I’m about to go speak to NAMI Ohio’s statewide conference, Fulfilling the Promise. These are the remarks I prepared for my speech.
Before I begin, I want to warn you that this talk touches on many triggering subjects, including self-harm and suicide. I also want you to know that I’m speaking from my personal experience, and that if you or someone you know may be living with mental illness, please talk to a licensed and qualified medical professional, because I am not a doctor.
Okay, let’s do this.
Hi, I’m Wil Wheaton. I’m 45 years-old, I have a wonderful wife, two adult children who make me proud every day, and a daughter in-law who I love like she’s my own child. I work on the most popular comedy series in the world, I’ve been a New York Times Number One Bestselling Audiobook narrator, I have run out of space in my office for the awards I’ve received for my work, and as a white, heterosexual, cisgender man in America, I live life on the lowest difficulty setting – with the Celebrity cheat enabled.
My life is, by every objective measurement, very very good.
And in spite of all of that, I struggle every day with my self esteem, my self worth, and my value not only as an actor and writer, but as a human being.
That’s because I live with Depression and Anxiety, the tag team champions of the World Wrestling With Mental Illness Federation.
And I’m not ashamed to stand here, in front of six hundred people in this room, and millions more online, and proudly say that I live with mental illness, and that’s okay. I say “with” because even though my mental illness tries its best, it doesn’t control me, it doesn’t define me, and I refuse to be stigmatized by it.
So. My name is Wil Wheaton, and I have Chronic Depression.
It took me over thirty years to be able to say those ten words, and I suffered for most of them as a result. I suffered because though we in America have done a lot to help people who live with mental illness, we have not done nearly enough to make it okay for our fellow travelers on the wonky brain express to reach out and accept that help.
I’m here today to talk with you about working to end the stigma and prejudice that surrounds mental illness in America, and as part of that, I want to share my story with you.
When I was a little kid, probably seven or eight years old, I started having panic attacks. Back then, we didn’t know that’s what they were, and because they usually happened when I was asleep, the adults in my life just thought I had nightmares. Well, I did have nightmares, but they were so much worse than just bad dreams. Night after night, I’d wake up in absolute terror, and night after night, I’d drag my blankets off my bed, to go to sleep on the floor in my sister’s bedroom, because I was so afraid to be alone.
There were occasional stretches of relief, sometimes for months at a time, and during those months, I felt like what I considered to be a normal kid, but the panic attacks always came back, and each time they came back, they seemed worse than before.
When I was around twelve or thirteen, my anxiety began to express itself in all sorts of delightful ways.
I worried about everything. I was tired all the time, and irritable most of the time. I had no confidence and terrible self-esteem. I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone who wanted to be close to me, because I was convinced that I was stupid and worthless and the only reason anyone would want to be my friend was to take advantage of my fame.
This is important context. When I was thirteen, I was in an internationally-beloved film called Stand by Me, and I was famous. Like, really famous, like, can’t-go-to-the-mall-with-my-friends-without-getting-mobbed famous, and that meant that all of my actions were scrutinized by my parents, my peers, my fans, and the press. All the weird, anxious feelings I had all the time? I’d been raised to believe that they were shameful. That they reflected poorly on my parents and my family. That they should be crammed down deep inside me, shared with nobody, and kept secret.
My panic attacks happened daily, and not just when I was asleep. When I tried to reach out to the adults in my life for help, they didn’t take me seriously. When I was on the set of a tv show or commercial, and I was having a hard time breathing because I was so anxious about making a mistake and getting fired? The directors and producers complained to my parents that I was being difficult to work with. When I was so uncomfortable with my haircut or my crooked teeth and didn’t want to pose for teen magazine photos, the publicists told me that I was being ungrateful and trying to sabotage my success. When I couldn’t remember my lines, because I was so anxious about things I can’t even remember now, directors would accuse me of being unprofessional and unprepared. And that’s when my anxiety turned into depression.
(I’m going to take a moment for myself right now, and I’m going to tear a hole in the fabric of spacetime and I’m going to tell all those adults from the past: give this kid a break. He’s scared. He’s confused. He is doing the best he can, and if you all could stop seeing him as a way to put money into your pockets, maybe you could see that he’s suffering and needs help.)
I was miserable a lot of the time, and it didn’t make any sense. I was living a childhood dream, working on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and getting paid to do what I loved. I had all the video games and board games I ever wanted, and did I mention that I was famous?
I struggled to reconcile the facts of my life with the reality of my existence. I knew something was wrong with me, but I didn’t know what. And because I didn’t know what, I didn’t know how to ask for help.
I wish I had known that I had a mental illness that could be treated! I wish I had known that that the way I felt wasn’t normal and it wasn’t necessary. I wish I had known that I didn’t deserve to feel bad, all the time.
And I didn’t know those things, because Mental Illness was something my family didn’t talk about, and when they did, they talked about it like it was something that happened to someone else, and that it was something they should be ashamed of, because it was a result of something they did. This prejudice existed in my family in spite of the ample incidence of mental illness that ran rampant through my DNA, featuring successful and unsuccessful suicide attempts by my relations, more than one case of bipolar disorder, clinical depression everywhere, and, because of self-medication, so much alcoholism, it was actually notable when someone didn’t have a drinking problem.
Now, I don’t blame my parents for how they addressed – or more accurately didn’t address – my mental illness, because I genuinely believe they were blind to the symptoms I was exhibiting. They grew up and raised me in the world I’ve spent the last decade of my life trying to change. They lived in a world where mental illness was equated with weakness, and shame, and as a result, I suffered until I was in my thirties.
And it’s not like I never reached out for help. I did! I just didn’t know what questions to ask, and the adults I was close to didn’t know what answers to give.
I clearly remember being twenty-two, living in my own house, waking up from a panic attack that was so terrifying just writing about it for this talk gave me so much anxiety I almost cut this section from my speech. It was the middle of the night, and I drove across town, to my parents’ house, to sleep on the floor of my sister’s bedroom again, because at least that’s where I felt safe. The next morning, I tearfully asked my mom what was wrong with me. She knew that many of my blood relatives had mental illness, but she couldn’t or wouldn’t connect the dots. “You’re just realizing that the world is a scary place,” she said.
Yeah, no kidding. The world terrifies me every night of my life and I don’t know why or how to stop it.
Again, I don’t blame her and neither should you. She really was doing the best that she could for me, but stigma and the shame is inspires are powerful things.
I want to be very clear on this: Mom, I know you’re going to read this or hear this and I know it’s going to make you upset. I want you to know that I love you, and I know that you did the very best you could. I’m telling my story, though, so someone else’s mom can see the things you didn’t, through no fault of your own.
Through my twenties, I continued to suffer, and not just from nightmares and panic attacks. I began to develop obsessive behaviors that I’ve never talked about in public until right now. Here’s a very incomplete list: I began to worry that the things I did would affect the world around me in totally irrational ways. I would hold my breath underneath bridges when I was driving, because if I didn’t, maybe I’d crash my car. I would tap the side of an airplane with my hand while I was boarding, and tell it to take care of me when I flew places for work, because I was convinced that if I didn’t, the plane would crash. Every single time I said goodbye to someone I cared about, my brain would play out in vivid detail how I would remember this as the last time I saw them. Talking about those memories, even without getting into specifics, is challenging. It’s painful to recall, but I’m not ashamed, because all those thoughts – which I thankfully don’t have any more, thanks to medical science and therapy – were not my fault any more than the allergies that clog my sinuses when the trees in my neighborhood start doin’ it every spring are my fault. It’s just part of who I am. It’s part of how my brain is wired, and because I know that, I can medically treat it, instead of being a victim of it.
One of the primary reasons I speak out about my mental illness, is so that I can make the difference in someone’s life that I wish had been made in mine when I was young, because not only did I have no idea what Depression even was until I was in my twenties, once I was pretty sure that I had it, I suffered with it for another fifteen years, because I was ashamed, I was embarrassed, and I was afraid.
So I am here today to tell anyone who can hear me: if you suspect that you have a mental illness, there is no reason to be ashamed, or embarrassed, and most importantly, you do not need to be afraid. You do not need to suffer. There is nothing noble in suffering, and there is nothing shameful or weak in asking for help. This may seem really obvious to a lot of you, but it wasn’t for me, and I’m a pretty smart guy, so I’m going to say it anyway: There is no reason to feel embarrassed when you reach out to a professional for help, because the person you are reaching out to is someone who has literally dedicated their life to helping people like us live, instead of merely exist.
That difference, between existing and living, is something I want to focus on for a minute: before I got help for my anxiety and depression, I didn’t truly live my life. I wanted to go do things with my friends, but my anxiety always found a way to stop me. Traffic would just be too stressful, it would tell me. It’s going to be a real hassle to get there and find parking, it would helpfully observe. And if those didn’t stop me from leaving my house, there was always the old reliable: What if…? Ah, “What if… something totally unlikely to happen actually happens? What if the plane crashes? What if I sit next to someone who freaks me out? What if they laugh at me? What if I get lost? What if I get robbed? What if I get locked out of my hotel room? What if I slip on some ice I didn’t see? What if there’s an earthquake? What if what if what if what if…
When I look back on most of my life, it breaks my heart that when my brain was unloading an endless pile of what ifs on me, it never asked, “What if I go do this thing that I want to do, and it’s … fun? What if I enjoy myself, and I’m really glad I went?”
I have to tell you a painful truth: I missed out on a lot of things, during what are supposed to be the best years of my life, because I was paralyzed by What If-ing anxiety.
All the things that people do when they are living their lives … all those experiences that make up a life, my anxiety got in between me and doing them. So I wasn’t living. I was just existing.
And through it all, I never stopped to ask myself if this was normal, or healthy, or even if it was my fault. I just knew that I was nervous about stuff, and I worried a lot. For my entire childhood, my mom told me that I was a worry wart, and my dad said I was overly dramatic about everything, and that’s just the way it was.
Except it didn’t have to be that way, and it took me having a full blown panic attack and a complete meltdown at Los Angeles International Airport for my wife to suggest to me that I get help.
Like I said, I had suspected for years that I was clinically depressed, but I was afraid to admit it, until the most important person in my life told me without shame or judgment that she could see that I was suffering. So I went to see a doctor, and I will never forget what he said, when I told him how afraid I was: “Please let me help you.”
I think it was then, at about 34 years-old, that I realized that Mental Illness is not weakness. It’s just an illness. I mean, it’s right there in the name “Mental ILLNESS” so it shouldn’t have been the revelation that it was, but when the part of our bodies that is responsible for how we perceive the world and ourselves is the same part of our body that is sick, it can be difficult to find objectivity or perspective.
So I let my doctor help me. I started a low dose of an antidepressant, and I waited to see if anything was going to change.
And boy did it.
My wife and I were having a walk in our neighborhood and I realized that it was just a really beautiful day – it was warm with just a little bit of a breeze, the birds sounded really beautiful, the flowers smelled really great and my wife’s hand felt really good in mine.
And as we were walking I just started to cry and she asked me, “what’s wrong?”
I said “I just realized that I don’t feel bad and I just realized that I’m not existing, I’m living.”
At that moment, I realized that I had lived my life in a room that was so loud, all I could do every day was deal with how loud it was. But with the help of my wife, my doctor, and medical science, I found a doorway out of that room.
I had taken that walk with my wife almost every day for nearly ten years, before I ever noticed the birds or the flowers, or how loved I felt when I noticed that her hand was holding mine. Ten years – all of my twenties – that I can never get back. Ten years of suffering and feeling weak and worthless and afraid all the time, because of the stigma that surrounds mental illness.
I’m not religious, but I can still say Thank God for Anne Wheaton. Thank God for her love and support. Thank God that my wife saw that I was hurting, and thank God she didn’t believe the lie that Depression is weakness, or something to be ashamed of. Thank God for Anne, because if she hadn’t had the strength to encourage me to seek professional help, I don’t know how much longer I would have been able to even exist, to say nothing of truly living.
I started talking in public about my mental illness in 2012, and ever since then, people reach out to me online every day, and they ask me about living with depression and anxiety. They share their stories, and ask me how I get through a bad day, or a bad week.
Here’s one of the things I tell them:
One of the many delightful things about having Depression and Anxiety is occasionally and unexpectedly feeling like the whole goddamn world is a heavy lead blanket, like that thing they put on your chest at the dentist when you get x-rays, and it’s been dropped around your entire existence without your consent.
Physically, it weighs heavier on me in some places than it does in others. I feel it tugging at the corners of my eyes, and pressing down on the center of my chest. When it’s really bad, it can feel like one of those dreams where you try to move, but every step and every motion feels like you’re struggling to move through something heavy and viscous. Emotionally, it covers me completely, separating me from my motivation, my focus, and everything that brings me joy in my life.
When it drops that lead apron over us, we have to remind ourselves that one of the things Depression does, to keep itself strong and in charge, is tell us lies, like: I am the worst at everything. Nobody really likes me. I don’t deserve to be happy. This will never end. And so on and so on. We can know, in our rational minds, that this is a giant bunch of bullshit (and we can look at all these times in our lives when were WERE good at a thing, when we genuinely felt happy, when we felt awful but got through it, etc.) but in the moment, it can be a serious challenge to wait for Depression to lift the roadblock that’s keeping us from moving those facts from our rational mind to our emotional selves.
And that’s the thing about Depression: we can’t force it to go away. As I’ve said, if I could just “stop feeling sad” I WOULD. (And, also, Depression isn’t just feeling sad, right? It’s a lot of things together than can manifest themselves into something that is most easily simplified into “I feel sad.”)
So another step in our self care is to be gentle with ourselves. Depression is beating up on us already, and we don’t need to help it out. Give yourself permission to acknowledge that you’re feeling terrible (or bad, or whatever it is you are feeling), and then do a little thing, just one single thing, that you probably don’t feel like doing, and I PROMISE you it will help. Some of those things are:
Take a shower.
Eat a nutritious meal.
Take a walk outside (even if it’s literally to the corner and back).
Do something – throw a ball, play tug of war, give belly rubs – with a dog. Just about any activity with my dogs, even if it’s just a snuggle on the couch for a few minutes, helps me.
Do five minutes of yoga stretching.
Listen to a guided meditation and follow along as best as you can.
Finally, please trust me and know that this shitty, awful, overwhelming, terrible way you feel IS NOT FOREVER. It will get better. It always gets better. You are not alone in this fight, and you are OK.
Right now, there is a child somewhere who has the same panic attacks I had, and their parents aren’t getting them help, because they believe it reflects poorly on their parenting to have a child with mental illness. Right now, there is a teenager who is contemplating self harm, because they don’t know how to reach out and ask for help. Right now, there are too many people struggling just to get to the end of the day, because they can’t afford the help that a lot of us can’t live without. But there are also people everywhere who are picking up the phone and making an appointment. There are parents who have learned that mental illness is no different than physical illness, and they’re helping their children get better. There are adults who, like me, were terrified that antidepressant medication would make them a different person, and they’re hearing the birds sing for the first time, because they have finally found their way out of the dark room.
I spent the first thirty years of my life trapped in that dark, loud room, and I know how hopeless and suffocating it feels to be in there, so I do everything I can to help others find their way out. I do that by telling my story, so that my privilege and success does more than enrich my own life. I can live by example for someone else the way Jenny Lawson lives by example for me.
But I want to leave you today with some suggestions for things that we can all do, even if you’re not Internet Famous like I am, to help end the stigma of mental illness, so that nobody has to merely exist, when they could be living.
We can start by demanding that our elected officials fully fund mental health programs. No person anywhere, especially here in the richest country in the world, should live in the shadows or suffer alone, because they can’t afford treatment. We have all the money in the world for weapons and corporate tax cuts, so I know that we can afford to prioritize not just health care in general, but mental health care, specifically.
And until our elected officials get their acts together, we can support organizations like NAMI, that offer low and no-cost assistance to anyone who asks for it. We can support organizations like Project UROK, that work tirelessly to end stigmatization and remind us that we are sick, not weak.
We can remember, and we can remind each other, that there is no finish line when it comes to mental illness. It’s a journey, and sometimes we can see the path we’re on all the way to the horizon, while other times we can’t even see five feet in front of us because the fog is so thick. But the path is always there, and if we can’t locate it on our own, we have loved ones and doctors and medications to help us find it again, as long as we don’t give up trying to see it.
Finally, we who live with mental illness need to talk about it, because our friends and neighbors know us and trust us. It’s one thing for me to stand here and tell you that you’re not alone in this fight, but it’s something else entirely for you to prove it. We need to share our experiences, so someone who is suffering the way I was won’t feel weird or broken or ashamed or afraid to seek treatment. So that parents don’t feel like they have failed or somehow screwed up when they see symptoms in their kids.
People tell me that I’m brave for speaking out the way I do, and while I appreciate that, I don’t necessarily agree. Firefighters are brave. Single parents who work multiple jobs to take care of their kids are brave. The Parkland students are brave. People who reach out to get help for their mental illness are brave. I’m not brave. I’m just a writer and occasional actor who wants to share his privilege and good fortune with the world, who hopes to speak out about mental health so much that one day, it will be wholly unremarkable to stand up and say fifteen words:
My name is Wil Wheaton, I live with chronic depression, and I am not ashamed.
Thank you for listening to me, and please be kind to each other.
819 thoughts on “My name is Wil Wheaton. I live with chronic Depression, and I am not ashamed.”
Before this speak I did not realize I’ve just been existing. My whole working memory my family has defined me as my mental illnesses, they have been labeled since the age of 13. I’m turning 32 soon and am still ashamed of what I have. My mom is finally starting to understand that they are illnesses not who I am but being berated most of my life left scars. It took me 30 years to seek help and have made substantial progress, even to the point of pursuing my graduate degree in Psychology. What I have is stigmatized greatly in media as sociopathic when it is not and varies extremely person to person. I don’t want to even type it but I will for others that won’t.
My name is Elyse. I have Borderline Personality Disorder. Major Depressive Disorder. General and Social Anxiety and PTSD. There is help, if I can change anybody can…Seriously.
Thank you for sharing. May I ask how you knew they were panic attacks that you were having in your sleep? My 10 yr old has something similar. They are not normal nightmares and I don’t think they’re night terrors either. Maybe they are panic attacks and I can find a way to help him.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this! I am in my late 30’s and have also struggled my entire life with anxiety and depression. My parents brushed it off as me being a worry wart and hypochondriac. As an adult, I’m finally getting the help I need. Thank you for being an advocate for all of us ❤️
Thank you for sharing your story. I am going to reblog this because I have some young people in my community that this could help them a lot. I too live with chronic depression and there is life beyond our mental illness!
Please Google Zengar (neurofeedback) it truly is life changing.. it’s one other tool to use to combat depression
Wow. Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you are recovering. I have always been a fan of yours even during the anti-Wesley Crusher years. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you once during a GenCon visit several years back. I have great affection for you and wish you only the best for the future in your career and your medical condition. Thanks again for so eloquently sharing your condition. I know it will be a great help to many people.
Outstanding article and sentiments. Thank you for saying this. I’ve always felt like depression is like a terrible flu bringing me down and I just have to wait it out and take care of myself the best I can. But I like your analogy of the lead xray apron very much.
I’m a 51 year old professional woman living in New Zealand. I lived with depression (undiagnosed) until I was 30. My experience was so similar to yours that I have read your blog with my mouth agape. Then I cried. Your words brought into sharp relief what I refer to as my ‘former’ life – more eloquently than I ever could. My early self always thought that some people were never meant to be happy, and I was just one of them. Then I read William Styron’s Darkness Visible and the truth stumbled in through the fog. I sought help and I stopped accepting anxiety and turmoil as my normal. And one day, I started being not so much grateful for it, but acknowledging that my journey with depression had made me who I am and that wasn’t such a bad person. I am strong, I have made a life, I got married and had a child. I’m not ashamed. I am comfortable sharing my story and I look for the signs in people I meet and mentor and if I suspect they’re suffering … I ask.
So thank you Wil Wheaton for sharing your experience. I hope you too see your journey with depression as playing at least a role in your creative genius … and you have something more precious than celebrity or fame, you have empathy.
As a gay man who has been on antidepressants for the last 15 years (I’m 34 now), thank you for this.
There is still such a stigma towards mental health, and it’s people like you speaking out that will help this to change. Not overnight, but every time but someone like you posts, or speaks, or just acknowledges that mental health issues are just illnesses. Awful, disabling, debilitating illnesses – but still illnesses.
Keep fighting the fight and know that we’ve got your back the same way you have ours.
Thank you Wil. My Teenage daughter battles anxiety and depression and I’ve finally got the words to help her understand.
my very asian parents thinks badly about depression. they think we choose to be that way, but sometimes i cant help but to toss and turn on my bed, insomnia day after day, thinking of the worse or the crap I’ve done years ago no one remembered. i certainly didnt choose to be like that, who would? it sucks.
thank you for sharing. i appreciate what you are doing because more people would understand that mental health is not something trivial. then maybe someday my parents would too.
So helpful to read. So many talk about the physical symptoms but to read of the imagining of what might happen – actually picturing the worst helped me. Thought I was alone in that. Fighting this thing everyday.
If only we all could think of mental illness like we think of diabetes or high blood pressure just think how the shame would fade away and we could build a medical system that works. You are using your celebrity to make the world a better place. Thanks from my heart for your voice.
I lived my entire life in the belief that i am just a little out of the line. I felt different and everything around me scared the s… out of me. I grew up, got around and “existed”. I shure had my moments playing in bands, meeting incredible awesome friends for life and I even found the love of my life. And just when i thought that all the deamons from my past are gone and life couldn’t get any better… it all collapsed. during the last 5 Years my parents died from cancer, my step parents died and my wife left me because of her own depressions. I need help myself and i am also not ashamed to ask for it because of people like you! But I’m ashamed because all my life a was blind and didn’t notice, that people around me suffer that kind of things too. I’ve read this article several times and shared it because anyone suffering mental illness should get the help he needs. Thank you for stepping into the light sharing your story. You’re AWESOME!
I’ve always been a fan, you’re awesome and you get more and more awesome as time goes on, hang in there buddy <3
Really touched my heart! Thank you so much for sharing this! 💕 hit so close to home.
Thank you so much for sharing. So important to address this as an illness just like any other and to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness.
I am a mom of a child with anxiety, ADHD, and though it hasn’t been officially diagnosed yet, most likely depression. Thank you for sharing your story: your struggles, your triumphs, and your advice. It’s eye opening for me to hear you describe your issues as a child. It gives me a better understanding of why he is the way he is and how I can better help him through it.
There are clubs starting up at High Schools across the Nation sponsored by NAMI. Raise Your Voice Clubs to help teens fight stigma as well as hang out with other teens who are struggling.
And thankfully due to this article East High has a new advisor so thebenefit is on. It will be hard work but we who went through the struggle have a duty to help those struggling
I love this! Thank you for sharing your story! I hope this helps so many people that feel they are unable to ask for help. Your speech brought me to tears! Bless you and your family!💕
My name is Amber Grace Robinson, I live with Treatment Resistant Chronic Major Depressive Disorder, and I am not ashamed. For I am the antithesis of weak. I am the ultimate survivor. All that I endure would easily destroy and end most others, yet I endure it all and have prevailed over my battle with Depression as I am still alive. Which is the very best one can accomplish as it is not possible to in any way thrive when afflicted with such an illness to the extent that I am.
I have never, not a day in my life, known what it is to not suffer. I have never truly lived, merely existed. I have spent every day only managing to survive. To tread water every moment and just barely manage to keep my head above it and not drown. With every breath I take and every beat of my heart I battle a darkness no words can even begin to describe or do justice. The darkness is all consuming, suffocating and utterly overwhelming. I am familiar only with a relentless, perpetual, soul crushing state of pure hell. I know nothing of rest, reprieve or respite. I know nothing of peace. Depression is not my shadow, but rather the fierce, thunderous black cloud that surrounds and permeates my entire being. Yet. I. Am. Still. Alive.
Good for you! Keep fighting! You probably already know about this, but have you heard of TMS therapy? It’s a more recent therapy for treatment resistant depression. Most insurance companies cover it once other treatment options have been shown to be ineffective. It might be worth a try? It might sound a little wonky at first, but if you look at the scientific research it has really worked for a lot of people.
Thank you so much for telling your story. I live with depression and anxiety too. I take medication everyday and thank God for it. When I was 27 I was hospitalized for depression, very hard but the best at the same time. I knew God would use this so I could help others. I am now a Mental Health Counselor and try to help the clients that I see. There is hope, life can be good. I know this with every fiber of my being. Thanks again Wil. We are in this fight together 😊
Wil Wheaton, you say you are not brave, but you are because you too have reached out to get help. I love that you have the courage to start, or continue to draw attention to a dialog we all need to be having without the stigma attached. I have been dealing with depression for 35 years, and anxiety for 10 or more that I am aware of and have been telling people that I have mental illness. I guess some people don’t feel comfortable talking about it, or hearing about it, but I wonder why others are uncomfortable hearing about it if i am not ashamed to own it just as you do. Thank you for this message. With the fact that the suicide rate has gone up 28% since 2000, and is the 3rd highest killer in our country we need to talk about it. If we aren’t ashamed to talk about any kind of cancer, why are we ashamed to talk about this? We have no more control over what messages our mind is giving us when we are mentally ill than we do over symptoms of a physical illness. Again, I thank you for having the courage.
Thank you for having the courage to share something so personal and know that you have a world around you that cares about you.
You speak very eloquently about a subject that should not be, but still seems to be, taboo in our society. I commend you for seeking the help you needed because the world can be a wonderful place; as you have now witnessed in the walks with your wife. Please take care!
Fan of Stand by Me,
Well written article, I have major clinical depression in have tried nearly every medication there is. So far nothing has helped for very long. I hope there is success for me some day. I have lost nearly all hope.
Thank you for your post and I’m happy that you are moving forward!
I’m old enough to be your mother and have been dealing with this since my 20s. I absolutely relate to the parking space anxiety, flying, going over and under bridges. I still deal with the demons and have not allowed myself to enjoy events and experiences sometimes. My medications have changed throughout the years and I still must tweak them. More importantly, the inward anger that is depression is finally getting a voice.
It’s never too late.
Ty for sharing your story with ME! I too have a page to help people like you and I! Keep up the great work.
I am so inspired by you and your story that I want to become a blogger myself. I was told about your blog by my niece, she’s your biggest fan. And you inspire her and I!! If you could possibly give her a shout out, it would brighten her day. Her name’s Sirinity!
Thank you for sharing your story. I related to much of what you said. The first time I thought about suicide, I as five years old. I didn’t help until I was and adult. I have chronic depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I have come a long way but this illness has kept and still keeps me from fulfilling a dream.
Thank you for sharing I myself have bipolar 2 and was diagnosed 5 years ago at 42 years old. I had my 11 year old granddaughter read this as this totally suits her . She just was diagnosed. Just started medicaion When I showed her all your movies and TV shows you were on I said see he’s famous and suffers from depression and look how he has coped. She said “that’s because he survived “it breaks my heart to hear that but i know where its coming from but its still scary.she knows about my mental illness so knows ican relate but she is still stuck in that ditch trying to crawl out but cant.anyone reading this there is help and hope. There are ways of coping.even when you can’t see it. Coming forth about mental illness is courageous mental illness affects so many people and the more we share and talk about it the better. Thank you so much for sharing.
Thank you for speaking out. You are so right on with everything you have said. People do not understand this and think you are crazy, or just don’t like people. The government needs to realize that there are many of us that can not afford help. My example I am disabled, but I make to much for low income or free programs . And I can not afford $75-$140 to seek help. I know I need.more help. And when I was able to afford all of this, well the counselor and drs.in this area, really did nothing, mostly gave me contails of drugs, and sat and listen but never reached out to help me. I was to the point with the medical field that my life was really worth nothing. Everyday I try to feel normal, and not think negative, but it is so overwhelming, I mainly stay at home and try to find things to do. No one understands how tough life truly is for us.
Thank You Wil. As a mental health nurse for over 30 years I applaud you for letting others see that Depression /Anxiety and a host of other illnesses are real , happen to people in all walks of life and are treatable. The stigma has got to end and hopefully in my lifetime . We have lost countless people who can not get care and yet we keep closing treatment facilities and those open are overwhelmed with caring for people that desperately need them. Suicide rates are rising and sadly the quality of care for people has dropped. I urge everyone to contact your government and demand better MH care . We cannot sit back and think it will just go away because as I see day after day ,it does not. Urge those in Congress to make sure people can get the medicines they need and at an affordable cost. What these companies charge for life saving meds would blow your mind some injectables up to a thousand a shot . All people deserve care .Just because you cannot see it like a broken bone or diabetes does not mean it is not real. I will keep fighting for my patients til the day I retire and then some. They count ,you count and every human with a mental illness counts. God Bless You on your journey .
I must admit I am hesitant to refer to you simply by your first name as we’ve never met. However, I like to believe (in as non-creepy, non-fanboy, way as possible) that if we had, we’d probably be friends. Similar in age, hobbies and interests, as well as sense of humor…And today, for the first time, I found out that we have something else in common…Depression.
I’m 46 now, and since the age of 16, I’ve contemplated ending my life…nearly every single day. Thirty years of standing on the edge of a precipice. I can’t really express how exhausting such a life can be, but I think you may understand. Today, at least, with the assistance of anti-depressant medication, I continue to exist…some days, I even get to “live”. 🙂 My wife and two sons do their best to help and support me, though I know I am difficult to live with and to love. My love for, and dedication to, my children serve as a tether (albeit a fragile one) preventing a plunge into the abyss. While I suspect that further therapy would probably be beneficial, I can’t bring myself to add additional financial burden to my family. I am fully aware of how irrational my self-destructive thoughts are, and yet, as you alluded to, rationality rarely provides relief.
I want to thank you for sharing your story. At least for the time being, it has made my burden a little more bearable.
This is so enlightening and well written. It’s open and honest and will help so many people. Thank you!
Thank you for sharing. Aling with medication,
Try reading this book. It really helped me.
“The Search For Significance” Seeing your true worth through God’s eyes.
This spoke to me on a very real & personal level. Thank you for showing me I’m not alone.
There were so many times reading this, that I went back and forth between saying aloud “Oh mi gosh… me too!” And then crying empathy tears, because I’ve felt the exact same way & could feel echoes of those moments in your words. I’ll definitely be sharing this.
… again, thank you.
Thanks Wil. More people need to speak out. We need more kindness and patience.
Thank you so much I admire you because you are such an amazing human being caring thoughtful talented and for me and Icon
THANK. YOU. FOR. SHINING. YOUR. LIGHT. Please consider sharing the video of your presentation.
Thank you for sharing in so much detail. I can only imagine how painful the writing and the speech were for you.
I have a teenage daughter being treated for anxiety. I know she had these fears as a child, but she didn’t start telling me how bad they were until she was about 13. I was a watchful parent because my degree in in Psychology (which means I believe mental illness is real and the are things we can do to help), but also because my husband and father of our 3 kids was diagnosed in his late 30s with MDD and Bipolar Disorder. He sought help, but tried to dampen the pain with alcohol. He took his own life 10 years ago.
Peace to you and all who fight this fight. May you encounter love and support and new treatment options to keep you feeling well and enjoying life.
Finally, an article that truly helped my 16 year old son realize that he should not be ashamed and he is not alone. Thank you!
Thank you for sharing this with us! Although I do not suffer from mental illness it is valuable information to have since I do have family members who do! You are a brave person Will Wheaton! Hugs to you and your family!
Thank you for sharing such personal and painful insight! The stigma surrounding mental illness needs to be wiped out. You have voiced feelings that I haven’t had words to explain. Thank you so much! Depression and anxiety are lifelong battles that can be eased with proper medical and mental health care. The self doubt and lies that we tell ourselves make it really difficult to seek care. I hope that others will be willing and have the courage to seek care for themselves and their loved ones after reading your account of the struggles. Thank you again!
Thank you so much, Wil!! For years, I’ve said that depression needs a celebrity face to help remove the stigma. One that hasn’t given in to the fear, pain, and overwhelming sadness. We’ve lost so many people-celebrities or not-and it has to STOP. I suffered from depression and anxiety since my pre-teen years, back in the late 60’s and early 70’s, and most people had no idea what was wrong with me. Why I didn’t fit in, and why I was so lost. Back in those days, nobody diagnosed kids with depression because the train of thought was-“What did kids have to be depressed about?” Many years later, my grandfather was grilling me about why I didn’t ever do anything with my life, and I told him I suffered from depression, and he told me to get un-depressed. I explained that it is caused by abnormal levels of brain chemicals and other causes, and I asked him if he thought I could just wish it away, and would he tell a diabetic to get un-diabetic. He just didn’t get it until after he had a stroke that left him bed-ridden in a nursing home. Then he apologized for not understanding. We all need to be there before we understand that having a mental health issue doesn’t mean that we’re BAD PEOPLE, and that WE ARE NOT ALONE. Thank you again for coming forward, Wil. I wish you luck, and you will be in my prayers!
Thank you, Wil, for sharing this. It does help to know others are dealing with similar issues. My SO just told me a week or so ago that I have “reached new levels of self-pity.” We are currently reassessing our relationship situation because he is feeling used. I’ve been in a really bad place for a while and have lost any self confidence I had ever accrued. Yes, I have been self-medicating. When I shared that I had had suicidal feelings I was told that “that is a problem between the ears.” I have been seeking professional help and trying to make positive changes in my life. But finding out that your closest confidant is identifying chronic depression as self-pity, even though I have shared episodes from my past, is especially disheartening. I intend to try to keep moving forward despite this additional setback.
I’m so sorry. Please take care of yourself, and talk to a professional who can give you the help and advice you deserve. You can call 1-800-273-8255(TALK) and you’ll be immediately connected to someone who is trained to help you through a crisis. If you don’t want to call, you can text CONNECT to 741741 in the United States to be connected to a counselor.
I promise you that it gets better. I promise that this will pass, and you can reclaim your life from all the terrible things Depression does to us. Please make a call, talk to a professional, and check back in with me, okay? I’m thinking about you.
First off – THANK YOU Wil Wheaton and thank you Steve for sharing this link so I could read about Wil.
About me – I’ve been diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder. I’ve been on medication for over 20 years. Undiagnosed in my teens and treated only after having postpartum depression. Even after that, I didn’t cope well so was drinking and suicidal. In hospital so many times, my poor parents, my poor son! My heart goes out to those who feel so alone and deal with the silent killer. Internal torment. We’re in hell right here, right now. But it’s not like that every day and you can get help. I came out from the darkest hole and am finally coping without alcohol (well it’s not actually coping if I am using). If I can come out of that deep dark pit, so can you. Go find help – please.
about my cousin – Gillian sent an email just yesterday so I want to share it with you. This is not an advertisement at all. In fact, I have taken out the links.
“It’s so common, it could be anyone. The trouble is, nobody wants to talk about it. And that makes everything worse.” – Ruby Wax
Dear friends and family,
Please join me for a night of Burgers, Beer, Painting (optional), Live Music, and Fun!
Along with a small group of my friends and family, I am raising money for S.A.F.E.R. (Suicide Attempt Follow-Up Education and Research), a small but life-saving organization that provides free counseling and support to Vancouver residents at risk of suicide, their loved ones, and those bereaved by suicide.
Sadly, within Canada alone, 11 people take their lives every day, and in BC, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds. In times of crisis when people feel trapped, alone and without hope, S.A.F.E.R. is there to quietly provide support, promote healing, and explore real solutions. S.A.F.E.R. is critical to fostering recovery and wellness in our community.
We’ll also be including an optional Paint Night experience for all those budding art enthusiasts! Painting is fun, relaxing, and is known to help people through expressive healing, so we thought what better way to help fundraise than through art. There is no painting experience required! An instructor will provide all the supplies and guide participants through creating our own unique version of the painting, Reflection in the Wind, shown below.
Saturday, August 11, 2018
Moose’s Down Under, 830 West Pender Street
Doors: 5 pm
Painting: 6-7:30 pm
Dinner: Any time
Live Music: 8 pm
Silent Auction Closes: 9:30 pm
A personal note from Gillian:
S.A.F.E.R. has a very special place in my heart because they helped me survive some extremely difficult years after my boyfriend Justin took his life (shot himself) in our home, many years ago. They supported me through weekly and group counseling which helped me through this very painful period in my life. I am forever indebted for their support and don’t know what I would have done without them. This night is very much about awareness, as I hadn’t known that there were these types of resources available. On the night that Justin died, I called 911 and the paramedics took me to the hospital. They called my parents to pick me up, and gave my mom the phone number for S.A.F.E.R. I wish I’d had that phone number 2 months, 1 week, or even 1 day sooner because I believe that it could have saved Justin’s life. If you’ve met me in the last 19 years, this is the first you’ve heard of any of this. But I recently realized that all this time, instead of just feeling guilty and ashamed, I could have been spreading awareness and encouraging people to talk and get help. So the main reason I’m doing this is to spread awareness and encourage open dialogue. The super fun times we can have on August 11th is just a bonus. 😁
For more information about S.A.F.E.R. and how to contact them:
Hi Will, I too live with chronic depression, severe in my case. Thank you for your candor. Stories of survival truly help. You are valued my friend.
Thank you Wil for sharing. You’ll have heard this a thousand times, send s thousand times more after this, but thank you.
My husband deals with this in a daily basis. I know it’s not me, or anything else I’ve done or not done…
I’ve had my own challenges and have pulled myself back from the brink of oblivion. Walking away from the precipice, both figuratively and literally, felt like I was dragging my feet through heavy mud. I don’t actually have a clear memory of how I got myself home.
…but you’re right. It does help to do something, anything, positive.
Thank you for speaking out.
This brought me to tears. I am 47, and I finally have medication that works. I’ve struggled since my teens, and you captured every single aspect of this so poignantly, beautifully, and POWERFULLY! I finally had the courage to come out on FB about my lifelong depression, and it was so cathartic. You have put into words what I couldn’t completely capture. Thank you sweet loving man, for putting a kiss on all of our hearts and helping us get through another day, another moment. Love and solidarity to you and your family, my new friend! Syma Kazeminy
For those who are interested, the CDC has released the suicide Technical Package of Policy, Programs and Practices. Although it is really designed to help steer the development of more evidence-based supports and services, it does offer some interesting insights into new and curious data trends in suicidal behavior. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/suicideTechnicalPackage.pdf
I am in the same situation and I feel like I just want to die.
I’m so sorry you’re hurting. Please reach out to someone -anyone- to talk. You’re not alone, and there are professionals who are waiting to help. Please call 800-273-8255, and you’ll be connected to a professional who can listen and help.
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