Depression and Suicide

By now, most everyone has heard that Robin Williams died on Monday at age 63. His death was a tragic loss, as he was a comedic genius. That sense of loss was further compounded by the fact that he killed himself. I was hit especially hard by his death as a person who has struggled greatly with depression for her entire life. I have contemplated suicide on quite a few occasions.
I credit my children with saving my life. In fact on early morning, around 5 am, I was particularly down. After sobbing for almost no reason for the better part of an hour, I realized that my life will be nothing more than a vicious cycle of being uber depressed and just sort of down. I made up my mind that this was too painful. I wasn’t going to live like this anymore. I was just so tired of being depressed, run-down, anxious, and filled with self-doubt. I scurried about the bedroom until I found one of my husbands razor blades. As I picked it up and placed it to my wrist, ready to end my meaningless suffering, my son (who was about 18 months at the time) awoke screaming. It was divine intervention. I was instantly snapped out of it, remembering that I was a mother and had two young children (both under the age of 5 at that time) who depended on me. Honestly, I think the ghost of my father woke up my son to save my life. If he had woken up even 5 minutes (or 2 minutes) later, I would have already been bleeding profusely. My son quite literally saved my life.
Williams’ death was a painful and blunt reminder that you never really know what is going on behind the surface of a person. Robin Williams was a man whose talents entertained multiple generations of my family. My husband and I loved his very grown-up and shockingly raunchy HBO stand up. My children adored him in “Aladdin” and “Peter Pan”, my mother watched “Mork and Mindy” as a young woman. He could seamlessly blend from goofball flicks like “Flubber” to feel good family fun a la “Mrs. Doubtfire” to very dramatic, brilliant adult flicks like, “Dead Poets Society” and “Good Will Hunting”. Sadly, it seems like Williams spent so much time and energy uplifting the rest of the world, making us laugh till we cried, that he had no energy left for himself.
Shepard Smith of Fox News called Williams a “such a coward” on air while reporting his suicide. He talked about how selfish he was, questioning, “it’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? You could love three little things so much, watch them grow, they’re in their mid-20s, and they’re inspiring you, and they fill you up with the kind of joy you could never have known. And yet, something inside you is so horrible – or you’re such a coward – or whatever the reason – that you decide that you have to end it. Robin Williams, at 63, did that today.” Obviously, many people who heard this were outraged.
People who commit suicide are not doing it out of an act of selfishness, rather they feel that they are so horrible, such a drain on those around them that the selfish thing to do would be to stay alive and continue to pull their loved ones down. This is obviously not true, but to a person with a mental illness such as bi-polar disorder (which Williams suffered from) or schizophrenia, or even super depression and anxiety disorders and PTSD (all three of which I suffer from, this idea seems very true.
Depression gets you to where you hate yourself to the point where you are incapable of seeing any redeeming qualities in yourself. It seems to be a ludicrous idea that anyone could love you at all. After over a decade with my husband, I still have trouble believing that he loves me. I ask him and responds with, “Of course I love you. You know this. I wouldn’t still be here if I didn’t love you with all of my heart.” While that seems like a very logical statement, the reality is that no, I don’t know that he loves me. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I continually push people away and sever relationships simply by not making the effort to keep up the friendship because I have been hurt and betrayed too many times to trust anyone. These real events, combined with my own paranoia and mental illness just doesn’t allow me to think that anyone could actually like me. Why would they? I feel as though I have nothing to offer. Robin Williams may have felt something very similar to this. Kurt Cobain once said, “the most depressing thing is having everything that you ever wanted, everything that was supposed to make you happen, and still be totally miserable. Then you know that you will never be happy, that you are the problem.” I can see how that could be.
Ultimately we will never know exactly what sent Robin Williams off the deep end and made him feel that ending his life was the only solution. I read an interview with Williams recently, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Clearly, whatever was going on inside his head didn’t feel like a temporary problem.
The death of Robin Williams is terribly sad, and leaves a whole in this world. He was a comedic genius. His work spoke to all races, all genders, all generations. He could do it all. I just hope when people think about his suicide, they take it as a lesson that behind anyone’s smile or bright demeanor can be a lot of unknown pain and anguish. R.I.P. Robin Williams, you will truly be missed.


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