I’m in a weird space since learning of the passing of our beloved Robin Williams.
I’m not someone who knows the details of the latest movie or television show. I rarely watch TV and though I like a good movie, I wouldn’t consider regular outings to the movie theater one of my favorite pastimes.
I’ve always been too hyper and inattentive to sit through movies —- a trait that has driven Gil and other loved ones a bit crazy, likely because they don’t understand it.
However, I HAVE ALWAYS ADORED ROBIN WILLIAMS.
Recently, on a family movie night, I was crushed when my kids chose a version of Peter Pan over one of my all-time favorites, Hook.
Few movies have caught my attention and made me laugh like Mrs. Doubtfire.
Good Will Hunting, well, need I say more.
If I’m not a movie buff, I’m less interested in celebrities for the sake of celebrityism (and yes, I’m making up words).
I’ve had the opportunity to meet lots of celebrities in the past and though I’d hardly call myself star-struck, I am curious about what makes them tick. I am twistedly fascinated with people — Gil, the non-people-oriented-number-cruncher, accuses me of being obsessed with dysfunction. Naturally, I disagree. I believe everyone has a story, and I’m ready to hear it. When I meet someone, famous or not, I want to know who they are and I want to know about their life experiences.
I know that celebrities put their pants on the same way we out-of-the-spotlight mortals do. They have joy and pain; they just happen to live these out in the glaring spotlight. When they succeed, the world knows it and when they crash and burn, we all see that, too.
There are a select few big names who I am genuinely drawn to and would love to know.
Robin Williams was one of those people.
He was a comic, a brilliant actor, loved by millions, but there was something achingly human and ordinary about him.
There was kindness behind his eyes that drew me to him.
Perhaps I was drawn to his sadness as well.
I knew he struggled with depression and substance abuse, and because of this I was even more intrigued.
Here was someone who suffered and who overcame pain and stigma and kept fighting and was hugely successful.
I come from a LONG line of folks who have been crippled by mental illness.
Since news broke of Robin Williams’ death, I have been hurt and perplexed at some of the misinformed things posted by well-meaning people on the Internet.
I’m having to step away and understand that suicide brings up numerous emotions and I can’t begin to know where each person is on this journey.
When I think of Robin Williams, I immediately empathize with his pain and am saddened that he was in such a low, low place.
My heart goes out to his family, as I know all too well the devastation of losing someone you love to suicide.
There’s a twinge of guilt that I can have such compassion for a man I never met, but twenty years ago, my own father’s suicide made me so angry and resentful and disgusted that I couldn’t even look at his picture without needing to punch something.
There’s fear. I promised myself after the turmoil that my family went through after my dad’s suicide that I would do everything in my power to keep myself mentally and emotionally healthy — medication, therapy, education, self-care, spirituality. I’ve done those things and I continue to do them, but it’s still so very hard sometimes. I have depression and anxiety, ADHD, an eating disorder that’s in remission but it hangs over my head as an option EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It takes so much damn energy to fight, but I do it and I’ll continue to do it.
As my former therapist once said when I was going on about how exhausting it is to manage everything, “Wow. Just listening to this makes me realize how hard it must be to be you.”
That’s what mental illness feels like.
It’s exhausting to be the person who suffers with it, and feeling like you must explain it to the masses only to be judged and criticized, compounds the problem. As I get older, I’m less hopeful than I once was and on the really bad days I actually understand how my father got to his lowest point.
Have I ever contemplated suicide? Absolutely Not. But ONLY because I am living out the havoc that comes with being the child of someone who actually did it. It sucks. But as I’m getting older and life gets more complicated and in many ways harder, I absolutely understand why my father was driven to that point. Mental illness feels dark and hopeless and difficult.
Blogger, Matt Walsh, says Williams made a bad choice and that he lacks joy. When I first read the highlights of his post I was outraged, but I’m doing my best to show compassion because I don’t know Matt Walsh’s experiences with friends/relatives/acquaintances who’ve committed suicide. I likely would have said those same things after my father’s death. Now I know better. I do believe Walsh was attempting to save others who might be considering suicide as an option. I believe he was trying to emphasize that they don’t need to hear that Williams now has peace because it makes it look more enticing than their suffering. Still, I think his post was damaging, and I hope the backlash will inspire him to learn more about the complexity of mental illness.
I certainly don’t mean to diminish the feelings and experiences of people who love someone with a mental illness. I’ve found dealing with my loved ones’ mental illness as hard and maybe harder than living with my own. My father had severe and unfortunately untreated and undiagnosed mental illness. I can speculate on what these were, but I’ll never know for sure. My mother suffers with chronic depression, anxiety, possibly undiagnosed and certainly untreated ADHD. My brother has been in and out of drug rehab facilities since his early twenties. He’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, ADHD, anxiety and depression. And there are many more relatives whose treatment I’ve been less directly involved in. I know what it’s like to be the person standing by feeling helpless, watching loved ones suffer, feeling resentful because often times suffering looks a lot like self-destruction.
There’s this perception that the sufferer can control it. Even with all of my personal experiences with mental illness, I’ve been guilty of feeling that my loved ones aren’t doing enough to help themselves. This is where it gets SO tricky.
When I am depressed I can not for the life of me will my way out. It feels like there are no solutions. Even if intellectually I know that there are, I sometimes can’t move from point A to B. This right here (their non-action) is why I get so fed up with my relatives when they’re in a low place. That’s not fair. I’m expecting them to use their rational, non-depressed mind and it is absolutely not possible. I get what they’re going through yet when I’m healthy or in remission, which might be a better term, I almost forget how bad it actually feels. Plus there’s a fear that they’ll drag me back in to my own emotional shit-storm.
I am deeply saddened by the death of Robin Williams.
I will continue to watch his movies and will be reminded of his beautiful spirit.
I’ll also do my best to reach out and offer help if I see someone hurting.
His death has also reminded me to be more compassionate to people in my own life, particularly those I’ve been hurt by when they’ve been in the grips of their illness.
Talk to people. Tell your stories. Be kind.
I am so thankful that I am in a good place. One of the most powerful things I’ve learned when I’m suffering is to tell someone. Writing has been a powerful tool for me as well. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, tell someone.
Call a help line and tell your story. There are people who can listen and want to help.