Friday, August 15, 2014

Robin Williams and The Door

As heartbroken as I am about the death of Robin Williams, I am not entirely shocked. Not entirely.  I recall about 4 or 5 months ago maybe, seeing him as a guest on some late night talk show. (cannot remember which one) I remember distinctly thinking to myself that he looked exhausted, withdrawn, and old. Not old in the way that he got gray hair or wrinkles, but old in the way that life had beaten him up one too many times. He was coming up with insane one-liners and jokes like always, but his eyes looked vacant to me. He looked lost and in slower-motion than normal. I remember just silently thinking to myself: “He seems sad.” Then, about a month or two ago, I remember reading that he had checked himself into a rehab facility, “for precautionary reasons.” Everyone was saying good for him and all that, and it was – but I just felt like something was off. Like it was the beginning of the end somehow.

I recognized the darkness in his eyes that night, and the light that had left them – because I had been there too. Not in the exact same "there" as he was, because how could I ever know the darkness that he felt, but I was in my own darkness, and seeing his looked familiar to me. Before losing my husband to sudden death, I didn’t understand depression, or suicide. Not really. Not truly. I was never judgmental about it, but I didn’t get it. Then my husband died, and I died too. My soul was in pieces – my light went out. All I could see was darkness. There were many nights, 3 months after the death, 7 months after, 13 months after, 19 months after, where I sat inside my own darkness and thought about not being on earth anymore. The pain was so awful and so unbearable, that I didn’t understand what to do with it. Most nights when I felt that way, I would log on and reach out to the Facebook world, or call up another widowed friend late into the night.

Sometimes that got me through. Sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes I still didn’t want to live. One night, when I felt that way, I called my grief counselor in an “emergency session”, and we talked for a long time. I said: “I just don’t want to be here anymore. It hurts too much, and I really think the pain is going to kill me anyway, because how can anyone live, being in this much pain all the time? I can’t do it.” She got very serious and then she said to me: “Do I need to call the hospital? Do you feel like you might harm yourself?” I stopped and thought about it for a minute, and then I said very calmly: “No. I don’t want to be here, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to do anything about it. Not wanting to live isn’t the same as wanting to die. I just needed to say it out loud.”

I was grieving, and all I could see was darkness and more pain. I didn’t understand or see that there might be a way through that pain, and I didn’t have the energy or desire to think forward. I just saw blackness. But even in my days and hours of blackness, and even when I didn’t feel any hope – I still was not willing to actively take my own life. I would sit around THINKING about suicide all the time. I actually sort of obsessed about it sometimes, and thought about all the different ways I might do it. But in the end, something somewhere inside of me knew that I would never actually do it. I just knew that I would have to sit inside of this awful, horrific, mind-blowing pain – until it wasn’t as horrific anymore.

Depression is different than that. It is an illness, and it takes you over and screws with your head and hurts you. It makes you think that you are a burden to everyone else, and that maybe the world is better off without you. You just want the pain to stop, and so ending your life FEELS like the only logical way to make it stop. Depression is all over my family – almost everyone on my dad’s side has dealt with it in some form. It is on my mom’s side too, as are other forms of mental illness. I have dealt with anxiety and PTSD as a result of my husband’s sudden death, along with other trauma I have experienced in my life that I won’t get into in this post. Mental illness is just that – an illness. Why we continue to blame the person going through it is beyond me. The person going through it does not have the capability to think what I thought that night talking with my counselor. They don’t think: “This is really going to hurt my family”, or “I don’t much feel like living right now, but I don’t want to die either.” No. Their brain has turned on them. They have a chemical imbalance that they fight against everyday. Now, I am not saying that every person who takes their own life is suffering from mental illness. But I’m willing to bet a good portion of them are. And with depression, which Robin Williams had struggled with his whole life and talked about openly; most times; you are done reaching out or you HAVE reached out but you no longer want to – you just want the hurt to end.

So you end it. And it’s not selfish. And it’s not cowardly. It is a person in a lot of very real pain. It is a person, most likely, with a disease. It is a person whose light turned off long ago, and they couldn’t find their way out of the room.

RIP Robin Williams.

I’m so sorry that your light went out before you could reach the door.


  1. Thank you for baring your soul here Kelley. We all will miss Robin...but we can relate, terrible as it is. I am so grateful for all the great support I've had. That abyss is very dark and terrible indeed.

  2. Hello, wonderful sentiment for great guy.. May God gv his soul rest.., his pain is OVER.

  3. What a great tribute, Kelley.....and said with class. It makes me so sad that he felt that was his only way out but I sure do understand it. I've battled a lot of the things you have, as well, but don't think I could take that final step either.

  4. More than a few times since my husband died, I have felt as you have: life is too painful to bear, yet I do not want to die. When I have been this low I have never had the energy to reach out. Quite the opposite, I withdraw completely. I am thankful I have always made it through. It is extremely sad that RW was in so much pain. You get it and I get it that sometimes the pain seems utterly unbearable. Thank you for your compassion.

  5. Kelley,
    Thanks for sharing so honestly. I remember the soul crushing pain after my husband died and thinking, this pain is going to kill me and then wishing some time soon after that I wished it would. Experiencing such pain really does open the door to compassion for those who get to the point that they just can't go on, does 't it. Hoping every day carries a little less pain for you and all of us. Thanks so much to you and all who share here.

  6. Kelley, I hope that with the media attention with Robin .williams death that some of the shame, stigmas, and guilt will fade away.

    Maria O.

  7. Wonderful post. .my father committed suicide. ...and after my own learning more about suicide found that every thing you said about the wanting to stop the pain is true.
    And the pain is both mental and physical.

    Also love your statement of "not wanting to live is not the same as wanting to die" so true and profound is that! And only those of us living through our grief really get what this means.
    Will also miss Robin. heart goes out for him in his suffering. ..and now for his family. ..God Bless each one......

    1. Linda, Im so sorry to hear about your dad, and Im glad my post could resonate with you in some small way. Thank you so much for reading it. xo

  8. Thank you for pointing out that not everyone who takes their own life is suffering from mental illness. For me, it is numbers. Cold, unemotional numbers. The rent is $750; my disability check is $720, total. The temperatures in Maine go below zero and the shelters are only open at night. Family is not an option, and, realistically, having a 51 yr old woman hanging around, semi-catatonic, would be seen as a burden. Thank you for pointing out the difference. -Snowygirl