Monday night I was at a family dinner celebrating my parents' birthdays. Out of the blue my brother-in-law says "Oh my God, Robin Williams killed himself!" Understandably, everyone's reaction was the same: "What?!" And over the past couple of days we've been inundated with posts about his life, his amazing works, and perhaps not surprisingly quite a few posts about mental illness, specifically depression.
Let me be clear: The last flipping thing I want to do is capitalise on the unfortunate and very sad death of someone who brought millions of people joy and laughter. That is NOT the point of this post. In fact, not referring to it in my blog has been my main reason for not posting this piece again and again over the past few days. But I just have to speak to something that I keep seeing in the media and on facebook and twitter.
Almost all of the posts that take issue with people's reaction to Robin Williams' death start with or reference the tweet that Evan Rachel Wood & The Academy posted:
And yes, I know - using the words "You're Free" are not helpful for people who may be contemplating suicide. We don't want people who are suicidal to associate their self-imposed deaths with freedom, because, obviously, we don't want them to kill themselves. This is all forgetting that "Genie, you're free" is a direct quotation from the movie Aladdin.
But here's the thing: how on earth in the middle of what might possibly be an excellent opportunity to discuss how people suffering from mental illness like depression and anxiety perceive their own deaths do we go to bashing how people are mourning the loss of someone who had such a positive affect on so many lives?
And now the part that people are going to freak on me for writing: I get it. I understand the idea that death = freedom when you're depressed. I've been there. Do I need to say it again? I'm not advocating suicide.... but I do understand this concept.
And I feel like those who are so adamantly criticizing this tweet and it's idea are those who have never been there. Because quite often, people have absolutely no clue what's going on behind the smile. And perhaps Mr. Williams is a prime example of this.
I have dealt with depression and anxiety for a while now. And at the depths of my darkness I can honestly tell you that, while I was not suicidal, I had many moments of "wouldn't it be better?"
Wouldn't my kids be better off with a mom who's not so sad all the time?
Wouldn't my hubby be better off without a wife who's so incapable of doing... um... anything?
Wouldn't my family be better off if they didn't have to worry about me so much?
Wouldn't my friends be better off if they didn't have to listen to my shit?
Maybe not immediately - I wasn't so idiotic to believe that people wouldn't mourn me if I were gone... but eventually - EVENTUALLY - grief fades. Anyone who's ever lost someone knows that... and I had those moments. Wouldn't it be better if I were dead?
And now I'm medicated, daily, to deal with my depression and my anxiety. It no longer reaches crippling heights on a daily basis.
And I smile, and I laugh. I bake cakes, I take my kids to the park, I go out with friends, I travel, I write a fun and somewhat silly blog about mom fashion.
I also yell too much at my kids, worry excessively that the doors aren't locked, or my kids will get hurt, or that I did or didn't take my pills on time. And sometimes I lock myself in our bathroom and sit on the floor and cry for the person that I'm not anymore - and may never be again.
That is what's behind my smile. And until this point - most of you wouldn't have a clue.
So while I will mourn Robin Williams in my own way, and while I don't advocate equating suicide with freedom.... I still get it. I understand. Sometimes you have no idea what's behind the smile.
Rest Well Robin. We will certainly miss you.