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A note on Robin Williams

by | 08/14/2014 | 1 comment

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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1 Comment

  1. lavon

    What about the people who don’t have all you or Robin Williams had/have? Who lose faith in ever finding incorruptible people who fight for what’s right, who can’t find anyone willing to help you correct a wrong done to you by another that has destroyed your whole life and there’s nothing left, nowhere to go. I may not necessarily want to kill myself but I don’t want to live either, there is no will ..no hope of a future that isn’t full of pain. What do we do, those of us who have suffered with depression also all our lives and are sinking deeper into the abyss …. so far gone that even if you sought help, you don’t believe it can fix anything when you have no job, due to being fired because of a supervisor’s ego being hurt because job performance was not an issue and although loved by the community residents those who do have authority let management abuse their power on mere whims, when you can’t find legal help so you try on your own and lose, when you have no friends and the ones you did have from work are afraid to be seen with you or to even have anyone accuse them of talking to you because they know they will be targeted for termination, when you’re threatened with the loss of your home and can’t pay the bills, when you’ve already given up on ever finding love because it’s never mutually been there, when you throw yourself into meaningless sexual activities like bdsm or multiple partners at once because it’s the only distraction that stops the thoughts but leaves you more empty after, when all you want to do is sleep because all the fight has gone out of you and the only time you’re happy is in your dreams so that you never want to wake up, when even if you could get help who would take care of the bills and your children, when you can’t find a true smile or laughter that actually touches your soul anymore….maybe someone needs to point out to the famous and rich, and I’m not trying to discount their pain, try walking in the shoes of a fairly normal, middle class person and imagine the pain of losing everything they’ve worked for, can’t even take their downs syndrome son to dinner for his birthday, and losing faith in any compassion from humanity and that liars and cheats get ahead because no one will hold them accountable due to fear or just the sheer volume of unethical people in the world. I’m still here (for now) although this is the lowest point in my life, but really how do I hold on when those who have so much more can’t? And now all the nasty people can post their nasty comments about me, it doesn’t matter, they are just strangers who can’t add to the hurt inside of me because they don’t matter in my life. This message isn’t for them, it’s to those who have support and resources to tell me how do I continue to get up each day when you can’t -and you give up. I loved Robin Williams too, and knowing he couldn’t continue to live in this world anymore makes it harder for me to stay – I don’t have the chemical addiction .but I have severe depression without being loved or knowing love, without security of a place for me and my children, without understanding friends, and now without a purpose after finding a job I loved only to lose it because of one person and the at will laws and people who let them treat others as disposable because of personal vindettas and not because of poor job performance, and denying unemployment so I have nothing to live on and other laws that prevent me from getting help because I’m not part of a protected class. I could live with a lot of what’s happened but not the loss of faith in the basic understanding of the Constitution that we all are entitled to be treated the same and fairly, that there’s still good that the dishonest will not prevail. I know it’s naive but a part of me, the part that kept me fighting, believed that what’s right and just could win. With this loss it makes it harder to want to live in that kind of world and I can’t be the jaded person who’s always suspicious or angry and never able to trust anyone ever again.

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