Those Were Happy Days, Mork!

I, too, am saddened by the tragic outcome of what seems to be a depression-caused suicide of the best alien I’ve ever gotten to know. Robin Williams bounced onto the T.V. scene playing Mork from Ork in the series “Happy Days” in the mid-1970s. You see, “Happy Days” was MY happy days! And Mork took the Fonz, Richie, and the gang into a whole new dimension for me as a kid growing up in the seventies. Indeed, I loved “Happy Days” and had the “Ayyyy” t-shirt with Fonzie and his thumbs up to prove it!

Time writer Jamie Poniewozik published a great little snippet on Robin Williams that includes Mork on the cover of Time Magazine in 1978. It’s worth a look at [] to remember even more about “those happy days.”

I miss those days, and apparently, Robin did, too. Unfortunately, Robin was one of the nearly 15 million American adults affected by a darkness that I am fortunate not to battle every day. But I have many friends and colleagues who live in those dark shadows most days out of the year, out of the month, out of the week. Depression is a disease that is so pervasive, yet so taboo. We don’t dare stand around the water cooler at work revealing what really makes us tick. Why bring everybody else down?

So since I’ve already brought up a taboo subject, how does depression relate to marriage? Consider the common and direct affects on those with depression:

Job problems or job loss

Financial losses or falling behind on critical payments (i.e., house, cars, utilities, etc.)

Physical appearance shows declining attention and value of self-worth

Communication with others is deteriorated, and possibly non-existent

Feeling of despair/no way out

Weight gain/loss

Attitude shows a lack of caring about others

Withdrawn from social activities

Wait a minute! Each of those is a common complaint I hear about the other spouse when meeting with a new divorce client. My psychologist and family therapist colleagues who are members with me in the Denton County Collaborative Professionals Association [] seem to agree that there is an uncanny similarity between depression and divorce signs. Depression just seems to collide with family relationships to a point where the spouses simply cannot function together any longer. Either the depressed spouse has simply shut down, or the other spouse has blown a gasket trying to compensate for the dissonance. A strained marriage, whether or not depression plays a role in the breakup, exhibits similar signs, such as job loss and missed house payments, weight gain and sloppy appearance, feeling trapped with no way out, estranged friends, and shutting down communication with the other spouse (at least good communication, anyway-the venom is usually exposed at that point).

But my therapist friends would love to see couples before the signs become obvious and permanently damaging. I would like to see couples with qualified mental health professionals instead of in my office, as well. You may scoff, but I really would like to see marriages saved rather than destroyed. I find most family lawyers feel the same. I see the results of the divorce day in and day out. The use of the term “damage” is warranted and appropriate here.

I understand that Robin Williams had been diagnosed with clinical depression for quite some time. Yet he still couldn’t take it, and he checked out early. Some marriages are like that, too. No matter how hard both parties try, the couple simply won’t make it either. But that doesn’t mean we quit trying to make things better. Even during the divorce process, it’ll help both spouses to come out stronger and able to deal with creating long-term solutions. I wish Robin would have kept on, instead of the early checkout. I’ll miss him!

My base point here is simple-others around you care about you and really prefer having you around in a healthy state. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, no matter what stage of the turmoil you’re in. Plan on being there for those that count on you, even if you have to get help along the way. We are not infallible, and we all have weaknesses. But we have a family depending on us and expecting us to be there.

Nanu, Nanu!

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