I want to start a dialogue about mental illness. As someone who has dealt with mental health issues for a better part of their life all of this ‘discussion’ revolving around Robin Williams death is a bit frustrating. Almost all of the people who are talking about it are people who have never had life long depression, or who have had one anxiety attack in their life and have become ‘experts’ over night on the topic.
Ive always known that there was something missing. I do remember being happy as a child, but it was always a wary happiness. I did not come from a family that abused me, nothing traumatic happened to me, for all intent and purpose I have no ‘reason’ to have depression. It is just the way that I am wired. When I turned 12 my grandmother passed away and it acted as a trigger to send me into 7 years of inconsolable depression. My best friend (ten years later) still teases me that I owe him a new wardrobe because I bleached all of his black tshirts with my tears (#epicgothtears). I would have commit suicide. But I chose not to.
People who are accusing Robin Williams of being selfish have a very limited view of mental health issues, or have never come in contact with people who are continually plagued by depression. He spent 63 years choosing life. He spent 63 years being selfless. He gave us so many reasons to laugh while he was plagued by an emptiness that so many people cant even begin to comprehend. If he decided to end his life, we have no right to even start judging him. The argument that he didn’t have choice because he had depression is also upsetting. Sometimes after you have tried everything else (medication, self medication, escapism, therapy) it becomes the only choice you can make after deciding for so long to live for other people. And trust me there is nothing emptier than living for other people when you can’t even be motivated to live for yourself. This isn’t to say that he didn’t love his children or partner, but sometimes it just isn’t enough. You can be filled with love for other people but there is still a hole in an integral space in your heart.
There are still days that I chose to be functional over debilitated by empitness, but most days I no longer need to think about it. Most days are better than others. Any one who knows me will tell you that I always have a hesitant reaction to any situation. People talking to me, it takes me several minutes to register which emotion I should display for other people. There are even people who I have stopped playing this game with. I just say words and they lack emotion because it is less stressful on my heart to be me. To be void. To exist in the way that makes me comfortable, and I am lucky to have people who accept that sometimes I will just be this way.
Did you ever look at Robins face? His smile always seemed hesitant, or like it was in on a secret that we would never understand. When my parents told me that he had a drug/alcohol problem when I was a child, it didnt make me want to avoid his comedy but instead I felt empathy for him in the way that you can identify with that person.
The Academy’s tweet “Genie you are free” has come under fire by Suicide Prevention groups. When someone is suffering through cancer or another terminal illness we say sweet things like this. Robin Williams depression was obviously all consuming enough to be terminal so why shouldnt we have some compassion about it. That tweet doesn’t Romanticise suicide but it does allow us for a moment a glimpse of what depression can feel like, and my depression has never felt romantic so I cant imagine anyone else’s feels that way.
I am currently dating someone who has actively chosen life over suicide. I know every morning when I wake up that he could change his mind in the middle of the night and I will walk to his house to find police. Choosing life isn’t just that easy. It is an active choice every morning when you wake up. It is an active choice at every intersection in traffic. It is an active choice every time you go out drinking with friends. It is constantly being aware of your intentions. It isnt an easy thing. I am proud of my boyfriend for being an active force in his own life. I am proud that he chooses to talk to me about the void, that he chooses to confront it. And if there is ever a morning where I wake up to a phone call that I do not want to get regarding him, I will be proud that he tried. I will not be mad at him. I will not consider him selfish or weak. He tried. If you have never had to try to want to live you have no right to call someone weak or selfish.