I tried to commit suicide at age 24 and came frighteningly close to succeeding…if success is ever the right word to use in such situations. As such, I have a lot to say about Robin Williams, not because I knew him but because I know exactly how he was thinking and feeling when he made the decision to try.
I would first say to those who would second guess his motives, his financial situation or his degree of “selfishness” as I have heard it referred to: DON’T… unless, of course, you’ve been to the point of consciously, albeit irrationally, trying to die by your own hand.
It’s not about the money, it’s not about the fame, it’s not about the lack or excess of anything other than feeling. It’s about feeling too much in a world that does not have enough love or compassion. It’s about living a lie and becoming the comic, the drama queen, the rebel, the alcoholic, or the workaholic in order to harden you sufficiently to withstand all the insensitivity, separation and denial.
I’m not a big proponent of medicating depression. In fact, I was coming off of anti-depressants when I used those same pills to try to kill myself. And, while one of the first thoughts I recall having upon surviving the attempt was what hell I had put my family through, it never entered my mind at the moment I made the decision. You see, when the pain gets bad enough and the fog gets thick enough, the realization that you have finally figured out a way to stop the suffering seems like a relief and that single realization takes precedent over anything resembling rational thought.
When a person tries to commit suicide, they don’t really want to die. They’ve just misplaced hope. Hope that things can and will change. Hope that the pain will ease. Hope that the fog will lift. Hope that they will ever feel joy again. Hope that on balance, life is actually worth living through all its trials and tribulations. Hope that tomorrow, or even an hour from now, it will be possible to give and receive love again. Which is why everyone, not just people who are depressed, should sit up and pay attention to what Robin Williams was driven to do.
We are living in a world overwhelming us with so much negativity that we are losing hope. You see it in the growing apathy. Apathy unchecked leads to hopelessness. Where is the outrage and help for innocents beheaded or buried alive? Where is the outrage, and help, for the Iraqi’s stranded on a mountain top? Where is the outrage and help for children being used as sex slaves and pawns in a political game? Where is the outrage for female genital mutilation as a “religious” practice? Where is the outrage for corrupt, lying, greedy politicians who prosper at our expense and our decline? Where is the outrage at what’s happening on our border? Where is the outrage at what we do to animals every minute of every day in the name of science? Where is the outrage at the manipulation of our economy for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many?
I know. I know. You are tired. You are overwhelmed. You feel powerless. You are dancing as fast as you can dance. So was Robin Williams. That’s the cautionary tale he bequeaths us.
His most important message and he brought us many through his seemingly endless creativity, is that having to feel less, or dying, is not the answer. The message of immediate importance is for each one of us to finally embark upon creating a world where kindness, cooperation, compassion and love are the norm not the aberration.
A world where feeling too much will only get you more joy.