Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Robin Williams and Why People are Making Ignorant Comments

I've spent the last two days avoiding Facebook except for random postings from my phone.  Had to walk away Monday night after reading too many well meaning but ignorant comments about Robin Williams' suicide.  I've regrouped now.  And even though you probably don't need my two cents worth too, I am going to write it out.  You don't have to read it.  I won't be popular.

You are all having the wrong discussion.  It isn't about the suicide itself.  It's about depression.  Deep deep depression.  Chronic depression or a bi-polar depression phase.  It's not about being selfish.  Suicidal people actually believe it would be better for everyone around them if they were no longer the burden they perceive themselves to be.  It isn't about being able to point at an event or a situation and say, "that is what is making me sad."  It's about something you can't point at.  Something you can't touch.

You don't cry.  You don't sob.  You can't.  Tears don't wash it out.  If you are crying you've been tipped.  Tipped over.  Crying lets a little bit out.  Buys you a little time.  But not really.  If people see you cry, they'll know something is wrong.  You can tell them the little thing that just tipped you.  But they can't know about anything else.  About the deep dark place that you are stuck in.  No idea why you are here.

It is not about being a coward. Do you know how much courage it takes to get out of bed every day?  It is about being sick.  A sick you can't tell people about.  It makes you vulnerable.  Mental illness.  Everyone just sees "mental".  Not the illness part.  You aren't mental.  You go to work every day.  You show up when you are supposed to.  You put your kids on the bus this morning.  You made dinner.  You put one foot in front of the other.  How bad can you really be?  But it is a sick that you can't even explain.  Because when you are in it you often don't realize how deep you are falling.  You have to decide to admit you can't fix this on your own.  You have to make this decision at a time when you can't really make a decision to save your life.  But you have to decide to get help. You have to to save your life.

But you can't tell your parents.  What can they do?  They already worry about you.  You can't tell your friends.  They know you are "crazy" in the fun sort of way.  What if they knew that you really are crazy?  Would they still be your friend?  So you just don't call them for a while.  You pick fights and end friendships over something silly.  That way you don't have to lose them because they found out your secret.  You may even try to "give it all to God."  But the voices in your head, the rationality that you don't realize isn't rational won't let you.  You can't really even tell your Doctor.  As soon as they write that depression or bi-polar diagnosis in your chart, you lose everything.  Everyone will know.  Insurance will red-flag you.  It costs more to treat a diabetic in their lifetime than it will cost to treat you and get you on medication that will work well long term.  But they limit mental illness coverage.  Because, you know.  It is a different kind of sick.  A different kind of illness.    

Depression doesn't go away just because you talk about it. You can't "talk it out."  It doesn't go away when you try to ignore it.  It isn't something you can just "get over" or "get through."  It isn't something you can really ever understand.  Even when it is you that it is happening to.  

Suicide?  How can you even think about that?  It isn't rational.  You know.  It sure seems like an option though.  Maybe your only option.

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn't do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”   ― David Foster Wallace

If you have never been there you truly never imagine what it might feel like. I hope you never know what it feels like.  But someone near to you does.  Someone you care about.  They can't reach out though.  They can't tell you.  They can't tell anyone.  You have to watch out for it.  And when they tell you everything is OK. and "Don't worry, I'll be fine."  They are lying.  Keep a closer eye on them.  Ask around.  If more than a few of you are worried.  It is probably not OK.  It probably needs attention.  Help them.  They can't help themselves.

Get them to a Dr.  Call and make the appointment if you have to.  Take them to the Dr.  They will tell  you they will go on their own.  They won't.  They will probably not even call.  But they HAVE to go.  Medical intervention is the only way to fix this.  It is the only way that they will be OK.  Modern medicine has wonderful options to keep the people that were the "crazy people" of the 1940's out of the institutions now.  Modern pharmaceuticals are why we no longer need the institutions for the crazy people.  Doctors can't fix it all together.  But they can make it manageable.  But you HAVE to help them get the help.

Help them before the flames trap them against the ledge.