Robin Williams, Depression, and Me

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while. My grandmother complains that I’m not writing blogs enough, and to be honest, with the ease of tumblr (the platform for and the amount of work/studio time/songwriting/gigging, my blog has been slacking, pretty badly. (Hi Grandma! Please don’t correct my grammar…)

The Robin Williams tragedy has really been playing in my head over and over again. It’s just not fair. Here’s a guy who’s seemingly, to a struggling singer/songwriter like myself, was “living the life.”While I’m fighting at every gig for attention, over some lame story about work that some loudmouth at the bar is screaming to the bartender. Robin could easily sell out a club if there was just a “rumor” that he was showing up. I’m writing and gigging and struggling and he’s putting out dozens of great flicks. He’s got all the talent in the world, and then it ends the way it did.

I am not as talented as Robin Williams, nor am I trying to promote myself to his level. But he was someone who I’ve always looked up to. I believe my first real “Robin Williams” experience was in the movie, “Hook”. He plays the struggling father character who means well, but is caught up in life, and that has always resonated with me. I think I probably watched that movie 50 times as a kid.

Depression and Me

When I was 19 years old, I was diagnosed with a type of bipolar disorder that I’ve struggled with my whole life. For those of you who don’t know what this type of depression is like, think of my emotions as a roller coaster. My “highs” are higher than normal. If I like a new kind of cookie, I completely indulge in it. I study it. I obsess over it. I tell everyone I know about it. I LOVE this cookie. The “highs” are awesome. The “lows” aren’t. The dips that happen are so intense that it gets hard to cope. Panic attacks happen semi-regularly, and things regularly seem more bleak than they really are. A co-worker does a shady deal that screws me, and I can’t focus at work for 3 days afterwards because it keeps playing over and over again in my mind. I go to bed and dream about it. I wake up and it’s the first thing on my mind. It’s like a fog that you just can’t shake. (Shoot… I just blogged about it… and I really shouldn’t care…)

It’s always been this way for me. I’ve always been really “intense”. As a kid, I’d think all of my friends hated me on a regular basis and cry for no reason. (Sometimes I still do.) My imagination takes over, and I react differently to the same stimulus almost every time. Some people may call me “moody” or not understand, and whenever I become close with someone I try to explain to them what this disorder is like so that they can understand how I work. I regularly tell people that if they had my phone number, they’d hate me, because of the way I react when I get texts and calls. Depending on my mood, I can be the most cold person one moment, and the most cuddly and loving the next.

Oh, and the “indulging”… Things like shopping or over-eating are like my “Go to” drug when I get binges of depression. I gained about 50 pounds when I was depressed in Los Angeles and it took a ton of work to get that weight down when I moved back to San Diego. It can also be good, however…. I can write intensely. I can focus all of my energy on working out, playing sports, playing gigs, etc… and it can fuel me to push past the point of exhaustion.

When I heard about Robin Williams, I completely felt like I knew how he was feeling. When I heard more about what he was going through- Money problems, the beginning stages of Parkinson’s, having to do supporting rolls in small shows, depression…- I thought… “I get that.” ::Holding back tears::

I don’t talk much about my lows, because it’s really hard to. I hide. Every time. Jeff,(my manager/Best Friend/Roommate), my mom, my grandma, and maybe a few other incredibly close friends are the only ones who I’ve ever really let in when I go through my depression. Jeff said he can tell when a “Storm” is coming. (Many times after a huge high, like a big show or something…)

To me, It’s like the scene in the latest Superman movie when Clark starts getting all of his powers in grade school and locks himself in the hall closet. Here’s how the convo goes:

Clark Kent – age 9: The world’s too big, Mom.
Martha Kent: Then make it small. Just, um, focus on my voice. Pretend it’s an island out in the ocean. Can you see it?
Clark Kent – age 9: I see it.
Martha Kent: Then swim towards it, honey.

I can’t tell you how hard this scene makes me cry… every single time. Sometimes, I’m so gripped with panic attacks, that all I can do is sit in the bathtub with the shower running and cry until it finishes.

So why talk about this?

In light of what just happened to one of my childhood heroes, I thought maybe there may be someone, somewhere who needed to know that they weren’t the only one who is going through this type of thing. I do, too. I’ve tried medication in the past, but it stifled my creativity. I went a whole year without writing a single song. I just sat in my room and stared out the window during my Sophomore year of college, completely numb.

I don’t want to live that way. I want to feel. I want experience the highs of playing with Kory, Ariel, and Chris at the House of Blues on Mondays.(Sigh) I want to fall in love, get hurt, and do it again. (Not much more… so if my future wife could just appear, already, that would be nice…)

My last album was entitled, “Hope”, because it was a running theme through the entire record. Either the abundance of hope, or the lack of it, was threaded through every track. After listening to this new album,(15 times in the last 28 hours…) it could be called, “Hope… Act 2” and I don’t think anyone would mind.

I guess I’m still writing songs about keeping your chin up when you’re knocked down and diving into the sea of despair on other tracks and I really, really, hope that you guys like it.

So now what?

This isn’t meant to be a pitch for the record, just a note to let you guys know that if you need someone, please find someone. (I can’t be that to all of you… so don’t pick me… :-P… BUT find someone in your life who you can confide in….) I know some of my listeners work at hotlines and talk to people fighting depression and other mental disabilities regularly. I’m sure you could literally type in “Depression” into google and find toll-free hotlines.(I’m not advocating for any particular one, because I don’t have any experience with any myself…) Please do something. Life/this world is always going to be better with you in it.

My heart goes out to the William’s family, and I’m so sorry for your loss.

I hope you guys all have a good night, life, and know that we’re all in this together… during the beautiful days, and the rough ones. Thanks for being there to pick me up when I’m down, and I hope you’ll think of this post, or my music when you are.



About Josh Damigo

Josh will cheerfully admit that he averaged less than a dozen people a show when he first began playing San Diego coffee houses. But he garnered diehard fans in the process, sold a few thousand copies of his homemade EP, Pocket Change, and picked up few awards along the way. After a traumatic family incident, Damigo retreated inward, and he ended up writing what would ultimately become his breakout debut, Raw. The album was true to its name and people noticed - Josh picked up two San Diego Music Awards for “Best Acoustic” and “Best Local Recording,” opened for the likes of Zac Brown, Jason Mraz, Eric Hutchinson, and Matt Nathanson, and had enough money and momentum to tour the country a few times over. A few years after Raw, there was his third release, Hope. Whereas Raw was a mostly acoustic, vulnerable affair, Hope was a celebration. Pleading and poignant, heartfelt and heavy hearted, it segued effortlessly from orchestral to alt-country, eventually landing him in the top 25 on the country charts. One of the hardest working indie singer/songwriters in Southern California, Damigo spent much of year with producer Mike Butler, gathering up some of the finest musicians in town, shaping his songs and sound further still for his latest album, "Just Give Me a Call", available now, on Randm Records. From the up-tempo single, “Just Give Me a Call”, to the simple sincerity of the ballad “Tennessee”, Josh’s songwriting skills are clear, his voice rings true and his goals remain the same as when he started - to keep making the best music he can, and to share it with all.
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One Response to Robin Williams, Depression, and Me

  1. Bryan Tarr says:

    Such courage to share your heart and your truth. This might what made Robin Williams great, he embraced his challenges and made them a part of his healing. He could be honest and give us a new way to look at the world. This blog is part of your path on that road. Authenticity and vulnerability will create relationships and followers.

    I have seen you perform, chatted with you when you played with Dave Booda and know you are one of the good guys in life. So I give you a gift. I am wiling to listen or encourage you at anytime if you so choose to ask. Why, because I believe in you!

    – Bryan Tarr

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