I just came off a river trip where there was no electricity, wifi, or cell service. I wish I’d spent a few more days out there and returned when the world had moved on to some other event to devour. The first news I received was the passing of Robin Williams. Slowly easing back into the social media and 24 hour news cycle world, I’ve watched the kind posts of those hoping to make some small difference in this vicious world and the vicious comments of those who have no kindness.
I debated adding my little words to the maelstrom at all. The topic of depression and suicide is my wheelhouse, if this blog has one at all, but there is already plenty of noise right now. It was, as is often the case, Fox “News” that prompted me. The network has variously called Robin Williams “selfish” and “cowardly.”
He wasn’t. His act wasn’t. I don’t know his suffering. I only know mine. I can say with some confidence that he was courageous. He endured pain and suffering until he could endure no more. The key word is “endure.”
Last night my aunt and I were watching the endless news cycle, and a talking head posed the question, “why do some people commit suicide and some don’t?” I immediately answered, “endurance.” If you meet someone who has struggled with depression for years and years, they are the one you want to be lost in the desert with. They can endure some shit.
It has been two years since my last attempt to kill myself. After my answer last night, my aunt cautiously asked if I still thought about suicide. I weighed my response because I know I am an endless source of concern for those who care about me. Finally, I gave the honest answer. There is not a day that passes that I do not think about being dead. I differentiate between “being dead” and actively plotting to facilitate my demise. I have not had the latter thoughts in a long time…well, two years any way.
To put this in context, I am in a good place right now. I have an amazing woman who loves me in spite of me. If not peace, I have at least reached an uneasy détente with the disease and losses that haunt me. I have sold my novel. I have a pretty awesome garden and many awesome friends. Amid all this, yes every day I think about being dead at some point…just a quiet cease of existence. Circumstances are irrelevant. Robin Williams was blessed in many ways. The demons of depression don’t care.
To those not calloused and cruel, who are shocked and saddened by the loss of a genius, I will reiterate a point I’ve made many times in my little thought vomit. Mental illness is rampant and doesn’t go away. Next week, when everyone has moved on with their lives and there are no more flowers being left next to a star on a Hollywood sidewalk, people will still suffer and many will take their lives. Pick a day. Next Tuesday, about 80 people will succeed in killing themselves. Another 400 will unsuccessfully try. The same thing will happen on Wednesday…and Thursday.
None of them are cowards. None of them are selfish. They have run out of endurance. You know at least one of these people. Perhaps you can lift them up when they can metaphorically and literally no longer stand on their own.
Read this: Know the signs
And this: What not to say