A note on Robin Williams
A note on Robin Williams, because I’ve been asked why I haven’t addressed it:
Every time I think about it, this awful image pops into my head. It’s graphic and it’s nauseating and it’s all I can see. It’s all I can see because of some seriously appalling media coverage (thank you, New York Daily News)—and what’s really awful about that is that I haven’t seen very much of the coverage at all because I’ve been busy traveling and working. Plus, I got to witness the media frenzy firsthand at the Texas Suicide Prevention Symposium.
It was infuriating, especially because I know we’ll all be over it and back to covering some other inanity in just a few days. My partner says the media mirrors the people, and that the people want to talk about it now. So the media is striking while the iron is hot. Robin was an important cultural icon, yes, and many of us are grief-stricken. But you know, over 100 other people died on the same day. And another 100 the next day, and the one after that. And on and on.
I talk about suicide every day. I think about it every day. How can we change this? What can we do? How do I make the media pay attention so we can teach people skills they need to know? How can I convince celebrities and other high profile figures to talk about this and leverage their power for good? And more often than not (though this has changed lately), there is silence or outright refusal. But Robin Williams dies and Glenn Beck is on the phone looking for me the next morning? Sure, the word gets out, and that’s a good thing. But why did Robin Williams have to go to make that happen?
And all I can think of is, “Why him?” Because if it’s him, it’s too close. He had everything. He brought so many of us joy. And he suffered so much. I know what that feels like, that suffering.
There’s this feeling of futility connected to it. If him, then me. He theoretically had access to the best care, he actively sought it out, he had a wonderful career and he was beloved, and yet. He struggled with this thing. He struggled and he struggled, and then he couldn’t anymore. And I get it.
I ask myself the question often: When will it get to be too much? I’m afraid it’ll happen over and over (like it has) and it will get worse and worse, and I’ll just get tired. The weight will be too heavy to bear. And I have an incredible life with incredible people in it. I get to do what I love every day. But it got to be too much to bear for him. If him, then me. If him, then any of us. That’s what Live Through This is all about. It could be any of us.
But his death is everywhere I turn. And so many of the reactions are counterproductive and downright cruel. And that’s scary. It’s why I haven’t said much. If him, then me. If him, then any of us. I can’t focus on it for too long because it makes my hands shake. So now I’m gonna go smoke a cigarette, have coffee with a friend, and put it down again.
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