Robin Williams, Suicide and the Effect on Others

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the few days I spent in my friend’s basement suite in April 2011. I don’t know why that time keeps coming to mind, but I think about it as I walk up the stairs, as I sit at my desk at work, when I walk the dog. I don’t remember much about the period of time when I hit rock bottom, but I remember exactly what those days felt like.

alarm clock

I remember sitting on the couch until 2 or 3 a.m., writing or watching movies or just sitting in the dark trying to breathe. I (not a night owl) stayed up as late as I could, then took the pill that knocked me out cold for 12 hours straight. I know a lot of people find nighttime really hard when struggling with depression, but for me it was easier than being awake during the day when everyone else was functioning like normal human beings and I couldn’t. I remember seeing people walk around the grocery store one day as if everything was completely normal when it so clearly wasn’t.

I don’t know what has caused those days to be so present in my mind lately. Maybe it’s because life hasn’t been entirely easy lately and I remember when it was so much worse. Or maybe it’s because at that point every moment was devoted to getting out of that horribly dark place and these days the struggle is just an item on the agenda between commuting and putting kids to bed, between brushing my teeth and thinking about what to have for lunch. It’s there, almost all the time, sometimes less, sometimes more, but I don’t have the luxury of focusing solely on what to do about it.

The thing that’s different between that time and now is that then I thought the struggle was temporary. It was an enormous, pothole-laden hill that I had to get up and over, but if I got over it, I thought, I’d be in the clear. Now, I know it doesn’t work that way. At least not for me.

Lately I am reminded, on an almost ridiculously regular basis, that this is my lot in life. I’m fine! I think, and then I wake up one day and observe I’m a little bit less fine than I thought. I find strategies to feel okay, and then realize those strategies are fine when I have the house to myself for a weekend but a lot less realistic when there are three other people and a dog there. I rail against the permanence of this struggle in my life but figure I’m making it through and one day things will probably be easier.

And then a celebrity dies by suicide after battling depression for years and all those things I think I believe seem a little less true.

I saw the news about Robin Williams as soon as I got home from work yesterday, and suddenly it was hard to breathe. I cried a lot last night, and this morning, and I know I’m not the only one. But as much as I loved him as an actor, I’m not really crying for the loss of the man; I’m crying because I know how he must have felt and the simple truth that I could very well end up feeling that way again is staring me straight in the face. And it’s not wearing a red clown nose to soften the blow.

I didn’t go to work today, because I needed to not be sitting at my desk trying not to cry and having to explain that, no, I’m not that sad about Robin Williams, it’s just that it makes my ongoing strategy of just treading water feel a little bit hopeless.

I think I have more to say about this, but there are already so many posts about what this all means and how we should react to it. I don’t know that I can contribute anything useful to that conversation, so while I think about how my story—and all our stories—can best help keep this conversation going, I’ll leave some links to perspectives I especially appreciated:

Be The Light – Finding Walden

When Reaching Out Isn’t Enough - Truthfully

We Lost One of Our Own – Learned Happiness

Put On Your Happy (Yet Sometimes Really Depressed) Face – That Tam I Am

A simple but true graphic: Nest (Because honestly, sometimes this is the only thing we can think of that will help)

And Huffington Post put together a piece called What Facebook Statuses Would Say If We Were Honest About Mental Health. They asked me to contribute, and I did, gladly.


 

Comments

  1. Robin, I hope you know how much of a deep and positive impact your story has made in my life. I love you and I am grateful for your continued bravery in sharing your story with all of us.

    • Misty, I was thinking about you earlier and a conversation we had before we really even knew each other. I think you’re awesome and strong and one of the people who deserves so many good things.

  2. I’m not sure exactly what to say, but I’m so glad you posted this and I’m so glad I read it.

  3. Thank you for this. I’m so glad to see many of my fellow writers addressing this today. I also wrote about my thoughts on Robin Williams and what it’s like to be bipolar.

  4. Robin, you inspire me. Your honesty is so heartwrenching ..because I could feel every word with you.

    Thank you for always sharing and for allowing saying what needs to be said. It will help someone.I hope it helps you to know how much you’re loved.

  5. <3

  6. I’m here for you, always. Love you. xoxo

  7. Love you, Robin. And you always have something to contribute to the conversation. Your words matter. xoxo

  8. I am so touched by your honesty and I hope you know that by sharing your struggle – the struggle that, as you said, never completely goes away – you are helping me with mine. Thank you.

  9. I just told David that I’m not sure why I’m so incredibly sad about this, but I am. I really am. The fact that someone who provided so much light and happiness for other people could not find it for himself, or the fact that it could be any of us, or the fact that so many people don’t understand it. Too many emotions.

  10. I’m a bit at a loss for words; it’s sad and emotional and yes, it does feel a bit hopeless. But we have to keep talking about it and I’m so glad you are.

  11. I remember that time you write about and will always remember coming to visit that month and wishing I could take it away and also wishing I could do something more than just be there. We can’t take it away but you are not alone to go through the good or the awful and there will always be light to shine through the darkest times as long as you keep us by your side. I love you so very much

  12. So heartbreaking. But even more so is that it takes the death of a well-known celebrity for the world to open its eyes to suicide. Great post, Robin. Xo

  13. Hugs, Robin. xoxo

  14. It is scary because it happens a lot and too much and to people we love. But I believe there is hope and I know you do too. Thinking of you…

  15. Years ago I had postpartum depression and other depressive episodes. I totally understand and am glad you have the honesty to write this. Now I’m not depressed, but I guess I could be again sometime. Sometimes it helped me to do one thing like wash the dishes and then lie down and be sad and then do one other thing like take the baby around the block then go lie down and cry. Then one more. And to ask for one thing I needed like to take a break. Mindfulness also helped me, taking a course in that.

  16. Your honesty is inspiring. I have avoided the details of much of the news these last few weeks b/c I know it would send me into a tailspin.

  17. Some people have a brief period of depression and then it’s gone. I don’t even get that, Robin, and I’ll admit, I envy it. Like curing a disease. That’s the kind of miracle it would be if I suddenly woke up and realised I was okay. That must feel like floating on air.

    But I am anchored down here with you, my friend, and strangely buoyed by the company.

    xx