Robin Williams killed himself yesterday. The details aren’t public but it would appear that’s what happened.
This man meant a lot to me as a comedian and actor. He was a favorite. I know that he suffered from depression. I can relate. I have been depressed a lot. Depression is a tricky thing. Because when you are in it, it feels impossible to break out of. When you are depressed you lose hope. You believe all the lies you are telling yourself. That you are broken, or unworthy, or incapable of being happy, or worthless. Or the worst one of all:
That the world would be a better place without you in it.
That ending your life is the best choice. The right choice.
I call it “falling down the rabbit hole”. And when you get there, you are trapped.
People who have experienced severe depression are not shocked by depression. They are not shocked by suicide. They understand it.
I understand it.
I have been suicidal three times in my life. I feel a wave of sadness just typing that.
1. As a teenage girl. I can’t really put my finger on why. I can’t remember exactly what was happening in my life that felt so wrong. I know I was just very unhappy. It’s vague now. But I know it was very real at the time. Very real. I never did anything. I never actually made a suicide attempt. But I thought about it. I am ashamed to admit how much I thought about it. I wanted an escape from the sadness. I really wanted it.
2. About two years ago. I had told my then husband that I wanted to leave him. I had told him I was gay. At some point, I told my kids. I allowed him to blame me. I blamed me. And I was very, very depressed. I felt like a terrible, horrible person. I was so deeply depressed that I would drive along in my car, picturing an accident, that would get me out of the sadness without having to be the person who took her own life. I could be free from the pain and not be responsible. My loved ones could mourn me without having to be angry at me as well.
Because the people who are left behind in a suicide are angry. Because someone who commits suicide is choosing to leave. And it seems incredibly selfish. SO very selfish and cruel.
3. The last time I was depressed to the point of thinking suicidal thoughts was 15 months ago. Right as my divorce was being finalized. I had gotten myself into a very unhealthy relationship with someone who was emotionally abusive. My kids were struggling with the divorce and all the change in their lives. I felt incapable of helping them. I needed to get a job. I felt lost and broken. My existence felt useless. I felt useless. I couldn’t stand another day of it. Or so I thought.
That last depression scared the shit out of me and I committed to never feeling that low again. I put time and energy into myself. I escaped that unhealthy relationship. I got a job. I stopped listening to those negative voices in my head. I got healthier and happier. It was work and it was worth it.
But I will never assume that it can’t happen again. I completely understand how Robin Williams got to the point where suicide seemed like the only option.
I empathize with him completely. And the people out there who are saying that he was selfish for making that choice, I hear you.
But I think you are wrong. Severe depression is a horrible thing. It feels impossible to overcome. It drags you down into a place where you cannot imagine escaping. It makes you hopeless. The emotional memory I have about depression scares me so much that I am hyper aware of that path now, where it’s leading and why I cannot allow myself to walk it, ever again. I can see the rabbit hole in the distance and I know that I must turn away from it before I get trapped again. It’s not anyone else’s job to keep me out of that. Life will always have struggles and sadness is a real emotion that must be felt. But I recognize that I am in charge of avoiding the darkness. I am able to keep that demon at arm’s length now.
I am reminded of Mork and Mindy and how much I loved that dumb show. Nanu Nanu.
Of What Dreams May Come and how much I want to watch that movie with the woman I love.
And all the other great movies with Robin Williams.
Of how crazy he was in television interviews. He just couldn’t stop playing a character. Always.
A favorite Robin moment.
Thank you, Robin, for sharing your gift with the world.
And I am so sorry the demon got you.
So very sorry.
Be gentle, human beings.
Every step you take in the world you may interact with someone trapped in the rabbit hole.
I implore you to approach the world with kindness.
For Robin and all the other’s struggling with depression.
I won’t give advice on overcoming depression.
I think it’s up to each of us to find our way off that path and onto another one.
I wish Robin could have done it.
I feel certain he tried.