Warning! Deep Thoughts Below (On Suicide, Robin Williams, and Happiness)

deep thoughtsHello – I’d been planning on doing fun things with this newsletter during the month of August. But then life took on a heavier tone last week with the news of Robin Williams’ suicide and the travesty in Ferguson. It triggered some thoughts to dislodge from deep down in my psyche, and I thank you in advance for giving me a forum to share them in. I wrote them down last week, and didn’t think I would do anything with them. But a week later, I feel that if a nutty week like last week happens and we don’t actually do anything different, it’s a missed opportunity. SO…I hope you will find them helpful – I know it helped me face my feelings and do some course corrections in my own thinking and actions. Peace.

This morning I actually got out of the house to go on a walk. I had mentioned it to my trainer yesterday, that I wasn’t moving enough, that it was feeling like something I ‘had’ to do, like eating broccoli, and I was unmotivated. He suggested finding some way to go about it so that it felt fun and happy and less like “move your butt, lazy bones”. Then he tossed out the idea of downloading podcasts on to my phone. Bing! I had honestly been wondering how to find a way to listen to more podcasts; I love them so, but they require too much focus to listen to while writing and since my kids are generally around in the times I’m not working, I don’t have a ton of focus then either.

So that’s how I came to be walking down Blackstone Boulevard this morning, listening to the Marc Maron WTF podcast where he spoke with Robin Williams (it is totally worth a listen). Because Robin Williams died this week. Rather, he opted out of this life this week. And while I was walking I had all these thoughts on suicide that I want to get down before I lose them again.

When I was in my 30s, three friends of mine committed suicide. They didn’t know each other, there were a few years interspersed between them. But still, the fact that it happened three times was enough to not only get my attention but to get me to really get to the heart of what my feelings about suicide.

These three people were so special. Big hearted, charismatic, funny, tender, crazy talented. The kind of people you meet and think, boy they have it all—looks, brains, soul, spark. The kind of people you want to be around. Each of their suicides was a total and utter shock to me. How could they? How could I not have known how much pain they were in? How could I have been a better friend to them?

I do believe they each had some level of what we term “mental illness,” but that did not mean they didn’t know things, important things, true things, about who they were and what they needed. They knew their pain, even if I didn’t (and it is devastating to think how much of that pain I completely missed), even if probably no one truly did, and they knew how much of it was reasonable to bear and how much of it wasn’t.

Here’s how I have come to see suicide: as an empowered choice. It may not be the choice I would make, (although, how can I really know what I would choose if I were living the same circumstances?). I knew and loved these people, and I trust them to know what was right for them.

I believe in their final moments, they made a loving choice for themselves, and I believe that in their passing they found the love and acceptance and feeling of being at home that they hadn’t been able to find here in this world.

Does the fact that three incredibly special people whom I loved chose to end their own lives make me sad? Absolutely. Does the fact that I believe suicide is an empowered choice make me think that it is always the right choice? Hell no. Or that it somehow precludes those of us who loved them from being ripped apart by their decision? Still, sadly, no.

For months I replayed the last time I had seen that person, wishing I had paid more attention, said just the right thing, asked them to come sleep on my couch until they felt better. But I know none of us can ever be more attached to what we want for someone than the person himself. I know that I don’t have access to the power that can make someone else happy. Although I can show up and listen and be open and love them no matter what, as powerful as that may be it’s still no guarantee. Only each one of us can make ourselves happy. And in the end, that’s what Donna, Patrick, and Brent – and Robin Williams, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman – did. They chose relief and happiness. And I trust that they have found it.

For those of us still here, still raw, still confused and longing to make it better, let’s remember their example, and choose the things that make us feel happy, at peace, and at home. It’s the only way we can truly help anyone else do the same.

If you have thoughts, questions, or insights on suicide, please share them in the comments section. Magic happens when we share our deepest thoughts with each other.

And if you’ve got a friend or loved one who took Robin’s passing to heart and who might be open to a different perspective, please share this message with them.

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10 thoughts on “Warning! Deep Thoughts Below (On Suicide, Robin Williams, and Happiness)

  1. Suicide is not an empowered choice. Calling it that only empowers other people, who may otherwise be deterred by concern for survivors, to make that choice. It’s a choice people make when they can’t see a better alternative. Although I agree that we should not judge anyone who makes this decision, we don’t need to elevate it, either. My mother died of suicide. Please, although your intentions are good, let’s not make it easier for anyone else to do it.

    1. Hi Jane. Thanks for sharing your story, I really appreciate your insight. It is definitely not my intention to glorify suicide, only to offer another perspective. Love, Kate

    2. I am not intending to “elevate” suicide, but I don’t think “concern for survivors” should be the primary reason someone chooses to continue to live, or, in these cases, suffer. I don’t want someone to suffer just so I don’t have to feel guilty that I didn’t help them. Of course I would want someone I cared about to seek help, and clearly many extremely depressed people can get better, but I don’t know if help is possible for everyone. I already believe that suicide can be an empowered choice for those with terminal illness, for example. Maybe it also can be an empowered choice for those who have not been helped by anything medicine or therapy or other humans have to offer.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m not exactly sure what my true thoughts are on suicide, but I’ve never before thought of it as an empowered choice. I’ve always leaned more toward the “it’s selfish” or the “why didn’t they seek help” side of things. You opened my eyes to something new….as you tend to do with each post.

  3. Suicide is a personal choice in my view. What we feel is right or wrong is really a personal view of our own conclusions. I have lost a few to suicide that I went to school with. Although it is sad to know they chose to end there life, I also feel that it is a personal decision and not everyone can be helped in that area. Religious views also play a big roll in how we make life decisions. I think life can be overwhelming at times, depression can strike hard and that can play a big roll on people. Many times we interact with others right next to us and don’t even know how depressed they really are. The news alone anymore can make a person depressed. Suicide is a touchy area with a lot of people. I for one think it could never be an easy decision for anyone and feel sadden by anyone who attempts or follows threw with it. As I always believed if you just hung in there things will improve. But may people have little or no hope and that is what is sad. Love your article always makes me think on topics I often push aside.

  4. Hey Kate, thanks for offering a different perspective. Your blog post made me aware of how I was looking at people who commit suicide as victims, which really isn’t a way that I consciously want to view anyone. Reading this reminds me that we are always empowered and responsible for the choices we make even when it’s suicide.

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