Robin Williams is dead. Yeah, this is a little uncomfortable.
What comes next isn’t politically correct, it’s not a tribute. It’s thoughts on mental disorder and suicide. If that makes anyone uncomfortable, please don’t read. These are not platitudes or truisms. These are discomforting opinions.
Originally, I wasn’t going to say anything on the subject. Partially because I feel it isn’t my place, but also because, in all honesty, I feel nothing. I don’t care one way or another. He’d dead. D. E. A. D. Not “passed on.” Not “in a better place.” Dead. Any no sugar coating phrasing will make it any better or worse. Really, most of this response is that I just don’t have the emotional depth or energy to care about someone I’ve never met. I just don’t. I’ve got enough for my family and my friends.
Does it suck? Not really, not so much. Does it make people uncomfortable that I say I feel nothing. Absolutely. However, coating eulogies in false emotions is also unfair to the memory of whomever died. (I had the same reaction to Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death, as well as Heath Ledgers)
But, that’s not what I wanted to say. Those are just facts. This is about what—supposedly—lead to his death. Mental disorders and emotional instability. I have bipolar one. I’ve said that before. Honesty is the best policy. And, while having this condition hardly makes my voice unique, I think it does offer some perspective.
I have two main thoughts on suicide:
- People have criticized Robin Williams suicide—indeed, suicide in general—as selfish. That’s true enough. But, there’s something overlooked and vastly ironic about a culture that emphasizes the nature of personal gain only to criticize others for selfish choices. That’s all we’re responsible for. The selfish choices. We do everything to make ourselves feel better. Whatever takes away the pain. Who gives a damn about the survivors? The ones who have to live with the suicide? The fact that they can argue that it’s selfish to kill oneself is, ultimately, selfish too. That’s worth considering isn’t it? The ironic nature of deriding someone for a selfish act because you—YOU!—don’t like the consequences. I’m not advocating suicide, I just think that idea is worth point out for those who want actually think about the matter.
- In the end, that doesn’t matter. When you’re low, when the act of ending your life is the only option that remains even unconscionable, reason doesn’t tend to make much of a dent. No one really cares. We are, as a society—possibly species—so adverse to the idea of paying attention to someone closely enough that you would actually do anything about it. Looking back, the signs are clearly there, in his performances and history of abuse. But then we get to to what? Accept that he’s gotten treatment and is better because he says he has? No one ever really presses. Good question: Should you? Everyone gets to make choices and everyone’s got to live with everyone else’s choices. We’re given that right.
I say this with the knowledge and experience of someone who has gone through that period and known that kind of pain. I’m not asking for anyone’s approval on these opinions, just acknowledge that this blanket reaction to immediate say feel emotion recoil and empathy isn’t necessarily earned or sincere.
Why does it matter? Because Robin Williams was a great actor. He had comedy, he had drama. Except, the people who can truly reach those depths tend to have some serious emotional issues. Creativity, is not a blessing. Often, the emotional depth that writers and actors mine comes from a darker place. How often have those with true gifts been defined by their emotional turmoil?
That list goes on. We don’t get to be fans of these works without some appreciation of the heart and soul that goes into forging them. Doing so is disservice to the truth behind the work that touches us.
Creativity doesn’t come from nothing. It comes from the actor—or in my case, the writer—from some personal experience or deep damage. The rage my characters feel, the lose, the love, these are memories that mean something to me, emotions that I have access to because I’ve experienced them so viscerally. The connection that we build through those words and actions can’t just be a truism or it means nothing and the investment we’ve asked of our readers means an act in futility.
I say this, not asking for people to agree with me. Just to understand the tole that imparting these stories and words costs. These ideas aren’t free, the muse doesn’t give her blessing for nothing. It’s an exchange. Often, the deeper that talent, the worse off the person is.
That’s enough of the public service announcement that’s going to get me criticism from a lot of corners. Probably many that I know. It’s certainly a conversation worth having.