Wow, does the Robin Williams suicide news hit close to home!
Like just about everyone else, I have long been a Robin Williams fan. Dead Poets’ Society was not only one of my favorite movies growing up, but it became something much more than a great movie when I decided to become an English teacher. I vividly remember telling my first boss – a 70-something, southern-proper (or “propah,” as she would say), lifelong educator, after whom the building we sat in was named – that I intended to watch that movie for inspiration before my first day of teaching. She looked at me with her ever-present smile and queen-like dignity and told me that she didn’t care for the subversive message of that movie. Having never a) had a boss or b) known anyone who didn’t like Dead Poets’ Society, I was dumbstruck but smart enough to know I shouldn’t argue its merits with her. So I did what I always do in such situations and pretended that the other person’s point was actually the very one I was trying to make!
But really, that’s what I did.
But I digress…My point is this: Robin Williams’s death hits me hard partly because I felt connected to him through his movies, but also because I fight the same battle he fought against overwhelming, crippling, consuming depression. Just yesterday, as I was trying to tell a fellow teacher about how bad my depression has been lately, he said to me, “I don’t understand you, but I support you.” While he was trying to be nice, the first part of his comment made me feel alone – like I should probably quit trying to tell people what goes on in my head; they just can’t see it…just like they couldn’t see it with Williams because of his persona. I am certainly no Robin Williams, but like him, I know I come across as light-hearted and fun-loving much of the time, and like him, I enjoy how alive I feel when I’m making others laugh (which is about 42% of the time that I’m trying to make them laugh).
Williams’s death was both terrifying and (am I allowed to say this?) strangely reassuring. There are people who get what I’m going through, people who are liked (loved!), respected, and successful, I thought, who have come to the conclusion I have nearly reached so many times: life is just too hard to sustain. Oddly, I felt comforted to know I have “friends” who understand how hard it can be. Nevertheless, I wish with all my being that these friendships could be found more easily before people take the ultimate step away from life.
Why is it so hard to find a community of people with depression? Or any mental health problem? I’ve looked, and it’s hard!
That’s what this blog is (supposed to be) for, and I hope that anyone reading this will send the link to a few people who might need friends in the mental health community. I know I do!
R.I.P. Robin Williams. Wherever you’re spending eternity is where I’d like to as well. You’d keep us laughing, and maybe we could help you experience the happiness you couldn’t find here on earth.