When I heard about his death, I knew it wasn’t a joke. Yet, like the song, it seemed like he “started a joke that sent the whole world crying…” Oh, Robin, sweet Mr. Williams, I wish that one smile of my own could have kept you alive. But no matter now that I’m not laughing, I will smile for you.
There is always hope. Eighty percent of us who seek treatment for our depression don’t kill ourselves, yet the strongest risk factor of depression is suicide. Yet we can’t ignore that fifteen percent of the clinically depressed end their lives. Many of those also suffer from substance abuse problems. I’m not writing this as if this were some book report. Feel I need to provide some bright facts. *grumbles*
I know too many people who have died at their own hands. The first death I ever witnessed was a suicide. He promised me and other friends that he’d be everyone’s worst nightmare.
And promptly aimed a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
He was only 17 years old, and since the age of 14 he battled addiction. He wouldn’t be the first person I knew who committed suicide, but he was the first and most violent.
Robin Williams disappeared just as violently as that boy I used to know. Those blue eyes of his sparkled with tears as much as laughter. Robin always reminded me of the kind of guy that’s the life of the party, but parties end, and he, like so many who suffer from depression, I can see turned to drink to keep that feeling of euphoria flowing… self medication they call it. I think all addicts are mentally ill.
I’m no addict, yet I can understand the despair that drags someone to the bottom of existence. I suffer from manic depression. In fact it is something that keeps me from writing, but sometimes it really gets me obsessively writing! I have not updated my blog since I was critiqued harshly for writing too many posts that were my purest expressions of grief. I felt obligated to be of great cheer to write, yet as William S. Burroughs wrote, “A writer lives the sad truth like anyone else. The only difference is, he files a report on it” and that is very much like me. Like many, many other people.
We’re all lonely and sad together on this one planet, aren’t we?
Oh, I’m not unhappy all the time. At other times I’m a pure joy jumping with glee and I can barely contain it! Over the last few years I’ve written a lot about my emotional pain, the scars of my personal grieving process over the loss of my mother and friends I boldly display whether or not anyone is reading, and not all poetry I produce is about one person or that thing that made me sad. However…
What I’ve learned all my life dealing with mental illness (in my family and my own experience): people judge you for everything you do and say once you’re under that label, you will lose friends constantly due to behavior you can curb and can’t control, and there are times when the pain is so intense no one else can possibly gauge how you feel or help you with just words.
All one can do is keep going, which makes things all the more difficult because even though everyone likes to say “help is available” or even we like to tell someone glum the bland statement “You need help” and the ever so useless “things will get better”, they don’t have a clue how to go about helping anyone, or themselves. Not unless you open up. AND even then not unless someone is there to listen. To just be there to listen! I’ve often been asked, “How can I help you?” whenever I’ve felt so down I might as well be crawling.
The answer is fairly simple: “Don’t do anything but be there.”
Playing a supportive role takes doing nothing and comes with a lot of “don’t do this” rules. Like don’t judge. As well as one very important “be” and that is: be gentle.
You thought I was about to say “be understanding” didn’t you?
Being gentle to someone in pain takes a special kindness, far better even than attempting to understand. When someone is in physical pain, or suffering from a bleeding wound, would you be tough with them? Soothing the illness helps ease. We want to transform “disease” to “ease” — the depression can’t go away, no one can make it disappear, but we can make the ways we endure it easier by simply helping each other reach peace.
What happens when “being there” is not enough? I don’t think I can answer that for anyone else, yet even I find myself trying to come up with answers for and why and because.
So I write like I do when I think out loud to myself.
The path to emotional wellness is also a physical health issue fraught with so many ups and downs, I’m surprised anyone survives it. Few folks truly feel inclined to believe a person who eventually turns to suicide to end their constant suffering (not that I’m condoning it, mind you!) justifiably did it to truly end their true suffering. What many don’t realize is that depression is long term suffering, especially since any kind of depression isn’t just simply explained away as a case of the blues.
I believe when suicides happen, individuals are in deep pain as serious as with any disease. Robin Williams was an actor whose struggles to keep sober and to combat his constant manic ups and downs wore him out. Even though he loved his family and friends, I am thinking that most likely he just wanted that constant pain to end. I’m sad that he died and lost the fight, just like I am broken-hearted over anyone who finally succumbs to any other fatal disease.
Because, believe it or not, depression kills. Depression, more so than experimenting with recreational drugs or what-not, leads people to numb their pain with alcohol and other substances. Whether or not you stay alive, it kills you, eats you up. You can have every luxury in the world and still have that unreasonable, unexplained black emptiness erasing you inside.
I don’t need to list suicide statistics to tell you how much of a problem this violent way to end life is in this country, especially among men, impacts so many families and friends. It’s a kind of death that continues to cause far more pain than any other passing, mainly because it is unnatural for a living being to turn against one’s own need for self-preservation. A person may decide to act on their need to end their pain, but the body itself will still fight on instinct to survive everything you put it through.
I’m no stranger to suicide attempts myself, but it’s never the longing to die, only to end pain that was at the heart of every attempt I ever made. Just so we’re clear, I am not telling you I’m suicidal now! But Robin’s death brings up all those dark memories, and makes me think of people who are suffering as I write these words, and I weep many nights just thinking how helpless I am to fight against my own depression, let alone help anyone else with theirs. Yet it is because I’ve suffered, I know there is a need to lend a shoulder to cry on for someone else, even if they may not actually be crying out loud.
It’s not an easy thing to witness someone in pain as you stand by, but if you knew how good it does to help that other person stand on their own, you’d do it time and time again.
I think it’s the basis of strength.
There are times I wish I could turn back time… or be there for just one more person before they shut off the clock.
So what keeps me ‘ticking’?
Most times I am outside of myself, aware that there are lives all around me not in pain who are simply alive, and it is that life I am grateful for being there. Animals especially surround me everywhere I go. This summer’s filled with life in my neck of the woods.
And I have many, many beautiful pictures to show you… coming soon.
I’m coming in out of the darkness.