The Long-Term Process of Dying
I feel I need to edit to add that I’m not suicidal. I’m a little depressed, but getting treatment. If you’re worried about somebody else, though, please call a group like the Samaritins.
My head is telling me not to write this. My head is telling me to just shut up, to not be one of what will end up being far too many blog posts about a celebrity death. But I feel compelled to write this, if only to serve as a way of replying to various posts on various social media. It will be a way to stop me from getting into petty arguments with people who aren’t worth arguing with.
Today has been filled with the news that Robin Williams, hirsute comedian and actor, killed himself. He hanged himself with a belt in his bedroom, in his home. He was found by his assistant. He was married, he had a family. He was a celebrity. He was an alcoholic. He was depressed. He committed suicide.
It’s easy to take to social media and bemoan the lack of treatment for depression. It’s easy to make flippant comments about suicide being the easy way out. It’s easy to be upset that somebody you enjoyed watching in films has died.
It isn’t easy to live with depression, or any of the many diseases that include depressive episodes in their symptoms. And it isn’t easy to commit suicide. It isn’t something that one comes to flippantly, on the spur of the moment.
You don’t simply wake up one day, stub your toe as you get out of bed, find out you’re out of coffee, and then grab a shotgun.
Suicide is a long-term process. The act of killing oneself is the culmination of a lot of things. It’s something that builds up, with false starts, reconsiderations, and internal struggles.
That’s not to say it doesn’t come fast. For some, it can be a quick process, with so much packed into a few hellish days or hours. But it’s been there for longer. It’s been there, creeping in the corners of one’s mind, waiting for the right moment.
I’ve battled with depression for many years as part of bipolar disorder. I have been on the brink of death more than once. I’d like to hope that I won’t be there again, but I know I can never say that as an absolute. The thing about depression is that no matter how great life can be, how much you have going for you, it can still creep up on you and kick you in the face. It can always still win. It will always try to win.
My current mental state isn’t the best. I’m still battling with a flare up of depression that came about through pregnancy and after birth. But I’m in remission when it comes to suicide. And I do consider it something that you go into remission with. You aren’t cured, but you might get lucky and end up suicide free for the rest of your life.
Or you might not. It might come back. It might be more than you can handle. It might eat away at you until you aren’t part of life anymore. Until you’re just a shell of a body, empty inside and feeling like you’re already dead. But even then — even in that last moment — you try to fight. Suicide isn’t a cowardly way to die any more than cancer is, or heart disease is, or any other deadly disease. And just as you wouldn’t lament how somebody could allow themselves to die through any of those diseases, nor should you when they die of depression.
There isn’t enough care for mental health diseases. There is a taboo when it comes to speaking out about them. And that isn’t right. That does need to change. There needs to be early intervention and regular treatment. Really, once suicidal depression has taken hold in such a way, it probably is too late. There is the chance for a miracle treatment that cuts through, that extends life. (I know this for a fact. For me, it was a pill called quetiapine, which I agreed to take in a compromise, being told by a very wise doctor that it would knock me out in a ‘temporary suicide’ of sleep. Were it not for that pill and that doctor, I wouldn’t be here to write this post.)
For too many, though, it’s just too late. Having somebody who is suicidally depressed pop a few Prozac is about as effective as tossing ibuprofen at cancer.
It really is a shame that Robin Williams got to that point, and that suicide won. And it’s a shame that so many others get there, too. It’s a shame that this disease goes untreated, undertreated, and underdiagnosed. Whether it’s through lack of insurance, social stigma, or something else, too many don’t get the help they need. I’ve been lucky where others haven’t. But I haven’t been courageous. I’m no more of a fighter. I’ve just been lucky.
Again, I feel I need to edit to add that I’m not suicidal. I’m a little depressed, but getting treatment. If you’re worried about somebody else, though, please call a group like the Samaritins.