In light of the apparent suicide of Robin Williams, Calabasas resident Jennifer Levinson, creator of the popular Jens List, felt compelled to pen this entry onto her blog. She was gracious enough to share it with CV Happening readers.
by Jennifer Levinson
I’m here in Palm Springs with my family enjoying an amazing getaway but I have to admit that the news about Robin Williams suicide really took me down a notch. I look at myself as somebody who is incredibly blessed, with a husband that loves me and five beautiful boys, supportive family, close friends along with a business that I enjoy and the nonprofit involvement that I make a conscious choice of being in. I’m sure from the outside it seems like everything is 100% roses. However it may seem so, because of my own battle with depression, in my mind it’s not. It is a constant struggle to remind myself of my blessings to rid the thoughts that come along with this evil disease. One of my struggles involves PMDD and I was fortunate enough to bring that battle to light via CBS a few years ago:
For me, it just happened. Not sure where came from, or for how long it had been brewing, but all of a sudden something came over me and I just decided that I didn’t want to be here anymore. I couldn’t explain why other than the fact that I felt as if I had lived my life, done the best I could & it was as good as it was ever going to get. In April of 2000, I had ended a four year relationship, in which I was engaged to be married, that ended after I discovered he was having an affair. I packed up my belongings and moved out. That summer, I completely lost track of most of my responsibilities outside of my 9-to-5 job, and spent most of my free time, partying. I think the combination of everything that I had gone through, the lack of sleep and the excessive celebrations, led to my thought of suicide. I had a wonderful 30th birthday. It was a party thrown by my mom at her home and I was surrounded by probably 60 to 70 of my closest friends. The evening was filled with nothing but love. But for some reason once the sun went down and everybody left, nobody really mattered anymore. I felt so alone. The pain that I was feeling inside was far greater than any joy that I was experiencing on the outside. I thought the best thing for me to do was to swallow some pills, get in the bathtub and once I fell asleep, I would drown. What followed was a 5 month intense treatment with others, suffering the same pain. I’ll never forget that first day when I walked into treatment and the rest of the group thought that I was an intern from UCLA, because perhaps, looks can be deceiving. I remember one guy in particular looked at me, shook his head in disbelief and asked me “what kind of problems could you possibly have”. He clearly had no idea of the immense struggle that I had encountered. You never know what is going on in someone else’s head. You can never judge a book by its cover. An extremely valuable lesson learned. Until the following February, Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 4 PM, I participated in a series of group and individual therapy sessions daily, that helped me overcome the notion that my life was no longer worth it on this planet. Groups consisted of goal setting, coping mechanisms, stress management, and more. While I never had before imagined that I would be in such a place, my time at UCLA was a g-d sent. It helped me to become who I am today. Independent, self sufficient, liberated and strong. I was not afraid to grow. Regardless of my past, I was not fearful to learn how to be a better person. For anyone that’s ever suffered from depression, I know they can understand the way I was feeling. However for those who the notion of taking their own life has never entered one’s head, I do recognize that it is an extremely difficult concept to comprehend. I faced criticism from some family and friends and it was then, I truly realized who empathized with my struggles. Was I proud of what I went thru? No, not particularly. What I was proud of, is that I took those 5 months to really find myself and appreciate that live is worth it. That there was so much more reason to live, than to not. Life is precious. We get one shot to be the best we can be. There are no retakes. This is it. While I can say that I do often think about my own death and where and when it may be, I am grateful that so far I have been able to live the next, what is now, 14+ years of my life.
This is probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. In fact, when these journal entries were first written at the beginning of this year, I in no way, shape or form, thought that anybody else would ever see it. After coming out on the other side of what was my 2nd major bout with this disease, if sharing benefits just one person, then it was worth it. Not until yesterday did I think I had the courage. Robin William’s death meant more to me than the loss of an icon. I used to think I truly knew what the definition of you never know what goes on behind closed doors was. But it wasn’t until now that I realized closed doors are your eyes. And behind those eyes is your mind. And in that mind can be a very very dark place. However, those on the outside do not know. Sometimes people with lots and lots and lots of friends are the loneliest people in the world. I can only imagine that if I feel that way, then there are plenty of others that can sympathize with what I’m saying. Robin Williams had a gift. He had a gift of giving happiness to others. What a tragedy that he was unable to find happiness inside.
My body is tired and weak. Im completely broken down and my heart hurts. It’s been a constant struggle the past week just to stay alive. Every moment that my eyes are open I feel pain. It’s horrific to deal with this type of suffering. Knowing that I have five beautiful children and a husband that loves me still is not enough for me to overcome this overwhelming feeling of depression. Sometimes I think about my funeral and a eulogy and I’m imagining somebody standing up there saying at least she is not in pain anymore. I don’t know what to do to make this sadness disappear. It’s completely consumed my entire being.
I really think that everything will be okay if I leave. If I’m no longer here. I want to go while the goings good. As I’ve slipped deeper and deeper into my depression, and I’ve watched my husband pick up the slack. I know my kids will be okay. I know they will miss me but I’m really no good as I am right now. I’ve spread my wings and done some good in my life and, I think that is how I would like to be remembered versus the alternative perhaps what the future holds.
I’m in so much pain that I physically have a feeling of suffocation in my heart. It’s very hard to explain especially to somebody that’s never felt this way. But I really just want to go to sleep and never wake up. It’s too overwhelming for me to deal with on a daily basis. I’m hoping that all of those that I have been able to do good for over the years always remembers it vs. that suicide is selfish. To look at me, I can only imagine that the perception is “she has it all”. I do have a very very loving husband who is an incredible father to my five beautiful boys. I have a great family, amazing friends, own a nice house and am extraordinarily active in my community. I love to give to others. That’s really what brings me so much joy and it’s how I’ve able to inspire myself especially over the last 14 years. Depression is one fucked up monster. It’s just a battle of demons that don’t always probably show their ugly face, but when they do it’s almost impossible to win. I know within the LA community, especially families, I’m somewhat of a public figure. There’s a persona to uphold, the rep to protect, a fairytale to keep up. But as far as the movies go, my life is anything but a fairytale. You never know what goes on behind closed doors. People can put on incredible façades and truly be broken down inside. I’m done. I know longer want to have to uphold certain vision. It’s too exhausting for me. I just want this to be used as a lesson. Kindness goes a long way. In life, you never know when somebody is hurting. The one thing that I always remember people saying to me is “you are Always smiling” and truth, is, my answer is “if I wasn’t smiling I would be crying”
It’s all consuming. Perhaps it’s my addictive personality, but I can’t get out of my head that I truly don’t want to be here anymore. Life really is not all it’s cracked up to be. I didn’t grow up thinking living hurt. When did it become so painful? Why is it seem so difficult to maintain happiness. There is too much pressure to be everything to everyone. I do have the option as to whether I want to live and be present. Right now, that option seems excruciating. I’m broken. My mind is my enemy. The thoughts that go thru my head constantly are derived from the pure notion that my life is not valuable enough to sustain a spot on this planet. Why can’t I be strong enough to be happy with what I have? It’s so depressing. So very sad. Short changed is the word that comes to mind. I should be ecstatic! I have a husband that loves me and 5 beautiful boys. That should be more than enough, but it’s not and there is so much guilt associated with that fact.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. What a shame is that even though I know that to be true my mind unfortunately lets me forget far too often. It’s like a self inflicting masochistic ideology that I’m not quite sure how I am subscribed to. It’s so complicated. That I’m not even sure if I began to think I could explain what is going on, that I even could. It’s torturous painful feeling that only drastic measures could make it go away. Yet I’m so torn about how I truly feel.
No shame is my goal. No judgement is my goal. Recognizing that mental illness is real IS my goal. Depression is a cruel punishment. There are no fevers, no rashes, no blood tests to prove anything. Just the feeling of living in hell with only your name on the door. I pray we can find a way to help those that truly can not help themselves. I want to be a part of the solution. I never have been one that wanted all the money in the world. But trust me when I say, I would give anything not to live with this disease. It is not made up, it is horrific and it exists. I am beyond thankful for everybody in my life and I encourage anybody that is struggling to please reach out because you are not alone. I promise.