Robin Williams was found dead in his home yesterday, of an apparent suicide. It’s well-known that he struggled through his life with severe depression. There are very few celebrities that I have felt sorrow as if I almost knew them, but Robin is one of them. I grew up on his movies, and when I’d become an adult, I appreciated his dramatic roles and his very ‘grown-up’ stand-up comedy. I was shocked and saddened to read of his passing.
Of course, mixed among the reactions of sadness and disbelief, there are people already slamming him for taking his own life. Todd Bridges said Robin “was selfish” for committing suicide. Others expressed incredulity that someone who made others laugh for a living could meet such an end. There was scorn, because after all, his bank account was full, so what on earth did he have to be sad about?
Was Robin selfish in his act? Yes. But before you pass your own judgments on me for saying that, please hear me out. Yes, suicide is an innately selfish act. It is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. That being said, when you’re going through depression, it’s nearly impossible to remember that. Depression is not what you feel when your mom and dad won’t buy you a new phone. Depression is not what you feel when Starbucks is out of the flavor syrup that makes your favorite frap possible.
Depression can strike anyone, anywhere, at any time, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, or financial status. It sucks all the colors out of your life. It has an insidious way of making you believe all your fears and doubts as if they were the gospel truth. Suicide is selfish, yes, but depression will twist your mind until you feel that suicide truly is best for everyone. I really think that people who haven’t been through it don’t realize how it warps your logic until you make choices you would never normally make.
Shortly before I turned 18, when I was on Zoloft for depression, I decided that I wanted to die. I took 7 pills, which had no effect other than to make me very tired for about a week.
A couple of months before my 19th birthday, I attempted suicide for a second time. At the time, and even still, I justified it as “I don’t want to die, I just want to feel better.” And maybe that’s the case, but when I laid down on my bed to wait for sleep to come over me, crying and praying I’d wake up feeling better in the morning, a tiny voice whispered to me that since I had taken 38 pills (doseage and name omitted because I do not want to give anyone any ideas), there was a chance that I just might die.
And a part of me thought that maybe it would be better for everyone if I did. I’d just dropped out of college and I was going nowhere with my life. I was so certain that the past couple of years had turned everyone I loved against me, and while my grandmother told me every single day that she loved me, I felt that I had hurt her too much, that I had pushed too far. They’d get over their grief…and then their lives would be better without me. I wanted to feel better, but I wasn’t going to be too upset if feeling better meant being dead. Anything was better than the dark water I felt I was constantly drowning in.
For some reason, I was able to step back for one moment and view myself as just another human life. I could not take the life of someone else, and I found that the thought of taking my own weighed on me just as heavily. From a very young age, the sanctity of a human life had been drilled into my head, and it was this that made me shakily climb into my car and drive myself to the ER, walk into the waiting room, give them my empty pill bottle and say, “I took them all” before crashing to the floor.
They had to fight to save me. They almost lost me.
So yes, I can very well sit here and say “That was a foolish, selfish, permanent thing to do, Mr. Williams”…but there is another part of me the clenched my heart and said “Oh, Robin…I know that battlefield all too well.”
There are many people in this world. Robin Williams was one of those that deserved to win his battle against his demons.
But not like this.
If you or someone you know/love is struggling to cope, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at: 1-800-273-8255.
There is help…and there is hope.