Depression, Suicide, and Robin Williams: Hopping on the Bandwagon

So earlier this week Robin Williams killed himself. That was a shock to most people. It was a shock to me. It made a lot of people think and talk about depression. It made me think. It made me want to say something, but I didn’t know what. I read this article in Slate today, and it opened me up. There was one idea that kept popping up in my head in a very inarticulated fashion. The article addresses it perfectly:

“There were a lot of comments on Twitter about how much Robin Williams was loved and what a shame that he didn’t know it. I didn’t know Robin Williams, but I bet he did know that he was loved. I know that I am loved. Maybe not on a Robin Williams scale, but I have friends and family who would do anything for me, and I absolutely know this. But there comes a point where love does not matter. When things are bad, I don’t care that people love me. All I can see is that I’m a burden, that everything I have ever done is wrong, and that these good people who love me are wrong as well. At my lowest, love cannot save me. Hope, prayers, daily affirmations—none of these can save me. Therapy and medicine are what matter, and those don’t always work either.”

My situation isn’t nearly as dramatic as that of many people with depression. I don’t feel, like the author of the Slate article, that I am a burden to those around me. I have felt similar to the author of this web comic that I never wanted to commit suicide, but sometimes in my life I’ve felt that it wouldn’t be the worst thing if I just got hit by a bus. I don’t want to scare or panic anyone close to me here. I promise I will never kill myself. If anything, I might just disappear one day the way my uncle did. Although I will be kind enough to leave a note. Even then though, I recognize that these things aren’t good solutions to any problem. They’re just not reasonable. Besides, I’d rather keep my family and friends happy.

The thing is though, when you’re depressed or otherwise mentally ill, these things aren’t good enough arguments. I know people love me, even when my brain is fucked up and doesn’t really understand it. I love them too, and I’d never want to hurt them. But sometimes life is just so damn frustrating, and you just want it to be over. Even remembering the joy and love and happiness doesn’t help because you know the problems will be back and life will be shitty again. In the end, suicide isn’t actually about the emotions. It’s a perfectly rational, logical conclusion to a disappointing life. Pain will never end, so why not just end it?

Now, I’ve only become aware of my own dealings with depression within the last year. I don’t know if it’s a thing I’ll have to deal with forever or just temporary for me. I do know a lot of people for whom this is a constant, daily issue. And what I really want to say, to them, to everyone else, and mostly to myself is this: I understand the despair. I understand the desire to be done. I understand the rationality of the decision. And most of all I understand that it’s all bullshit.

A trend in the past few days is the phrase, “Depression lies.” I don’t know about that. I don’t know that life isn’t pointless and frustrating and sometimes awful. I do know that life is important. I know that a life doesn’t belong to just one person. Every action you take has consequences. Suicide is not about you, or it shouldn’t be. You might think you’re a burden on others. You might think they’ll be better of without you. You might be tired of putting up with the drudge that is life. But it doesn’t matter. Because you’re life doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to the people around you, the people who care about you, and ending it WILL put a burden on them. So this is what I have to say: if you are considering suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline here 1-800-273-8255 (US only I’m afraid, but it has counterparts all over the world.) Then, call the people who own your life and ask them first if you’re allowed to end it. I guarantee they won’t be cool with it.

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3 responses to “Depression, Suicide, and Robin Williams: Hopping on the Bandwagon

  1. Good post; I especially like your last paragraph. Smiles.

  2. Now a little more opinion– depression is totally self absorbed. This is not intentional but it is a fact. So even though I really like the last paragraph, when a person is seriously depressed they are not able to even reach out enough to ask that question.

    I have never had ongoing clinical depression. But I have had life incidents which totally knocked my equilibrium. At those times there was nothing, literally, that I could do except sit in a chair. I was able to force myself to take a shower and go to work etc, because my depression was not clinical.

    But each time, it was profound. One time though, I decided to only wear a black shirt every day so I did not have to think about what I would wear. Also then my depression could be signified by the black shirt and I could use my consciousness to deal with my job etc. This actually worked. I bought six or more black shirts, all identical. I used them for about two months, then my life situation abated and I was able to think again. So now I have the black shirts just in case.

    There are many ways to combat depression but no way to really be immune. It’s a good discussion and worth being aware.

    It’s one reason I choose to smile. It’s a choice I make. 🙂

    • I already responded to this on Facebook, but I think it’s a comment that deserves a response here too. So here’s what I said:

      That’s true what you said about depression totally destroying our ability to think. It’s good to have the conversation anyway, partly to reduce the stigma depression currently has but also to get the thinking done so when depression hits we already have a plan and don’t have to think about it. The conversation is our black shirt that frees our depressed energies up to do what we have to. I really like your comment and story. Thanks!

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