Monday, August 11, 2014

On the Occasion of Robin Williams' Suicide

I find myself shaking in front of a computer screen. I have just learned of Robin Williams' death, at the moment believed to be suicide. I am crying. I'm not sure why.

Or maybe I am. It's just that it's not for one reason. Robin Williams was a great actor. He mixed humor and vulnerability and mania, and seemed gentle even when his jokes had barbs. I was a child when Dead Poets' Society came out, and I was transfixed by a movie that had a love of words as a plot point.

And he died by his own hand--at least so it seems now. Anyone who has battled depression, even for a short time, has at least considered the lure of endless sleep. Artists, who are more sensitive than most, are more likely to have felt the pull of self-destruction. For me, any time someone gives in to that pull, it reminds me that like an alcoholic, a depressed person must go one day at a time. Losing someone to depression is a mark of no-confidence in the struggle of life.

I have had times when oblivion had attraction. I've been depressed, I've been hopeless, I've been in pain, and I've been exhausted. I've doubted things would get better, and not sure I wanted to continue to trudge through a lifetime of disappointment. Suicide was never a completely real option for me. I always had someone I loved more than I hated my depression, and I have a faith that keeps me convinced there is something good at the end of the tunnel. And, truthfully, I am terrified of pain, and the possible humiliation of trying to murder myself and failing--and then having to live with the effects of my suicide attempt and the depression I had before.

So I am sad at the loss of a gentle person with a lot left to give the world. I am furious that his gifts were cut short prematurely. And I am frightened, because I have sat through the night, afraid the pain of that moment would not end, and counted the hours to sunlight. I think those days are gone, but I don't know. I once read that for those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the anxiety of it is hard to overcome. When you have had a trauma, it is not being a worry-wort to fear the pain will return. It is fear of something you know could happen because you have lived it. Once you have cried until you can't care enough to cry anymore, you have a strange relationship with death. It is an enemy that tells you it's a friend. And you know you are one loss away from that feeling returning. The fear of the void makes the darkness tempting. And when one sufferer makes the leap, it makes the rest of us feel a little less sure of our own footing.