Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Like most I was shocked to read (on Facebook of course) of Robin Williams's death yesterday. My heart sank as I read "apparent suicide".

I have a very physical reaction to the notion of suicide, understandably. There is an emptying nervousness that comes over my heart, my stomach. It's a feeling that aligns with nothing else. I'm sure there's a (large) handful of people out there that felt the same sinking that follows "apparent suicide". I thought that would lessen, but it doesn't.

Muscle memory.

A person to whom I'm very close lost a brother to suicide last year. I had never met him. I cried beyond what I felt was appropriate at this funeral for a person I didn't meet until he was in a coffin. I have cried from sadness, but these were tears of sadness and empathy, and somehow empathy required far more moisture. Perhaps it was because at this funeral I was not numb.

The media has been plastered in blogs, tweets, posts, updates, etc "covering", or at least acknowledging, Robin Williams death. Most are deeply saddened to hear that the face of absurd hilarity not only has died but was maybe not so silly on the inside. As we, merely an audience to his life in the media and not in daily life, come to the realization that money, fame, and an infectious sense of humor don't a reality of stability and normalcy make, it somehow maybe becomes more real to the general public (the wonderfully, enviable naive) that this depression stuff affects everyone!

And then entered the other voice.

By this afternoon a minority of blogs and "reports", if you can call them that, surfaced using a word I have a problem with.


Now, none of these blogs, at least the ones I noticed and read, were written by anyone with clinical or even theoretical experience in psychology or psychiatry. The problem with blogs is that anyone can have one! Take a moment to read this one by Matt Walsh before we go further. 

I sat through a number of SOS meetings before I decided I was strong enough to forego the Tuesday sessions. Sitting around a table listening to another broken soul share their emotional scars is humbling. I remember one meeting when a woman shared that one of the most horrible parts of surviving her brother's suicide (because it is indeed surviving) was when someone asked her how he died. It wasn't the method of his death that horrified her; it was using the word "suicide". I was a teary mess. 

The stigma that comes with suicide has no effect on the victim. But it brands the survivors in the most unfair ways. Had Robin Williams died of a heart attack, the world would be shocked and mournful nonetheless, but attach "apparent suicide" and now it is a sensation. The departed are neither here nor there to bear witness to the rash of speculation, criticism, and seething words of reckless condescension. Wherever they are, it matters not what some 27-year old know-it-all with 228,808 followers types. But for those of us still right here, still breathing, with a burning wound that dear old Matt can only write about, our pain compounds with a new weight added to the ever-mounting pressure upon our hearts - shame.

His family found him. They found him. Consider finding your loved one. Of all the terrible, deep, everlasting scars and soul crushing emotion that no one should ever feel, now they have to add shame. HE doesn't have to feel shame; THEY - his daughter, his two sons, his wife, his ex-wife of 20 years - THEY have to add shame to the onslaught of weight upon their heart. Not because he is suddenly lesser a father, a husband, or a friend, but because of the trail of voices whispering "dishonorable". 

The idea that a human being with a love for life, a healthy body, a sound mind, and years ahead of them can seemingly chose to just end it all is so far beyond our comprehension, so out of our scope of understanding, out of most of our perspectives, that we are forced into one of two conclusions: either they aren't of sound mind, because suicide doesn't make sense to a sound mind OR because it doesn't make sense, they must have simply been assholes that chose to bury their survivors in a sea of grief, paperwork, and social branding. Of course, science tells us one answer. ACTUAL assholes like Matt Walsh tell us another. 

The idea that a wealthy person battling mental illness should somehow have a more successful struggle with their depression is simply the most shallow line of thought possible.

So please, Matt Walsh or whoever else is typing smugly on their laptop with a cup of coffee and a muffin beside them as they spew their ignorance, please continue to tell Robin Williams's family and the thousands of other surviving loved ones of suicide victims that not only should they mourn their missing son, daughter, husband, wife, friend, co-worker, but they should also be angry and embarrassed that they chose to die, that they knowingly left us in an otherwise unimaginable state of grief. Please make us feel as bad as possible by citing none other that your own personal opinion cloaked in "truth". Please use your big, brave words to hurt the families; you're not making a point to the dead. Then, if you have time, make a trip down to your local Survivors of Suicide chapter and look those families in the eye and tell them their dearly (most suddenly) departed simply was too lazy and hateful to hang around. 

And then blog about it.

THAT is selfish.