Yup 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.]