You’d be living under a rock to not know that an icon has died, Robin Williams. The accounts of who he was as a person, as a colleague, an actor and beyond. Wonderful accolades for a man who has touched many generations with his comedy, his acting and his life.
The difficult part surrounding his death? Suicide. It’s personal, we all have an opinion and are quick to share. There have been many blog posts, tweets, conversations surrounding this very issue. The biggest factor is: Choice or Not a Choice.
It’s one thing if we only look at the circumstances in a persons life. It’s easy to say it’s a choice, hands down. Sure, when you look at it that way but here’s the thing. It’s not just circumstances. It’s been well documented through Robin’s life his struggles with mental illness, addictions, the ups and downs of rehab. it wasn’t circumstantial, it was illness.
Mental illness is not a choice, it is a real disease that messes with your brain and your ability to relate to life in a logical and meaningful way. It screws up your perspective to the point where you only believe lies and the truth has no way of reaching you. Your mind pushes it away, the disease takes over.
Think about what would happen if you let say diabetes go unchecked? Would you die? Absolutely. You can go into coma, you run the risk of blindness, heart issues, your body is forever altered and in the end, it can kill you. Or how about another illness, cancer. We all know the stats, you die without treatment, cancer kills.
Mental illness is no different. Sure you can’t physically see the person deteriorating, but lets face it, there is a lot that happens under the surface. The more depressive episodes you have, the less likely you are to go into remission. The more we try to self medicate, the worse it gets. Going on and off the medication given to us by professionals changes our bodies ability to metabolize the medication and thus making it useless in battling our illness.
Have you noticed my language? Us, We, Our…I’m Depressed. I have a lifelong illness that I will forever need medication for. I’ve been to the bottom and wandered around life aimlessly. The fog so thick I couldn’t see anymore, fact or fiction. I bumped around life so much I was lost in the forest in a dense fog, no way out.
I lived this way for as long as I could, but I wanted it over. I found no reprieve, I was overwhelmed and couldn’t see my way out. Death shouted at me every day. I was very sick. The only reason I made it out, God. God rescued me.
I spent 4 weeks in hospital, 1 week of that under 24 hour surveillance. I didn’t trust myself and the staff didn’t trust me either. The more time I was able to spend there, the more the fog lifted. I wasn’t bombarded by life and the demands placed on me. There was a solitude and quietness that my heart, my mind and my spirit needed and I found it on the mental health ward of a hospital.
There wouldn’t be a mental health ward in hospitals if it wasn’t a illness. We have cancer clinics, diabetes clinics, and we have mental health clinics. When people who have mental illness hit the suicide wall its not a choice, it is our illness that has run amok in our bodies, the darkness closing in.
In these times I hope that you are very conscious of the words that you use. I’ve heard people talk about acknowledging Williams suicide is glorifying the act. Please don’t think this way, it is another way that we can shed light on something that is very real in our world, mental illness that has been allowed to run amok in our bodies because society has allowed it to become a taboo. Something to be kept silent, but that is the worst thing that you can do. Allow us to talk, don’t judge, don’t placate and tell us you know just how we feel because you don’t. Each person with mental illness experiences it uniquely, the same as each person with cancer or diabetes experiences their illness uniquely.
Sure when a celebrity commits suicide mental illness is pushed into the spotlight but I challenge myself and others to talk about it. It’s not a dirty secret to be kept hidden, it’s an illness that needs treatment. Let’s advocate for those who need help because often times they don’t know where to start. Education makes it easier to locate resources for the individual and their families.