The sudden passing of Robin Williams has affected me more than I have let on. The details of Robin’s death initially led to nightmares of my own suicide attempts, a deep sadness for the loss of such a brilliant man, and also the negativity surrounding his passing. I have found myself jump around from disbelief, hurt, deep sadness, and anger (not directed to Robin).
I’ve made a good effort at removing myself from the media, and social media. Tonight however, I got wrapped up in #robinwilliams on twitter. This has left me angry and saddened. I’m angry because of the horrendous treatment of Zelda Williams on twitter and instagram, I’m angry at the insensitive comments that Robin was selfish and a coward. I’m saddened that so many are grieving, and that so many do not understand the devastation of major depression and suicidal thoughts and completion.
I’m also grateful for the beautiful, educated, and loving posts – here are some of my favourites:
I know how Robin felt, I know the desperation and isolation, as do millions of others. If anything good could come out of Robin’s passing, I would hope that mental illness awareness increases – that people are aware of the signs of depression, that people realize it is NOT a weakness to reach out and ask for help, and that there is nothing to be ashamed of.
April this year I wrote an article for The Elephant Journal – here is the original draft – something I feel very passionately may help someone who is suicidal know that they are not alone.
It is Halloween, Sunday, October 31. From the moment I wake, I am consumed with a deep desire to end my existence. I lie in my bed and write a note to my family. Then I walk into the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror. The person looking back at me is skin and bones: her collarbone protrudes; she looks gaunt and has a deep sadness and hopelessness in her eyes. I cannot continue like this. I am causing everyone so much pain. I can no longer deal with this horror.
Then, in the mirror’s reflection, I notice the shower curtain … will it do the trick? I turn to the shower and take the curtain in my hands, twisting it so that it is tight. I pull on it a couple of times to ensure the rings will hold. I wrap the curtain tightly around my neck. I pull it tighter and tighter and then I begin to bend my knees so that the curtain will tighten even more around my neck. I am becoming light-headed, and I am having difficulty breathing. I let the rod hold more of my weight. One of the rings snaps. I can’t do it! I crumple to the ground in utter defeat, even more depressed and sobbing uncontrollably. “I don’t even have the strength to kill myself … I am so pathetic!”
After breakfast, I continue to be consumed by thoughts of death—ending it all and stopping the pain. I make my way to the top floor of the parking lot. A vehicle is backing up, so I pretend that I am looking at the view of the reservoir while I wait for them to leave. All clear, I climb up on top of the pillar. I stand here, pausing for a moment to look around and at the surface below. Briefly I think back to ten years before, when my ex-boyfriend leapt to his death from a fourteen-story building. If he could do it, so can I. I stand there, looking down at the concrete below. “This isn’t high enough. What if I survive? Then I will be mentally screwed up and physically battered and broken,” I say out loud, though no one is there to hear me.
For what seems forever, I continue to stand there, completely alone. The conflict raging inside me is devastating: yes, no, yes, no, yes, no … I can’t do this. I step down and lie on the concrete, once again feeling thoroughly defeated.
“I am pathetic, a waste of fucking skin, a waste of existence,” I yell out and continue to lie on the concrete, a blubbering mess. Eventually, I go back to the ward and lie on my bed, sobbing. Totally alone, desperate and hopeless, all I want to do is die, but I can’t do it.
“You are so pathetic!” I say out loud, but no one is around, no one hears me; it’s just me, all by myself.
I am brutally aware of my frailty, how desperate I have become, and the delicate thread between life and death. I disappear for hours on end around the hospital grounds, in spite of the fact I am supposed to be gone for only one hour at a time. Yet no one seems to notice my lengthy absences. No one is aware, because I choose to be alone. I choose not to speak with a nurse, and I choose to be consumed by ending my life. Quite frankly, I have no idea why. All I know is that I want to die.”
My God, it strikes me it’s only lunchtime. This morning does not want to end. As the minutes tick by, each one is filled with emptiness and desperation, loneliness and sadness, and despair and grief. I make an appearance at lunch, and then once again disappear quickly onto the hospital grounds. This time, though, I am on a mission—a mission to find something sharp. I wander way off the grounds and stumble across a pile of broken beer bottles. I search through them and find the sharpest shards, picking several, just in case.
It is gray and cold. The sky is filled with dark, stormy clouds. Lifeless trees surround me as I sit by the reservoir, shards of glass in hand. Time crawls, feeling like forever, as I sit numb, empty, and entirely alone.
“Well, this is it. It’s time,” I say out loud, holding glass in my right hand. “God, I am sorry. I just can’t keep going on. If you love me, you will help me right now,” I say, looking into the sky.
I try to break skin. The glass is not sharp enough! Once again, I begin to cry. Then something sweeps over me. “You fucking idiot! Just press harder! How difficult can it be?” The frustration and anger I feel for myself are building. I apply greater pressure and draw blood. As I see the blood, I am surprised that I feel nothing, no pain. I am numb. This will be easy, I think to myself.
Like a whisper in the wind, I hear something above me. Startled, I look up to see two female sparrows perched on a branch right above me. I stop cutting and lie back on the cold, rocky ground. I lie there just looking at them, and it seems as though these two little birds are looking right back at me with inquisitiveness. A flutter in my heart makes me stop and listen. Suddenly, I feel a glimmer of hope, light, and love. And then, in the faces of these sweet birds, I see the faces of my two beautiful daughters smiling down on me with unconditional love.
In this breathtaking moment, the anger and frustration that were just present have been replaced by something entirely different. Now tears are flowing freely, and yet they are a different type of tears. I feel warmth within my heart, warmth that feels foreign and still, somehow familiar.
“Are you here to answer my prayers?” I ask the sparrows. As I lie here, I understand the message. These sparrows, representing my daughters, are my angels. I choose to believe that I have been given a gift. I decide here and now that I want to live.
What I Know Now That I Didn’t Know Then
- There is no shame in asking for help: Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, in fact it truly is a sign of strength to be vulnerable enough to say “I need help.” Be open and willing to receive the help you need.
- Help is a phone call away: All across the world there are caring people willing and able to listen, and be there. 24-hour crisis lines are there for you, and are confidential. Find the closest one to you here.
- You are not alone: There are 350 million people across the world impacted by depression. You may feel so alone right now, completely isolated, helpless, and withdrawn. Rest assured – there are many people who understand the pain you are going through, they know the darkness, and pain. Many have overcome the darkness, to live life fully again, and you can too.
- You are loved: You may feel that you are a burden to those you love. You may think everyone is better off without you. In fact, if you were gone – the pain they would endure would be forever. The people who matter most in your life – love you deeply. There are many people who love you, yet some – may not know how to show you that love right now. Remember – you are loved.
- Breathe, relax, this too shall pass: Even though it may not feel like it right now, please know that this unimaginable pain you are feeling will pass. In this moment right now, take a deep breath – breathe in peacefulness, and breathe out with a loud exhale all your worry and stress. Repeat as often as necessary.
I am proud of you, you thought this would never end, that life is unfair, the pain will never stop, and that nobody cared. Yet through this you courageously stepped through your healing journey – even though it wasn’t easy. You displayed resilience, courage, determination, faith, and persistence. After nine years of living with major depressive episodes several times a year, you will live depression free – enjoying life to its fullest, with peaceful contentment. I see you. I hear you. I am proud of you. I love you.
For now I will take Zelda Williams words to heart, and remember him for the joy he brought to this world. I will also honour the emotions that come up for me with compassion, patience and love. I hope and pray his family and close friends are given every opportunity to grieve in private – at their own pace.
If you are in crisis, or wish to learn more – there are so many valuable resources available to you – here are some FREE resources