Only a short time since the news hit that Robin Williams is dead, and quite likely by his own hand, and the shame-blame games have begun.
He committed the ultimate sin.
And that's utter bullshit. Suicide is not undertaken because someone is weak or selfish or flipping off God and "sinning." Suicide is the last hope far too many people have for ending pain.
Many, many years ago, a very gentle soul known online as Boston Bill, someone to whom I had spoken and had gotten good advice over the chronic physical pain that had consumed my life, became one of Jack Kevorkian's last patients. He made a conscious, deliberate decision to end his life because the only thing he could see ahead of him was unrelenting, unforgiving pain. Pain that narcotics couldn't even touch, even if his doctors would have given them to him.
He was not weak; he had endured more than most could ever fathom. He wasn't selfish; he spent hours upon hours helping others, even when he couldn't help himself. He didn't commit some grievous sin; God's a better man than you, you know. If anyone understood, He did.
The only thing to blame for Bill's choice was the overwhelming pain that had grabbed hold of him and refused to let go. He couldn't take it anymore, so he chose his own way out.
Many of you remember Hoss, that wonderful, spirited, incredible soul who spearheaded Oregon's Right to Die efforts and chose assisted suicide in the end. He knew when his time was done and he wanted to go out on his own terms. I still miss him. I will always miss him.
I have known far too many people, most of them online, a few in person, who saw no other way out. Unlike Bill and Hoss, who left for reasons that are easy to touch upon and understand, most of them suffered from depression. It varied in degrees from day to day or week to week, but the undercurrent was always there for them. It was always the shadow in the hallway, one that could jump out and strangle them at any time.
No one chooses to live that way. There's little to be gained in blaming someone for their depression and so much damage to be wrought.
Blaming someone for having depression is like blaming someone for having diabetes. Blaming someone for needing medication to control it is like blaming a diabetic for needing insulin. We don't choose the diseases that invade us, and no one should have to defend the medications that control them.
And yet, that's what happens.
The cold hard truth of it, too, is that even when you understand that on a very fundamental level, it doesn't mean you're going to be any good at dealing with someone who has depression. Chances are, you're not. It's not because you're thoughtless or dismissive; you just don't know the right things to do or say. Listening doesn't seem like enough, so you spout off these platitudes that you've heard online or on TV, not realizing that not only are you not helping, you're hurting.
Chances are, too, you don't realize that what you're seeing is depression.
I learned a long, long time ago: I am not the person to whom someone struggling mentally or emotionally should turn. It's not because I don't care or want to brush it off, it's because I am not good in any situation in which I don't have the time to self-edit. I go quiet while I'm thinking; I'm panicking because I don't know if what tumbles out of my mouth will be the right thing or something monumentally stupid that will make things worse. Quiet is often interpreted as not caring. And that helps no one.
I suspect most people are a lot like me; they might want to have the coping mechanisms that a friend with depression needs, but want those tools does not equate having them.
Depression is a stone cold, black-hearted, mean little bitch.
If you suffer from depression, you already know that more friends than not are a lot like I am, and the things they say not only don't help, it often hurts. It doesn't help that you know it's not intentional; you're backed into a corner where nothing is really helping. Those shadows get darker, thicker, and it's just so hard to see anything where the light is, and it's so incredibly fatiguing to keep trying.
But I'm begging you: reach out.
Find those who DO know what to do, and who know the right words and the order in which they should tumble out of one's mouth.
It might not be a friend--it probably won't be a friend, because we're up so close that we can't see the bigger picture, not really-- but try to reach through that thick molasses of fog, the one that makes your arms feel like they weigh a ton and a half, and pick up the phone.
Check out the International Suicide Prevention Wiki. Bookmark it. And please don't be afraid to use it.
In the U.S., if you don't want to wade through the Wiki, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They also have a website. http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Believe me, this world is so much better with you in it than not--more platitudes you don't need, I know--and there are people who have been trained, who know how to help you cope, and will never, not ever blame you. It's not your fault, no more than it's my fault for having a bad back or for having had that tumor.
Shit happens, and it feels like it splatters really good people the most; your friends might want to be the ones to clean you up and be some magical fairy like ray of sunshine in your life, but the reality is that they will unintentionally say some really stupid things. So please, reach out. Call one of those numbers.
I don't want you to die. I desperately, truly do not want you to die.
And if you're one of those people who think depression is weakness, selfishness, and something that a good attitude check will fix...fark you.
Depression is a disease. Blame doesn't help and can only make things worse.
So don't be a dick. Try being understanding and compassionate. It might not help, but it at least won't hurt.
...and I'm rambling because I honestly don't know how to end this, because all I really want is for the people I love, the people I care about, the people I know only peripherally, and the people I don't know at all to be okay.
Bookmark those sites.
Call if you need to.
It's okay to call.