Please stop saying Robin Williams was battling “inner demons.” The LA Times front page piece phrased it like this, and I’ve seen that phrasing thrown around the internet a lot in the past 24 hours.
When you say this, you contribute to the idea that depression is a Romantic, artistic, tragic battle against some kind of mystical, mysterious force.
And yes I am aware of the concept of metaphor. But this particular metaphor has harmful consequences. You are contributing to the mythologizing of depression, the idea that it’s not a real condition like other medical conditions. No, it’s something different, relegated to tortured souls, a malaise of their own making.
I had a therapist, an actual medical professional with a degree, who deals with people like me for a living, tell me that my depression was “good for your art at least. You’ll have so much inspiration to write.”
This is the kind of treatment that we deal with all the time: the idea that depression is somehow beneficial to the creative types who tend to have it, that we maybe bring these ‘demons’ upon ourselves because if we aren’t tortured then we don’t create good art.
It’s bullshit and it’s de-legitimatizing and it’s harmful, to frame depression in these terms. Framing Williams’s illness in terms of some mysterious force that haunts artists contributes to the idea that depression is not a real condition. Would you ever say someone’s cancer was an ‘inner demon’? Imagine saying that. Doesn’t it feel wrong, doesn’t it get under your skin? The reason it feels wrong is because when you say that, you are dismissing the cancer, banishing it to the same realm as demons and other things that we fear but know are not part of reality as we understand it. Describing depression like that should make you feel uncomfortable. Don’t fictionalize depression. Don’t Romanticize it.