Such harsh, powerful words. Words nobody wants to speak of, ever. That is, until something major happens, usually when a celebrity opens up about their battle, or succumbs to it. As terrible and tragic as a life lost this way is, the best time to talk about it is when it’s fresh, having opened up our wounds, broken our hearts, and affected us so deeply.
The one-and-only Robin Williams, an actor and comedian eager to entertain the masses, who made us all laugh, always ready with a joke or prank to brighten someone’s day, no matter their struggle, lost the battle to this cruel, ruthless beast we know as depression and by way of suicide. It hits hard, sharply, to hear those words together, yet it is the tragic reality, and we need to able to talk about it without fear, shame, or judgment. Robin isn’t the first, and sadly, won’t be the last entertainer (or singer, or artist…) to lose their fight with depression.
My initial thoughts upon hearing of his death (taken from my Facebook status):
Regarding suicide: Please don’t criticize a suffering person who has (possibly) taken their own life. Know that it is a deep, dark, struggle and not usually a selfish decision, but one made by a person desperate to be free of their pain.
I had already been planning this post before reading an article by Katie Hurley on the Huffington Post that nails a lot of my sentiments, but it can’t be said too many times when the issue of openly discussing depression and suicide is so important, now more than ever. There are many more great articles out there; take the time to read as many as you can – this isn’t a time to “conceal, don’t feel.”
It’s not selfish, the “coward’s way out,” a sign that the person was crazy all along, or that it was “bound to happen” when they commit suicide. It’s the desperation of wanting to feel better, free, without the pain of depression that sucks them away. Many have no intention of dying; yes, some do intend to, others regret it the moment they try, but let’s not lump all suicidal people under that assumption. They don’t intentionally mean to hurt their families and friends by leaving them behind, they just want to escape the demons eating away at them. We don’t know their pain, and we shouldn’t think of them only for the pain that ended their life.
For someone who always seemed wild, free and happy, Robin Williams was battling this deep, dark pain under the surface. To try and evaluate the how’s and why’s of his decision when we have never been in his shoes isn’t fair, nor a proper way to celebrate the person he was to the world. Clearly he made an impact, to leave us all reeling as we are with his death, feeling as though we’ve lost a close friend (and to many, he was); his successful career and humanitarian work speaks volumes about the man he is, and always will be. His work will continue to be present in some form, leaving a legacy that will forever touch us, and those to come long after us. This is how he’d want to be remembered: he lived to make people laugh. He loved his family, his friends, his work. Live. Laugh. Love.
For a touching write-up from Robin’s daughter, Zelda Williams, I recommend this post on Gawker. And thanks for all the laughter and joy you shared with us, Mr. Williams.
Sadly, depression doesn’t care who you are, what you make, or what your aspirations are. It’s a trap. As Wil Wheaton put it so well: depression lies. Most of us have probably known someone before now dealing with depression, whether one realizes it or not, and quite possibly, someone who has taken their own life. My life has been affected by both of these things, and until something like depression has touched you on a personal level, you honestly have no idea what it’s like. And that’s okay, as long as you can accept that depression doesn’t just magically go away, talking about one’s troubles, taking meds or going to rehab doesn’t fix it like that. Some turn to drugs and alcohol as a way of temporarily covering the pain. Not all artists are “tortured,” but many turn to the arts to find their peace and channel their feelings in a more positive way. Depression is often for life for those affected by it – it’s not a defect so much as it’s something their body wasn’t equipped to handle, often on a chemical level, that needs attention, tuning up, checking in, and coping. It’s always there, it doesn’t leave when asked. And sweeping it under a rug or not talking about it for fear of “admitting weakness” doesn’t do a damn thing, either.
All of us are fighting battles – every single person you pass on the street has a story, a past, nuggets of their existence buried far beneath the outer layer you see as a face, a body, a random blur in a crowd. Chances are you’ll never know those things, but know that the person you judge for being antisocial, a “bitch” for not talking to or looking at you, someone you pass off as being “crazy, lazy, stupid, sick,” they could be battling their own demons and are walking a thin line between getting up or giving up. Maybe they prefer being a private person as to not burden or be judged by others. YOU DON’T KNOW. Maybe they’re doing the best they can at the moment and pressuring someone to open up or start acting “normal” isn’t going to help. If someone wants their space, let them have that space. Maybe that quiet time is what keeps them calm and centered. HOWEVER, if you think they’re in trouble, reach out to them, they might appreciate someone attempting to care. To otherwise criticize or make comments behind their back, or to tell them to “go ahead and kill yourself”…assume they hear what you’re saying, and that what you’ve said is enough to drive them over the edge. Would you want to live with the guilt of feeling like your words caused them to fall apart, or worse yet, give up?
Keep an open mind, listen to advice and constructive criticism if you’re being called out or asked to examine your feelings and views, and be compassionate. Remember: it might be that very person who is the first to jump in to cheer you up, always laughing and joking, pulling pranks without a care in the world who is fighting their own demons, just as Robin was.
This post only barely scratches the surface of the entire issue, but let it be a starting point to get others talking, listening, and healing. We are all hurting right now, some not just because of Robin’s passing, but because life has a way of challenging us. And we have to keep rising above those challenges. We have to look out for each other in this life.
Have something to say? Need to talk to someone? You can post here, or if you just need a confidential voice to sound off to, here are some hotlines you can call anytime:
National Suicide Hotline (United States): 1-800-273-8255
International Hotlines: Click Here.
Thank you. Be well, take care of yourselves.