After taking a week off from the site to prepare for the upcoming September onslaught at work, I'm back at the ol' keyboard and man do I have a lot of catching up to do. Most weeks there are maybe one or two stories that catch my eye, that I'll comment on. This past week and a half, it seemed like more things were happening than I could really do proper justice to (and be timely) with full examinations. So, without further ado, I am going to attempt to get caught up on the stories I didn't have a chance to cover over the past week.
It began with a text from my mom last Monday. I had just gotten in from seeing Guardians of the Galaxy (for the 2nd time) when she dropped the bombshell. While she didn't spell out what had happened to him, I guessed based on the tenor of the text that it was bad. And indeed it was even worse than I had thought. A man who had made so many of us happy for the past 30+ years lost a battle with mental illness and took his own life.
My intent with this piece is not to eulogize Robin Williams the entertainer. So many have talked about how Robin Williams brought them so much joy and all of the wonderful characters he brought to life. and frankly, many have done so much better than I can. Today I want to talk about Robin Williams the person. We so often forget that behind the curtain of celebrity is a husband, father and friend.
There's a cynical part of me that always wants to shout down my emotions whenever I get choked up about the death of a celebrity. A little voice inside that snarkishly chides me with "You didn't know them. Thousands of people die every day, that you don't care about." That voice can kind of be an asshole sometimes, but it is not entirely wrong. The horrible truth about Robin Williams suicide is there are countless others out there suffering from depression, many of whom do so in silence.
Countless others who have to listen to Grade A Douchecanoes like Gene Simmons telling people who have suicidal thoughts that they should just kill themselves. (Warning: Clicking on that link may cause retching.) Countless others who have to listen to their mental illness be belittled or minimized. If there is one shred of hope that comes from this very dark corner, it's that maybe we'll all start taking mental health issues a little more seriously?
I once heard a description given of depression that I feel most accurately illustrates the struggle that so many go through on a daily basis. Imagine that cynical voice that I described above. Now imagine that the voice actively hates you. It spends all day every day telling you what an awful person you are and how the world would be better without you in it. The voice knows all of your insecurities and it is merciless in using them against you. You can't turn it off and you can't turn the volume down. No matter how many people who surround you with messages of love, that voice can shout louder than any of them. It never tires, it never sleeps. One opening is all it needs, one moment of exhaustion, one lapse in your defenses. NOT a moment of weakness mind you just a moment of living not in a perpetual state of battle with your own brain. If you give in to the battle and agree with the voice for one moment, the voice wins, extinguishing itself and you in the process.
Throughout all of the talk about chemical imbalances and whether or not things like mental illness or addictions such as alcoholism should be called diseases, we sometimes lose sight of the humanity in the equation. This is the story of a man beloved by so many, and yet who ultimately felt he could not go on in this world.
I'm not a mental health professional. There is a lot I don't know about this illness. I do know that stigmatizing mental illness only makes things worse. I do know that you cannot cure it with money. I do know that there are no magic pills or quick fixes. My hope is that this unfortunate loss spurs us all to stop turning a deaf ear to this issue.
Rest In Peace Robin
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
Canadian Mental Health Association: Depression
Stephen Fry's Documentary "The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive"
Hi, my name is Mitch and I write things sometimes.