Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Death of Robin Williams and My Thoughts on Suicide.

There was a time when I had very little sympathy for suicide. It seemed to me like a cop-out, a giving up that was more about hurting those left behind or a way to get attention. I was detached from the experience, had no real exposure to depression and was pretty full of myself (being in the young and invincible stage of life). I remember a test in High School sociology class where the likelihood of suicide was 'measured.' I was in the group that wouldn't kill themselves because they didn't want to deprive the world of their presence. I thought that was pretty accurate.

Over time my understanding of suicide changed so that I could see how depression was a chemical imbalance that could sometimes be corrected with medicine. And sometimes it could not. And sometimes medicines that worked in the past would stop working and while looking for a new fix the depression would wreck a person's life. I also saw research that concluded that many suicides were impulsive and if the impulse could be interrupted then the attempt could be put off for quite a while; sometimes permanently but not always. The depression was still there; I'm not saying there is some miracle intervention.

But still I had little connection to what could drive a person to seriously consider acting in this way.

And then recently I went through a very difficult time. My entire life seemed to fall apart. I had what I call a mini nervous breakdown. My marriage was ending, my job was ending, my likelihood to continue working in my field seemed nil, the amount of time and money I had spent getting to this point was overwhelming, my skills in my previous profession had aged to the point where I couldn't get a job there either. I say my marriage was ending but it was a lot more than that. I had had one marriage end before and it didn't affect me this badly. I won't go into details here but this was the most painful time of my entire life.

I started walking, daily if possible, while listening to loud techno music. It seemed to help but not always. Sometimes my mind was a record that was skipping; running over the same things, the same thoughts 33 times a minute.

And on one of these walks, late at night, I saw it. Lots of oncoming traffic and the opportunity to step out in front of it. I watched it, saw what it was and knew. I knew about Spalding Grey. I knew about Kurt Cobain. I knew about David Foster Wallace. And I knew that if I could not resist this urge I would join them.

I did. I made it past. I walked that same stretch of road and watched similar traffic many times and thought about how close I came.

And so I hear about Robin Williams and I'm sad but I'm not judgmental. But I do remember a younger me that would have been. Reading recent comments from Henry Rollins brought me back to remembering a mindset I used to have.

I don't have an answer.


Blogger Mark Alfred said...

From about 2003-2008 I passed through (and out again!)a similarly diagnosed depression, complete with several different medications. The best advice is to HANG ON because there WILL BE something worthwhile to live for, again. If somebody hasn't fervently wished their life would end (as I did), they can't really do anything but sympathize with those of us who have been "depressed." It's too bad that Robin Williams either didn't have somebody to ask him to hang on -- simply hang on -- or if they said it, he didn't listen to them. Life can get better again, if you do not give up.

9/18/2014 7:26 PM  

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