Writing this on 12th August, I'm feeling shocked and saddened by the news of Robin Williams' death, along with the rest of the world. You can tangibly feel that the world has lost someone special and is at a loss with their absence. For someone as magical, charismatic, entertaining, intelligent and wonderful as Robin Williams to have taken their own life is just such an enormous tragedy, it's hard to contemplate. At the second I heard of his death I assumed it was by natural cause - heart attack, maybe, but then to hear the word suicide was such a shock. It saddens me to think that now, when we watch his work, it will be tainted... in the back of your mind you won't be able to help but to think of how his life has ended. But even through the darkness, his light will shine on.
But this is not just about celebrities. It's so very sad, to the core, to think of when people are in that darkest of dark dark place and cannot see a way out, cannot see a light, cannot see a point, can only see struggle, do not have the fight, do not have the energy to even want to ask for help, don't want to ask for help because don't want help, because what can anyone do, it's all too hard.
I want to address something candidly, and it's the subject of labeling suicide victims. You know, I was about to write "it's sad that he was not able to reach out to someone for help". It is very easy for us to sit here and say that, and ask how someone in that situation, in that place, could not reach out for help. It's easy for us to say "no matter how dark your place was, no matter how low you are, we could and we would nurse you out of that place, don't be ashamed." But that is sadly missing the point. Also missing the point is when people say that suicide is selfish and cowardly, and it saddens me when I hear this. [Yes and no: I am glad you don't have the perspective, but I wish you could be more open minded.] It is easy for us to say that, if we are not in that place. But you cannot know another person's place. And you cannot, you cannot, be presumptuous to say that they are being selfish, as if to say that they were not a caring person, a person who loved and respected their family. You are saying they are selfish because they could do this to their family. Some people who are in that dark place of utter despair may have a shred, an atom of strength, that they can hold onto, and that atom of strength might be their family, more specifically, that they can't put their family through pain. They might be able to make a decision to go on struggling, so that their family doesn't suffer. Suicide is not cowardly, I want to say that. People assume that someone who has taken their life has done it because they want an easy way out. To make that assumption is to not acknowledge the difference and diversity of human experiences. Understand that your experience and your mind is not the same as everyone else's, and even though it is hard for most of us to contemplate that place where people feel the only way to survive is suicide, it's a thing; it just might be a place beyond your understanding.
I don't know what causes some people to have these experiences and not others. I don't know whether it is something we are all collectively doing wrong - are we taking on too much, is there too much pressure, is is something we're consuming? Or is it something we are born with? A mix of things, I think. But mostly, personally I think that people are born with brains that are wired differently, and to a large extent we are each limited in the way that we see the world and can deal with our lives. Do you know what, I have been to a dark and sad place before, a couple of times, and I do not say this flippantly or for attention... no one, no one, wants that kind of attention or to be associated with that kind of weakness. It is in no way a badge of honour or an easy thing to say. No one wants to be in that situation. I also say it with knowledge that lots of others have been in the same situation and they're people just like you and me and you might never guess. That is why I can understand that it is not as simple to say "why didn't they ask for help." If all you see is darkness, and all you see stretching before you for the rest of time is darkness and repeated struggle and heartache, relentless, with no break, you don't want to be saved from that. You are not thinking "If I tell someone and ask for help things will get better". Things being better isn't in your realm of possibilities. And talking to someone is not an option because you don't have the energy to talk about it. Not an iota. It's not laziness, it's that you physically and mentally don't posses the energy. You've shut down. You might just want to lie on the floor and disappear into the ground. Everything is too much. It all hurts. It hurts to speak. It's a struggle to think. That is why you cannot possibly judge someone else's experiences or choices. You do not understand what they are experiencing in their mind, and it is not within their control.
If you are lucky, you will have a shred of something that pulls you out of your darkness, and that shred of a morsel might be your family. Not in the way of reaching out to them, because that attention might be too much for you to bear, because what you're wanting is a cocoon in the middle of nowhere; the last thing you are wanting is counselling and questions. But family in the sense that, you don't want to hurt them. But you cannot judge someone, you cannot judge someone as selfish and cowardly, who doesn't have the strength to cling onto that small lifeline. Because maybe in their experience, that shred of a lifeline - they couldn't see it - I don't know, I can't say, none of us can, because we don't know. You can't know what they went through. How can you possibly label someone a coward, when they are in such despair, that they cannot see a way. No one chooses to be in that place.
It is immeasurably heartbreaking to think of what was going on in the mind of any human who takes their own life. I really do believe that having strong networks, making sure your friends, family and community know they are loved and supported can make a difference. When something like this happens, it makes you want to broadcast to everyone you know: there is nothing we can't beat... you don't have to speak, but if you need to lie in a cocoon with the covers over your head, not speaking, not talking about it... but with someone watching over you, that's okay, just say the word. There are rainbows beyond the darkness, but it's okay if you can't see them right now." You know what... sometimes I think we pass it off too easily when people call for help. Someone in that situation is rock bottom, and it would have taken every iota of strength and their last shred of dignity to even mention, quietly, that they were feeling that way. A call for help from someone who is depressed or suicidal will not be loud and booming. So don't take it lightly just because they say it quietly.
Sometimes it's too late. But again, we can't understand the extent of the experience. So all that is left to say is thank you, and rest in peace.
Russell Brand on Robin Williams
Russell Brand on Robin Williams