I wasn’t going to post this. I wasn’t even going to write it. The first half explains that viewpoint. The second half is where it gets good.
When I first heard of Robin Williams’ death I was bummed. That’s the best way I know to describe it. I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t emotional. I thought he was a great actor and, from what I had heard, a pretty amazing person so I was bummed. His movies were a huge part of my childhood and adult life and a death is always a bummer.
However, he, himself, was not a part of my life. I didn’t personally know the man. I didn’t ever have a conversation with him or see his face in person. To me he was a celebrity. A heroic celebrity, but a Hollywood celebrity nonetheless.
So I admit I got mad when I literally couldn’t find more than two posts on my Facebook feed that didn’t mention Robin Williams. I got mad when every single ‘trending’ phrase on twitter included his name, movies, or quotes.
It was difficult to explain why I was so mad. I thought about all of the people every single day who die, who no one tributes. I thought about peoples’ family members who die, and specifically how those people react. They might post an ‘RIP’ message and say they don’t really want to talk about it. So if all these people are so affected by this particular death, why can they so easily speak their minds? Have we gotten to the point in which celebrity deaths are more profound in our individual lives than the death of a loved one?
I viewed these people as selfish. In my mind, they were taking a horrific event to a family they don’t know and making it all about themselves.
They’ll be over it in a few days, after binge-watching every single Robin Williams movie (and posting constant real-time updates about what they’re watching and how they’re feeling). But right now they have to be one of the cool kids. Everyone else is sharing it, so they have to as well. Everyone else is devasted, so they’re traumatized. It’s about saying “Hey! Look at me! Even though you already saw it, I’m sharing this information. Even though you already know everyone’s upset, I’m really upset.”
That’s what I thought.
Obviously the news of Robin Williams’ death is covering the internet right now. It’s everywhere. So do you, after reading about it from at least 10 of your friends’ posts, have to share it, too? We know. We get it. Someone whose acting you love is no longer with us. Why is this such a big deal? Do you post, in detail, every happening that ever saddens you?
In all my time on social media, I have never seen something go so viral so fast.
And then I thought Damn, shouldn’t death be like, a personal, respected thing? If you died would you want the whole fucking internet sharing the story and talking about how frickin’ upset they are, even if they never met you? I understand he put himself in the public eye by being a celebrity — but so often we think their lives are fair game. They’re not. They deserve to have their own moments just like we do. Don’t you think death should maybe be one of those moments?
When I aired these thoughts Jack called me cold-hearted or something. So I just stopped thinking about it altogether.
But then my reader started going crazy. 1 New Post, 2 New Posts, 5 New Posts, 11 New Posts. My fellow bloggers were on a roll, especially for a Monday night.
At least half of them were about Robin Williams.
Since I like my blogger buddies more than real people I opened their posts and read them, trying to keep an open mind. But it didn’t work. I found a few I liked and shared them, because the message was deeper than death. I found a few that I thought were pointless which sent me on another rampage, complaining to Jack about how everyone is using this to promote themselves and What’s the point in even publishing something that says pretty much nothing other than “I’m so sad, RIP Robin Williams”?
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Steph, from We Don’t Chew Glass, approaches this topic from a view I haven’t seen from anyone else. She approaches it as herself, explaining her story, and how Robin Williams ties into it. She doesn’t make it all about him to get views. She doesn’t act like the end is coming because of his death. She expresses true sadness over his loss, for her own reasons. She’s not another ‘trend’.
I feel like a vandal even talking about Mr. Williams. His is not my pain to dissect. But. But. If he really suffered the way I suffer then we were comrades. Soldiers fighting the same battle.
After I read that I realized — I realized that she was using his assistance, not him, to find her own voice. And maybe, just maybe, that’s what so many of you were doing, too.
Maybe you were comrades in that he granted your wishes as a genie by taking you to a land far away from your troubles. Maybe you were comrades because you both wanted a parent as caring as Mrs. Doubtfire. Maybe you were comrades in your desire to invent. Maybe you were comrades in your love for laughter and kindness and snark.
If Robin Williams had any part in your life at all, maybe you were comrades. Or maybe his death has made you comrades, and that’s okay, too. Because it’s okay to let him help you find your voice. And I apologize for my small-minded previous thoughts.
I, like Steph, like The Bloggess, like Robin Williams, and like so many others, struggle with my mental health. I struggle with depression and addiction, among other things. Williams struggled with depression and addiction for many years, and his death has been ruled an apparent suicide.
I’m one of the lucky ones, I guess. I am not considered suicidal. I don’t think about it. I tried once in 5th grade because my boyfriend broke up with me, but I don’t think I really knew what killing myself meant at the time. I thought about it again when Jack and I were in a huge fight, shortly after Holden was born. But my mind snapped back. It told me that my son needed me. Depression doesn’t take over to the point where it tells me I’m so worthless I shouldn’t be here anymore.
But that doesn’t mean I’m safe. I know, at any moment, this monster can turn. Like it has done with so many other people, it can push my rational side away and feed me lies I have no choice but to believe. I’m thankful it hasn’t happened yet, but I’m not oblivious to the possibility.
Several people have asked “What did Robin Williams have to be so upset about?”
Depression doesn’t have to be caused by a specific event. Depression just is.
I was perfectly happy in my life when it hit. I was doing things and going places and thought I was the most amazing person ever. And then one day I couldn’t get out of bed. Thinking about doing anything sent me cowering under the covers. At first I tried to be productive, but when I failed it just made me feel worse so I stopped trying.
If I did manage to do something, my family made it very clear that since I was able to slither out from my bed once I should be able to do it all the time. They blamed my depression on me — my laziness, my medications, my sleep schedule. So as soon as I started to pull out of it, the confrontation of feeling like a fraud sent me right back in.
I don’t cry when I’m depressed. I don’t feel sad. I simply feel bad. I feel like the world is horrible and I am horrible and everyone around me is horrible. I feel worthless and hopeless. I feel like maybe if I stay in bed for one more day, tomorrow I’ll be recharged. But my battery remains dead.
I feel overwhelmed, most of all. Simple every-day tasks are impossible to complete. By the time I’m done changing my son’s diaper, I feel like I’ve just fought in every single war that’s ever taken place and I feel like my son is purposely making it harder for me and Jack is purposely doing something else at just that moment and everyone is out to get me. My depression doesn’t turn me against myself; it turns other people against me. Even if it’s all in my head.
So I understand. I understand how, after decades of fighting, it became too much for Williams. Depression is different for every person afflicted, but I can almost feel what he felt, in those last moments. Sometimes it’s just too hard to hold on.
I feel like a corrupt politician even having these thoughts, but I think they need to be said.
Mental illness can affect anyone, anywhere, at any time. It can ruin and take lives. Those of us who suffer with mental illnesses are not crazy, we’re not criminals, we’re not lying. We can be saved. But it takes a whole society — a whole country — to help save its own people.
Remember how every ‘trend’ on Twitter had to do with Robin Williams? In one hour, it had gone down to 6. Overnight, it went down to 4. Are people already forgetting?
Robin Williams’ death is a tragedy. But maybe now he can help us all find our voice.
Will you fight to save us?
Are you, or someone you know, having thoughts of suicide? Please, don’t give up. Help is available. Visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-8255.
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Do you struggle with depression or another form of mental illness? There are more of us than you know. Let’s rally together to get the help we deserve. Feel free to reach out to me.
How did you feel upon hearing the news? Did it affect you? Did you have any of the same thoughts I did? What is your fondest Robin Williams-related memory? Let me know!