As everyone now knows, Robin Williams committed suicide yesterday. It's a horrible tragedy, and one that made the front page because everyone knows who he is. But, the real tragedy is that it happens every day. To young and old and middle aged, from all cultures and socio-economic levels. Suicide is ugly and brutal and violent and hurts everyone around the one who has died. And we don't like to talk about it. It takes the death of someone well known and well loved to bring it to the fore. And yes, everyone is blogging about it now or posting on FB. Facebook may have its cons (many, in fact) but one of the things I love about it is the fact that issues get discussed. One of the cons, of course, is the amount of misinformation that is spread, and the nastiness that seems to come out of people, but I think the overall is a net good.
Here's what is pissing me off about some of the commentary, though. According to many, Robin Williams made the choice to end his life. He had agency, he didn't have to do it. I respectfully disagree. Unless you have been there, unless you are in his shoes and know what demons he was battling, you DO NOT GET TO MAKE THAT CALL. Unless you have been in that deep black hole, that merciless pit of blankness and numbness and soul sucking ugliness, for an extended period of time, like YOUR WHOLE LIFE, you do not get to make judgments. In fact, even if you have been there and you came out alive? You still don't get to. Because you came out alive.
I have experienced a certain level of this depression. In my late teens, as a sophomore and junior in college, I experienced the deep, black pit. It was partly circumstances, partly my clinical depression. But I was there. I was in that thick, putrefying sludge. It's like quicksand and you can't pull yourself out and no one can pull you out. Your only hope, if you have ANY hope at all, is that you have the strength to cling to whatever lifeline you may have for as long as you can in the hope that a flood will come and wash the quicksand away from you, before your strength gives out and you are sucked down and suffocated. That's all you can do. Hold on and WAIT. I was fortunate, blessed, lucky, whatever you may call it, because I had a few lifelines. There was one in particular who would not let me go. I've lost contact with him and I doubt he knows what he did for me, but he is absolutely one of the reasons I never did it.
I am...lucky? in that I did not have to wait overlong. For me, it only lasted about a year. There were days when only my nose was above the quicksand and all I was doing was breathing. And there were days when the quicksand receded somewhat and I could enjoy the scenery around me.
I am fortunate in that my medication is very effective at keeping my depression and anxiety under control, that I have learned coping techniques for my depression, that I have family that isn't afraid to acknowledge mental illness and talk about, that I have friends and family who experience it as well, so I am not alone.
And I am fortunate that my depression is not as severe as some. I was only in the quicksand for a year or so. It has happened a couple of times, and each time I managed to hang on until it was washed away. For whatever reason, support, shorter time frame, different temperament, I hung on. I can imagine what might have happened had it lasted longer. It is extremely unlikely that I could have hung on. For those who live long term with this, my heart goes out to you. The alternating pain and numbness is agonizing, snd it isn't just mental or emotional pain. Depression manifests itself as physical pain as well, in many different forms, and, it can be unbearable. Literally, unbearable.
Suicide is not a choice someone makes in the way you make other choices. When someone is contemplating suicide, they are not capable of making a rational or coherent decision. They think that they are, because depression is a liar. The person suffering from depression is not unable to see the beauty in the world around them, it is that they think that beauty is not for them, because depression tells you it isn't for you, but depression is a liar. Depressed people are not unaware that their death may cause others momentary pain, but they believe that they darken the beauty of the world for those around them, so that long term, those people are better off without them. And this is reinforced by the fact that when you are depressed, many of your friends leave you. But, depression is a liar. And even those who left you are hurt and saddened by the loss, should you take your own life.
Depression is a liar. It will tell you that taking your life in a violent way will serve those right who abandoned you or hurt you. It will tell you that suicide will make those around you understand the hurt and pain and anger and horror you face daily, even if they only feel it for a short time, though they will feel it for the rest of their lives. It is insidious and horrifying and robs you of joy. And it is a liar.
Do not judge those who commit suicide. You cannot know the pain they have walked through. They are not weak. They have been stronger than you can imagine for longer than you can imagine. Just be there for them. Hold on to them for all they and you are worth. They will push you away, try not to go. Do what you can, whatever you can, and then do not blame yourself if your loved one succumbs to the illness.
To those of you hanging on for dear life, you are loved. You are deeply, sincerely loved. Your loss would leave a gaping hole in the hearts of those around you. Your loss would mean the loss of much good in the world. Your darkness may indeed add shadow to the lives of those around you, but shadow makes the light brighter, you add depth. You are needed and wanted, more than you can possibly imagine.