Yohannon (yohannon) wrote,

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On Robin.

After some thought, I've decided to place this behind a cut. I know too many people who might be triggered (if they haven't been already) by yet more talk about suicide and depression, but I don't want to mark this private. Too many people are afraid to even admit a lot of this, but if Robin's death has done anything, it's helped a lot of us come out of the closet.

Yeah, it's taken a few days.

I don't know why Robin Williams suicide was such a shock. I knew the man was going to do some injury to himself one day -- we should be glad it wasn't his self-destructive behavior in the 70's that did it, or we'd be hearing about how his death is a reason that the drug war is really good idea, really it is, and in a few more decades will have it licked for SURE... probably.

But I am someone who suffers from chronic depression himself, and have seen both the capricious; my friend Tony who killed himself his senior year in college in '83; to the well thought out and reasoned; Heather Macallister, former ring leader of Big Burlesque and the Fat Bottom Review, who retired to Oregon to take advantage of their lax "self-euthanasia" laws when her cancer went to end-stage.

Robin once intoned that "suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem" -- It could be argued that Tony's problems, as a healthy white male in his early 20's, fit that definition. However, Heather was looking for a solution to an inevitable -- and equally permanent -- problem. Her death could be long, drawn out, painful, dehumanizing, and (even with DNR orders in place) insanely expensive. Taking control starts to look more and more better under the right circumstances.

Today the first hints at the "reason" so many people are grasping for reared its head; Robin had Parkinson's. Early, but it's not curable, only manageable. Kim was of mixed opinion on the news. As she put it, "people are finally having the honest discussion about mental illness and depression that needs to happen".

She's sadly correct. Too many people will grasp at that straw. Rather than confront the fact that depression is an ILLNESS (and NOT a failure of will) people will use the specter of a long, drawn out illness as the basis for why Robin chose a particularly painful way to die.

I admit that was one of my first coherent thoughts (the first thoughts are largely untranslatable and inexplicable feelings of loss); "Why asphyxiation?! There are so many better ways to leave the mortal coil..."

Of course, that misses an important point; Whereas Heather was sane and taking a fairly coherent strategy to seize control of what was the epitome of the total LACK of same, Robin (and so many others) are being tormented by the demonic cliches. Yes, there are painless ways to die, for the most part. But if you are not at immediate risk of death and your suicide is driven by depression, the sad fact is that I can understand what may have been driving that particular choice, because I've had that conversation with myself.

Drugs? "Too easy. I don't deserve an easy death."

Slit wrists? "Again, easier than most ways to go... and then there's the MESS. The people I love don't deserve that!"

[This second is particularly poignant if the tale of the cuts on his wrists turns out to be true -- I can imagine starting to slice, and then realizing that it would make clean-up a horror show straight from Dexter.]

Suffocation... the "head in the [gas!!] oven", running the car in the garage, plastic bags, and the noose are all pretty much in this category. The approach Robin took even made it easy for his body to be removed, hanging from the closet door, belt wedged in the top. Like taking out the dry cleaning.

Yes, you likely are reading those words with some horror and disgust. Did I just equate a gentle soul who lived his life well, brought joy to so many, and was so accomplished in so many ways... with a bag of Goodwill (hunting?) cast-offs?

No. My point is that's what we, as the depressed can see of ourselves when we're in that pit. I mentioned "loved ones" -- a big reaction to suicide is how horrible that person must have been to do that to the people who really care, their parents, their children.

That's the saddest part of all; In the end, I suspect that's ALL he could think of. In the end, as I nearly have concluded in my own right, we look at all the good we do, all the kindness that we are... and decide that does not outweigh the burden of our very existence upon those very people. That's the sickness talking. It's real to us.

There's something I try to explain to people about "cheering me up" -- telling me something isn't real only makes me more depressed, because from our perspective (paging Doctor Descartes) it's the only thing that feels real. Taking that away is almost as bad as it never going away on its own. And in many respects, it doesn't go away. Ever.

I am terrified that this will trigger a depressive episode in myself. I'm even more frightened that someone I love will be triggered by this. 2011 was not that long ago, but that long depressive episode seems both impossibly distant and bizarre from the outside, and close and real and HERE. Like I could step to the right, and become that person again. Step to the left... and I'm still that person, being dragged down by the weights that no one else can see, nor can they truly grok.

Unless you were Robin. Unless you know about depression.

The more intelligent you are, the worse it gets (perhaps ignorance really IS bliss!). A fast mind can construct dozens of disaster scenarios, even as someone is trying to tell you one scenario of a brighter possibility. A smidge of hope can be obliterated by a thousand fears in fairly short order.

Perhaps there's the root of why this has hit me so hard. I remember Robin's early career. I worse out his first comedy album even as he started Mork and Mindy. I didn't just like the man, I RESPECTED him, and his talents. I envied him and his quick mind, a wit so sharp it was monofilament. And yet... not mean. Not really.

If a man who did so much for so many, and was so beloved could succumb... what fucking chance do the rest of us do?

The answer is obvious; The same chance as anyone else who is aware of themselves.

I find myself retreating into terrible, HORRIBLE humor. As in #TooSoon #NeverTooSoon levels of just WRONGNESS. Like:

Police have revealed that Robin Williams was found in a Nanoose nanoose.

I've known forever that my twisted sense of humor was a coping strategy, and that sliver of red rope ascending toward the merest glimmer of hope. I've repressed it until now because I have, despite all of my other shortcomings and mental short circuits, developed a sense of propriety at long last.

But it's not greater than my sense of self preservation. In that part of me that hopes that faith is at least a little bit right, I want to believe that Robin can totally appreciate that -- especially as the man who once said:

"You know what Marvin Gaye's father said to him right before he died, right? 'Hey son, come into the bedroom, I've got a 45 I want you to hear.'"

No, I'm not going to explain the three bits of that joke that pretty much no Millennial will get, because that would just depress me even further.

And I really, really need to get out of that closet. That small, dark hiding place that, oddly enough, offers no real security or salvation. Too many people want us to stay there, because this stuff is scary and incomprehensible.

At least they have the choice to not confront it. I never had that luxury.
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