We Need To Stop Acting Like Robin Williams’ Death Was His Fault

Robin Williams it's not your fault GIF from Good Will HuntingYup you guys, it’s happening. I’m adding my voice to the chorus of people who never met Robin Williams and yet feel qualified to speak on his death anyway. I don’t have any more information than you do on how he died or why, except for the simple fact that I know it wasn’t his fault.

For the most part, the internet has done a really great job of responding to yesterday’s tragic news that Robin was dead of an apparent suicide. People have reflected on their favorite movies of his, memories of their meetings, opportunities that he made possible, and just generally made me cry with beautiful, sentimental tweets mourning his passing.

But as with the premature death of any celebrity, there are also people who are taking a hard line that the only person to blame for Robin Williams’ death is Robin Williams. That he should have asked for help. That he should have tried harder. That he should have thought of his kids. That he should have been in rehab. That he never should have fallen off the wagon, or even gotten on it in the first place. And the thing is, you’re right! From what we know now, Robin chose to hang himself, just like Phillip Seymour Hoffman chose to inject his veins with heroin. There’s no denying that it was their hands responsible for that final act, but if we go with that equation, we’re ruling out the importance of their brains.

Even if you’re one of those people who deny that addiction is a disease (please don’t get me started), the evidence is overwhelming that people like Robin, PSH, and other celebrities in recovery don’t want to do drugs or struggle with depression. After going to rehab for cocaine and alcohol addiction, Robin Williams was clean and sober for twenty years before relapsing in 2006. Philip Seymour Hoffman had thirteen before his relapse. Each man fought his addiction tooth-and-nail for his entire life, until one day he didn’t fight quite hard enough.

These are people who stood up and admitted that they needed help, asked for it, sought it out over the years, and there’s honestly nothing braver than that. The last time you had a deeply personal thought, think about how many people you shared it with, and then magnify that by millions. That’s how many people got to look inside Robin Williams’ life and tell them that they loved him and that he had worth, and it didn’t goddamn matter for a SECOND.

If he was using stimuli from outside himself to help decide whether or not to commit suicide, don’t you think some of the great stuff would have come in too? Maybe memories of his kids, or the feeling when an audience applauds, or getting married, or being awarded an Oscar. He had endless reasons outside of his own mind not to kill himself, and I’m sure he would have loved to feel them as intensely as we do, from the outside, but that’s not where he was pulling his information from.

Maybe you think that suicide isn’t a true way out, that it doesn’t solve problems, that it’s not a viable option — and you’d be right! (Again!) It’s none of those things! But the only reason you’re able to reach those conclusions is because your brain isn’t sick. You have a healthy, logical brain and you assume it will be that way forever, the same way that depressed people assume that their brains will be that way forever. It’s an extremely difficult thing to get the big picture on, particularly when your brain isn’t one of the lucky brains. And my feeling on Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman is that they got saddled with two of them.

They were missing something fundamental in themselves, and they spent their lives trying to fill that hole with something, anything, from alcohol to drugs to love to sex to movies to awards to fame to whatever. They never found anything that worked, but they did find something that helped them forget it for awhile…so how goddamn amazing is it that they also found the strength to turn their back on that ‘solution’ for DECADES at a time until their brains convinced them it was safe to turn around again?

You do you, but I for one refuse to count their lives or their deaths as failures. They fought as long and as hard as they could under circumstances that we can’t begin to understand. I’m sad they’re gone, but I won’t devalue their battles by pretending they were easy.

[If you or a loved one is considering suicide, please use this website as a resource.]

(Image: wifflegif)

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    • Courtney

      I don’t know what to say other than “I agree.” … great article.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Thank you so much for reading and saying so! It genuinely means a lot.

    • M_G

      Alexis, all snark aside: this was a wonderfully written article. I wish I had a wider vocabulary to express how great I think it is or how much I agree with you.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Oh thank you so much! I’m tearing up, that means so much to me! I came back expecting trolls and found this. You’re great.

    • CMJ
      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Right but how did you find a GIF that could hurt my heart so nice?

      • JenH1986

        CMJ is the keeper of all the GIFs

      • Samantha Escobar

        I now want CMJ on the staff pages of all our sites with this job title.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Seconded.

      • JenH1986

        Not that my vote counts, but thirded!

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Oh it counts!

      • JenH1986

        @disqus_2gu5NE3U3i:disqus That sounds like a job offer!

      • CMJ

        LADIES! I love it! Sorry I am just responding to this party – I was asleep (west coast) and I am on a liquid diet all day so I am sulking in my black coffee.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        All-liquid?? Hope everything’s okay!

      • CMJ

        TMI – I have a colonoscopy tomorrow so I’m on clear liquids all day and tonight I start my:

        https://s.yimg.com/os/en-US/video/video.snl.com/SNL_0617_04_Colon_Blow.png

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        I am obsessed with you.

      • CMJ
      • M_G

        Uggghh. I’ve had one already (and at the ripe old age of 28…not thrilled about that). The prep is the worst part. I was craving food I hate (“Mmm….shrimp….wait, shrimp make me sick!! Still….mmm, shrimp….”). Good luck!

      • CMJ

        This is my THIRD one….I honestly wouldn’t wish the prep on my worst enemy.

    • FemelleChevalier

      Nicely written, Alexis.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Thank you so much! You guys are so dear to me.

      • FemelleChevalier

        :) That’s sweet. And thank you for this. This should be an eye opener that decades of battling depression and/or addiction is no easy task and a support network is a must.

        Honestly, without a great support network, I would’ve died years ago and I’ll just be another statistic on teen suicides.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        The fact that your eyes are open to that is terrifying, but also such a clear indicator to me that you’re on a good path.

      • FemelleChevalier

        My genes are predisposed to suicide and depression, so I’ve come to terms with it. It’s something I’ve been struggling with since I was really young and it’s a part of me.

        For people like us, anything might set us off. My last suicide planning was actually just less than year ago. It took a while to get my head to a safer place after that.

        Friends and love ones can really help a depressive person. And a hope for something tangible.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Really scary stuff, I’m so sorry. But good for you for moving forward and accepting the way your brain works instead of rebelling against it.

        And we’re always here for you!

    • fantasymother

      Thank you, Alexis, from the bottom of my heart.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        No thank YOU!

    • Olivia Wilson

      This is so true, and I agree with everyone else that it’s fantastically written.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Olivia! Thank you, lady.

    • chickadee

      Add David Foster Wallace to that list. He hanged himself while he had been switching antidepressants, and he couldn’t take the stresses any longer. He had been on meds for years, and it all just became too much. The discussions that arose after his suicide did a lot to address and dispelling the idea of the selfish suicide.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Yup. Very tragic but apt addition to the list. The daily fight just to be alive must be so exhausting, I can’t even comprehend.

    • Nbl

      I haven’t put a lot of thought into Robin Williams death. I was upset to find out but within hours I had gotten word of a tragic personal issue that took over my life for the past day. But as someone who went through crippling depression, I can lend some insight into this. Depression hurts. Physically hurts. The smallest act like getting out of bed becomes a battle. The amount of energy just to talk yourself into doing something is exhausting. And it doesn’t matter if you have someone telling you how great your life is or that you should be grateful for what you have. You don’t see the world the way they do. No amount of “cheerleading” from the sidelines is going to change your outlook. If something like getting out of bed seems impossible, imagine how hard it is to stand up and ask for help. Remember in your mind, nothing will help so seeking it out seems pointless. A lot of people don’t ask but are forced by someone who sees the signs that you need help. Your outlook means that you will argue with anyone about how much you suck. You don’t understand why people can’t see what a terrible person you are. It leaves you feeling incredibly alone ad isolated. The future is something that isn’t real. You can’t see that far and there are times it seems pointless. People are starting to become more understanding towards mental health issues but we still have a long way to go. The most important thing to remember is that they way people who are suffering (at it is the definition of suffering) from depression do NOT see what you do. If they say life sucks and do not want a part of it any longer, that IS what they see. Do NOT deny those words but do everything in your power to get them help because they won’t ask for it.

      • Nbl

        Lots of typos, sorry. One last point, if there is someone who is recovering from depression be respectful. When you’re that isolated in your mind, coming back into social situations is awkward and uncomfortable. We need to take it slowly and it might take awhile.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        So sorry to hear that you struggled with that level of depression. I think I’ve dipped a toe or an ankle into the depths, and that was hard enough to manage, so I can’t imagine what some people go through.

        I absolutely agree with your points here, that it’s about hopelessness. Anyone can survive with the tiniest smidgen of hope, but without it, it’s just a matter of time before they succumb to one of the forces working against them.

      • Nbl

        That feeling of hopelessness is so hard to describe. It’s like drowning, falling, and feeling nothing at once. The best way to describe it is 3:30 am. I think everyone has had one of those nights where you just can’t sleep. You’re body and mind are exhausted but for some reason sleep just won’t come. You toss and turn but nothing is working. Then you look at the clock and it’s 3:30 am. You know that even if you do find sleep it’s not going to make a difference and your next day is shot to shit.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Very well explained.

    • Brandie L Moore

      Thank you so much Alexis for putting into words how I was feeling. So many people do not understand how hard it is to just live when you are depressed. Thank you, an amazing article

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Thank you so much for saying so, and for taking the time to comment. I think it’s really hard for people to imagine anything outside themselves, and even if they do get a glimmer of depression, they assume that’s the whole thing instead of just the tip of the iceberg.

    • Napoleon

      This is a wondefully written article, Alexis. I am currently battling depression and have done so for most of my life. Your words have helped me gain a bit of perspective on its possible causes. Thank you.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Thank YOU! It’s way braver to share it when you’re in the middle of it than on the outside looking in, so kudos to you as well.

    • carrie thompson

      Wonderful article. This is a terrifically compassionate take on addiction and depression. For me, somehow seeing people who I view as having this amazing life be unable to overcome their personal battles and demons illustrates just how encompassing and all-possessing addiction and depression are.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        It’s such a terrifying, arbitrary thing. Mental illness doesn’t give one shit about who you are or what you’ve done.

        And thank you for your kind words!

    • Samantha Escobar

      “If he was using stimuli from outside himself to help decide whether or not to commit suicide, don’t you think some of the great stuff would have come in too?”

      Thank you for writing this sentence. Honestly.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Aw girl, thanks for liking it! Love you.

    • Mz Stock Goddess

      what a beautiful well written article. im crying like a baby.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        !!! I’m so sad/glad to hear it! Thank you for sharing!

    • TJ

      Thank you for this article and your point of view. I was shocked to hear the news yesterday and am still reeling a bit. I have recently lost a cousin to a heroin overdose and have struggled to come to terms and find how to express my emotions. (It was declared an accidental overdose, so it was a different situation).

      His mother and our grandmother both have expressed such anger and bitterness toward him and both have said, “It was his choice.” And while I know they are trying to process what happened are going through the stages of grief, it felt so wrong for me to personally place that burden on my cousin’s shoulders as well. He grew up without a dad for most of this life (who was an alcoholic and addicted to drugs) and had been in and out of rehab programs. He was only 22. But I know his life was a struggle against depression and this article really hit home.

      I come back to this site, yes because I love the snarky take on gossip and celebrity. But I could get that from a number of sites. It is because you also have articles like this with heart and a true voice. Thank you.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Thank YOU, TJ! I’m so sorry to hear about your experience losing your cousin, but I hope you’re really proud of the way you’re handling it. Whether his mother and grandmother come around to agreeing with you or not, they’re very lucky to have you in their family.

        So glad you enjoyed, and thank you as always for reading.

    • Andy

      Alexis this is probably the best article that you have ever written! In the end it teaches us that no one can judge another persons decision because we are not in their heads and we not only not know what is happening inside of them but we can’t understand it . Thank you again for this beautiful article.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Thank you so much, Andy, I’m really glad it resonated. My main goal always is to keep an open mind and to help other people open theirs, so if I’ve done that even to a small degree here, then I feel good about myself!

    • KT

      Beautifully written article! As someone who has lost a relative to suicide/substance abuse, I agree with every word you said wholeheartedly.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Ugh, I’m so sorry that you had to endure that, but thank you very much for your kind words.

    • Kate

      The fact that so many (SO! MANY!) well known people take their own lives, despite being universally beloved and reaping constant praise for their talents and personal attributes, should be evidence enough that mental illness needs to be addressed. And fast. If depression can kill people who have absolutely no reason not to know how much they are respected and loved, how can we continue to brush off its sufferers off as “weak” or “attention seeking”? It hurts my heart that we add to the burden of people who already feel irrevocably alone.

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