well on the same regime. But this particular doctor took a lot of time to get to know me and my back ground and what made me tick. I don’t think most doctors do that.

Now, I went through all of that to get to this point. One of the stories I was reading about Robin involved an interview with a psychologist at the University of Alabama. It was published in the local paper. He was theorizing that Robin Williams situation was not unlike a lot of older white men in their 60’s. They get to a point in their life when they wonder if their life is worth anything. They have reached a point where most of their life’s accomplishments are behind them, they have made their mark on the world, and is going on really worth the effort. In that sense he said that one asks the question, “Is this life really worth going on or saving?” Anyone who has had such struggles will recognize the question. If I stop and take a global view of things I might ask a similar question about the world in general, given the way this country and the rest of the world is in such turmoil. “Is this world really worth saving?”

On an individual level, I would hope most of you would say yes, it is. Sometimes though, when I hear the vitriol that is spewed from the mouths of people in this country, and the amount of hatred that is expressed by people to other people around the world, I do wonder. Is there a way we can wipe the slate clean and start all over? One thought is always with me: The only species on earth that has the capabilities of destroying the entire planet or saving the entire planet is that of human beings and we are rushing headlong to do the former.


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Posted by on August 17, 2014. Filed under Commentary,COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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19 Responses to Depression: The Fog is Like a Key Without a Cage

  1. Rachael

    August 17, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Bill thanks so much for sharing your life with us. My husband underwent a similar experience. Thanks again.

    • Bill Formby

      August 17, 2014 at 1:59 pm

      Hi Rachel. You are welcome. I hope your husband has found the levelness I have.

  2. Pennyjane Hanson

    August 17, 2014 at 10:28 am

    bill….it sounds as if you spent a lifetime wiring your brain in a depressive mode. medication and therapy can mitigate that wiring some, we can learn to recognize the signals when bouts of depression are coming on and practice some coping skills…but i think it’s a rare case when all that negative wiring can be completely undone.

    keep your eyes open and keep trying. i read ecclesiastes in times of despair, i hope you keep doing what you do.

    • Bill Formby

      August 17, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      PJ, I am not your it is wiring but a chemical imbalance thus find medications that can can help with some of that imbalance is a great help. The other part that this great doctor did for me was to get me to see the monsters inside of me that would drag me down. As I said, I down have the lows nor the highs anymore but this stuff in the middle is fine with me. I am in tune with myself so recognizing the onset of depression or anxiety comes fairly natural to me. I rarely have my scotch these days but I have learned that denying it from myself is not helpful either.
      As for reading Ecclesiastes or any other item from the self help book from 2000 years ago I will pass. Better that I read Homer who had a better grip on the real world.

      • Pennyjane Hanson

        August 17, 2014 at 2:33 pm

        do what you do, bill…it seems to be working very well indeed.

  3. Carol Maietta

    August 17, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Bill, I am familiar with parts of this story and hope you continue to do all the things that will keep you from that pit of depression.

    • Bill Formby

      August 17, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      Carol, I thank you. Everything is sailing along. As usual I overload myself with work. It keeps my mind from considering things it has no business thinking about.

  4. Michael John Scott

    August 17, 2014 at 11:16 am

    I remember when this went down Bill. I think it was Lori who contacted me and told me about it. You always make me think man…..

    • Bill Formby

      August 17, 2014 at 2:15 pm

      Mike, in many ways we are almost clones. Friends for many years who seem to fit together. I also think about Vergil who, by the way, is still chugging along. The one thing that does seem to be happening to me Mike is that my thinking patterns are getting deeper in a good way.

      • Michael John Scott

        August 17, 2014 at 2:29 pm

        We are like clones Bill, in many ways. I don’t know what that says 🙂

        • Bill Formby

          August 17, 2014 at 11:52 pm

          Mike, I think it just says that we are cut from a bit of the same cloth somehow.

      • Vergil Williams

        August 19, 2014 at 12:08 am


        Just today I was thinking about my experiences with depression. For some reason it has gone away and I have no clue why. I went to a shrink and took medicine for it for years. It did not seem to help. I feel fairly good now. Recently I read that the way to happiness is low expectations. I often chair AA meetings these days. In this process I read a lot of Bill Wilson. I believe that he was one of the great philosophers of the modern age. By his own thought processes he escaped the hell of alcoholism and went on to tell us the way.

        • Bill Formby

          August 19, 2014 at 11:08 am

          Thanks Verg, it is good to hear from you. Thanks for chiming in on this. I often think about you and I think a lot of my inner strength is drawn from your successes.

  5. Timmy Mahoney

    August 17, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Bill I want through a lot of what you went through, although I didn’t get that sick. Mike was there. He knows.

    • Michael John Scott

      August 17, 2014 at 5:05 pm

      Yep. I was there. Those were some dark days brother.

  6. Bill Formby

    August 17, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    Timothy, I sorry you had to go through it. I hope you are better for it though.

  7. Norman Rampart

    August 19, 2014 at 6:08 am

    Being a depression sufferer I empathise with all who are or have been.

    My line? “I’m immune from depression, I’ve supported Oldham Athletic for 50 years”

    Hidden with a smile. That’s what we do eh?

    Well sad when Robin Williams stopped the smile. He deserves all the peace there is.

    • Bill Formby

      August 19, 2014 at 11:09 am

      Thanks Norman. I always think you as having a smile.