Suicide means Selfishness?

Obviously, by this time, you have probably learned the news of the passing of Robin Williams.

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I am certain that, at this point, your entire newsfeed is full of speculation, debate or just generally ignorant responses among the heartfelt condolences and reflections upon this gigantic presence, Robin’s life and his career. Myself, I have been moved by many of the words, taken aback by some of the comments and offended by others.

There’s an entire generation of people who were tremendously influenced, or impacted, by this man’s career and his genius, which those critics seem to be failing to consider when they post such ignorant notions. Yes, we have wars, strife, child suffering, companies like Monsanto poisoning our groceries, economic crisis and at home issues that are entirely relevant but newsfeeds are not taken up with such issues and we talk about things like this instead. I get that but, at the same time, I do not see posts from these people who are critiquing the actions of others solely upon those kinds of subjects typically, if at all. I see personal updates, venting, and so on; social media being used for social interaction. Go figure. At a time like this, one needs to consider that, quit with the hypocrisy and show some respect; for the man who’s life was lost and, if you are so cold as to not be capable of that decency, then at least for those on your “friends list”, if you call them that.

From the time I was a toddler, absolutely refusing to remove a pair of rainbow suspenders from my daily wardrobe, even while wearing footie pajamas, I was greatly impacted by Robin Williams.
His Mork, although not a personal friend, was my fashion consultant and I wore those damn suspenders proudly- so much so that, for her second birthday, I bought a pair for my own daughter and said, “Nanu-nanu!” as I tried to fasten them on her. She has not taken to them, probably because Mork and Mindy no longer plays on reruns. Either that or she just has more sense than her mother; One can only hope.

Sourced from dlisted.com

For me personally, Robin Williams’ films genuinely helped to shape the person that I am today.
I watched quite a few of them religiously, having requested Good Morning Vietnam and Dead Poet’s Society for my birthday when I was just a little girl, far before I could properly comprehend the weight of such roles or their influence. They were actually the first movies that I ever owned, back in the VHS days. I simply wanted to see the person who voiced the Genie, or Batty, and knew that he was something great. He was special to me and I sat entranced, captivated by the blue eyes and his magnanimous presence in film. I grew into those roles, just as I grew up with FernGully, Mrs. Doubtfire and Aladdin. I also changed my mind about what I wanted to do with my life as a direct result of Dead Poet’s Society, deciding that I wanted to teach instead of practice law. One could only hope to influence those around them as he effected his on screen students, or as he impacted his off screen audience.

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I can honestly say that, at a point in my life where suicide was a very serious consideration, certain roles of his provided necessary distraction or some food for thought on the matter. Dead Poet’s Society and What Dreams May Come, one that is rarely mentioned on the list of well-known films but that I thought he was fantastic in, made me feel like I may not have been so alone. They also made me consider what, or more whom, I may leave behind and the impact of my choices on those around me, as well as my immortal soul (if there is such a thing). Sadly, at the time when he took his own life, Robin Williams would not have had that capability for reflection. His roles may not have been viewed with the pause for thought that they provided to millions, but were probably viewed as work all these years.

Moreover, in the depths of the most severe depression, there is no reprieve that allows for any optimistic thought. There is no idea of the potential for a better tomorrow when crushed by the weight of the darkest present, where the future is drowned out by current misery, isolation and helplessness. I know this from personal experience. I also know of the resounding stigma that comes along with mental illness, which plagues this man even now and a Google search of his name will bring up such related terms. He did say that he mimicked mania for comedy on a radio show, although had never confirmed that he experienced it. He never openly stated that he was bipolar and clarified this for the NY Times but it is being discussed as if it was obvious. There was no confirmation of this, contrary to a slew of updates and posts going around or the seemingly common knowledge that it was so, but it must be so! Right?
Therein lies the rub- a label, a diagnoses, the sequestration into a category with the unstable. Why would someone want to come forward for that? Why would someone reach out, ask for help and be met with such judgmental stares, or the categorization into a seemingly manageable little box of the fragile beings, ones in need of pills, prescriptions, pressure and purpose? Sadly, misdiagnoses or a lack of diagnoses is common cause for a worsening situation; 1/5 in Canada are thought to deal with some form of mental illness. It was recently reported on The National that 8% of people over 18 struggle with major depression and that there were 3890 suicides in Canada in 2009 alone- 3x higher for men than women. with middle aged men most at risk. In the attempt to discuss the issue of mental health at time like this, the conjecture does not do much for those who acknowledge their need for assistance but do not want to be lumped in with high profile, severe cases. It is a risk of their only stability, or comforts, to be thrust into examination and speculation. Fear often hinders resolve where mental health issues are concerned- nothing to do with a lack of discussion but, possibly, it’s a matter of the wrong types of discussion and associations.

Regardless of personal feeling on the subject, or what you may think of anything that I have written here, I will leave you with this;
Being respectful out of acknowledgement of his life and his craft is reason enough for some people to post an update regarding his passing. Feeling genuine grief over his death is also reason for some to post about it. There are many people who are updating as a means to shed some light on mental illness (depression or otherwise) and it’s impact on so many, regardless of social status, in order to try and help others.
All of those reasons are positive, productive and necessary for some but what is never, ever necessary is to bitch, complain and attack those who feel the need for expression. Those who respond to the feelings of others with negativity and chastisement contribute to things like this happening in the first place.

Robin Williams lived with a good-natured honesty and an openness that allowed complete strangers to feel connected, discussing addiction and battling depression in the limelight. He sought to bring laughter and joy to the world, to show kindness to others and he took time out for those that he could not gain from but whom could gain from him. Robin wore his heart on his sleeve, his demons on his t-shirt and wit & humour in his holsters. We could all learn a thing or two from that.

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

– Walt Whitman

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