Last night, as usual, I was sitting in my local watering hole with a friend getting ready to watch Jeopardy. This is something I do most nights, and this one was progressing along just like any other. Then the bartender comes over and says “Is this for real?” and hands me her phone showing me her Facebook feed flooded with news of Robin Williams’ death. It was real, but man it did not feel like it. I was shocked and realized that I didn’t want to dwell on it. I had just received news that the coming addition to my family was going to be a little girl and her Auntie did not want to spend the rest of the day thinking about death. I closed Facebook and went about the rest of my evening.
Waking up this morning was different. It was real and I couldn’t ignore it any longer. This amazing man who had such a deep impact on my childhood was gone and it looked like he had taken his own life. Depression is real. It is a monster and is very close friends with my own monster (Hi anxiety! I see you over there, you fucker) and it robs the world of more lovely, wonderful people than will ever be fair or just.
I was surprised by the depth of my sadness at his passing. It felt like a distant family member was gone. You know the one, you don’t see them often but when you do you the experience is always pleasant and leaves you with warm thoughts and perfect memories. He was Popeye, he was Genie and his Peter Pan gave me Rufio. His IMDB page reads like a list of my memories of growing up and reading all the touching tributes online brought faded memories back to their original bright glory.
And then I read a comment on my news feed that stated that suicide is selfish and that celebrities have a special obligation to the rest of the world to suffer and show that suicide is not an option. That he should and could have done something. I tried to not let this statement get to me, to ignore it and get on with my day of dealing with my sadness, but I can’t. I know people suffer from dark, deep depression and I have had the honor to help some of those people through some really dark times. I am so grateful that they didn’t do something to take themselves away from me and the rest of the world forever, but I saw the physical and emotional pain that they experienced and how it sometimes can seem like there is only one way to make it stop. I do not personally suffer from depression so I can’t say what it feels like but I do suffer from anxiety. The kind of anxiety that can keep me from being able to hold down solid food for almost two months, the kind that can make it almost impossible to ride the subway some mornings, the kind that will keep me in my apartment for 2 days instead of doing any number of fun and exciting things. And let me tell you, it is exhausting.
I recognize and I relate. I wish that people who lose the battle they were fighting could have won. I wish that Robin Williams had found a way to live with his monster. But he didn’t and now in the days that follow, placing blame on him, calling him selfish and saying that his legacy is tainted does nothing, NOTHING, for him, his family or his memory. Now is great time to remember your compassion. Call a friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a while and tell them you love them. They just may have needed to hear it.