Actor Robin Williams took his own life today. By all accounts an extremely funny, extremely intelligent person, he lost a battle with depression. I’m probably more upset by this than I have any right to be — Mr. Williams being an actor and a public figure whom I enjoyed does not mean that he belongs to me in any sense. It doesn’t seem right to eulogize someone I have never, and now will never, meet, despite his featuring prominently in the entertainment landscape of my childhood. Maybe it’s just that his humor resonated with me, because I see similarities to my own sense of humor… and maybe because his actions today resonate with me, also.
Smart people are also marginalized in our society. Those who suffer with depression and other mental illnesses are likewise stigmatized. We use humor to deflect and cover up our wounds, and then we suffer quietly. Alone. As we spend more time alone, we are observed to be introverted. People who are introverted, on the whole, seem to be less desirable companions and are therefore sought out less by their peers. In the end, you get a bunch of smart, suffering, funny people with no close friends.
And then we kill ourselves because human beings aren’t meant to be islands (Bon Jovi had that right) but what choice does a person have when their territory is being colonized by naysayers and doubters and people who, in general, just want to make you feel bad for being who you are and enjoying what you like.
Seriously. Fuck those people.
This is what being a Stigma Fighter is about. Standing up to the unenlightened masses who would prefer to see a greatly homogenized culture instead of embracing and celebrating our differences, mental illness included. I wonder if Mr. Williams, had he known about our mission, would have joined us. Something tells me he might have done just that.
Despite my love of fancy, expensive coffee drinks, the coffee shop culture is one that I have never quite assimilated to. It just encompasses too many triggers for me: having to know your order by heart, having to rapid-fire deliver it to the waiting barista, crowds of strangers. Uhg. Getting my morning cup of coffee is never so fraught as is it when I decide to go to Starbucks to get it. Since we moved into the suburbs, there is now a ‘Bucks right around the corner from our house, so I find myself there more often than before, especially because I am often too lazy/tired/forgetful to brew my own coffee. Because I find the coffee shop ordering routine so panic inducing, I try to mitigate it by rehearsing my order the night before: Ok, I’m going to want Starbucks tomorrow morning. What am I going to get? I need dairy-free, so soy. Where does “soy” factor in to the Starbucks order formula? Is it a “venti soy latte” or a “soy venti latte”? And what about syrup? I like the flavored stuff… I know they have hazelnut and vanilla… What else? They have, like, 20 different bottles of syrup back there… Maybe better to stick with what you know. Ok. So, “Soy. Hazelnut. Latte.” Shit, I forgot the size. Venti. “Venti. Soy. Hazelnut. Latte.” Venti soy hazelnut latte. Ventisoyhazelnutlatte. And I’ll just fall asleep saying my little coffee order mantra so that by the time I get to the counter the next day, it will hopefully roll off the tongue.
After going to Starbucks twice a week for the last few weeks, though, I thought I had gotten it down. This morning, I strolled in, happy to see that the line was only two people deep. I caught sight of the food stuffs and thought, “Well, I was good yesterday. Why not have a croissant and a fruit cup, too?” Then I spied the bananas. Mmm, banana. Yes, I think I’ll have one of those, too. But after I had picked it up, I remembered that I was wearing lipstick. Crud. Kind of hard to eat a banana and not mess up your carefully applied lip color. But I had already picked up the banana. I couldn’t put it back in the basket, right? That wasn’t kosher.
The line of people behind me had increased to 8 or 9. I was now surrounded. And it was my turn at the counter. The barista, a slightly grimacing young man with an air of judgmental impatience, asked me for my order just as I was trying to figure out what to do with the goddamn banana.
Barista: And what can I get you?
Me: (absolutely blank, deer-in-headlights stare, mouth open, clutching a banana in one hand and a fruit cup in the other) I… um…
What was my drink? What had I wanted? Crap, hurry up! There are people behind you, there’s only one person taking orders, hurry up, hurry up! The barista looked at me and cocked an eyebrow. I felt the room pressurize and push in on me: the people behind me in line, the smug Starbucks coffee slave, the aroma of overpriced premium grounds in the air…
Me: Uh… Venti…
Crap, what was it called… I vaguely remembered they served something with white chocolate in it.
Me: Uhm, yeah, Venti white chocolate, mmm… (Shit. Shit! What was it?) Mocha? (Pause, look at the guy’s face to ascertain whether this order made sense/was appropriate. Then remembered my dairy restriction.) Soy! I need soy milk.
Barista: (clearly questioning my sanity, because why would someone who wants soy milk order something with chocolate and whipped cream in it) Okay… and you want that hot or cold?
Me: (Oh, I know this one!) Hot! Thank you. Oh, and food. Yes, I would like a croissant, please.
Barista: …and the banana and fruit cup you’re holding?
Me: (remembering my death grip on the items in my hands) Oh, yes, of course.
By now this whole exchange has gone on for about a million years and I can feel the other people in line getting impatient. Jesus Christ, lady, get with the program! Don’t you know how it works here? Yes. Yes, I do. I’m sorry. I am a Starbucks failure.
I start to walk away, wanting this dreadful exchange to be over already. The barista called after me, “Ma’am, what’s your name?”
I whipped back around, nearly colliding with the woman behind me, who must have been so relieved that it was finally her turn after witnessing my prolonged and awkward exchange. “Sarah. My name is Sarah.” He looked back down to write on my cup and then turned to the next customer without regarding me again. Oh, thank God. It’s over.
I turned to walk over by the drink delivery counter, dumbstruck. Why the fuck did I order a white chocolate mocha? That wasn’t what I wanted. I am so under the influence of my generalized anxiety disorder that I can’t even get the kind of coffee that I want. Jesus H. Christ. I was so relieved when the girl that made my drink leaned over the counter and asked, “Ma’am, you wanted the soy white chocolate mocha? You don’t want whipped cream in that, right?”
Me, with a sigh of relief: Right.
Bless her for thinking to ask. I think next time, though, I’ll just write the whole thing down beforehand, save myself the panic attack.