church lit up fogLike so many people, I was shocked by the death of Robin Williams. Ever since he na nu, na nu’ed his way into our hearts as Mork from Ork, he’s been making us laugh, think and cry. He played characters that projected incredible optimism and insight.

As a great actor, he knew how to project all the things that reassured us that all is OK in the world. He helped us escape. But apparently all was not well for him and he made the ultimate escape.

It SO goes to show that you can’t trust how things appear. A man APPEARS to have it all, yet feels like he has nothing to live for. Fame, fortune, talent, opportunity, respect from seemingly everybody. And yet it meant nothing to him because of whatever was tearing him up inside.

Friends and family who APPEAR to be fine, who laugh and function outwardly, may be just hanging by a thread. Because most of us are good actors, we can fool each other. We ask “are you well?”, and answer “I’m great.” But sometimes we say it even when we’re not great, and we just don’t know how to ask for help.

It’s true for people we LIKE who appear to have it all together, but are struggling to keep going. And it’s true for people we dislike, who APPEAR arrogant or critical, but are really just sad and don’t know how to deal with it.
If we learn anything from the death of Robin Williams, I hope it might be to treat EVERYONE we encounter as someone in need of our love and support. No matter how they act!

Anyone we meet could be hanging on by a thread, and the way we treat them could be the final straw, tipping them over the edge, or else picking them up and helping them to see some light. We ALL carry this responsibility every time we interact with anybody. It sounds crude, but how would you treat someone you knew was on the verge of suicide? You would encourage and support them with all your strength. So do that with everybody in every situation, just in case, no matter how they’re acting. Choose love and encouragement, as if a life depended on it, EVERY time.

Ann Lamott said,

My experience with being a human is that we are all in the same boat- so ruined, so loved, so not in control of so much. Flailing; adored.

This is a village. We’re all part of it, and we can’t lose anyone from the village lightly. Whether it’s a beloved and famous person like Robin Williams or a difficult person or a little known person, we are less without them.

Make space in your heart for everyone. Put aside petty conflicts and dramas. They don’t matter in the scheme of things. And don’t assume anything because of appearances. Don’t let others fool you, don’t buy into their projections. No matter how they act, everyone needs love and support.

robin williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please seek help if you feel overwhelmed with depression. You don’t need to carry the burden alone. In Australia, try Lifeline on 13 11 14. In American, try 1-800-273-8255.

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  1. Keith Laidler says:

     I am a survivor of suicide.  My oldest son pulled the trigger as a last resort to solve a temporary problem with a permanent solution. He was 35, single, suffering addictions, grieving his own losses   I attended SOS support group meetings weekly for almost a year.Be kind to your friends who are suffering the loss of a family member or friend to suicide.  Don’t give advice, give support.  Don’t condemn, comfort. Don’t avoid them, accept them. They will be going through the stages of grief, dealing with their own feelings of guilt & “if onlys”.   The way through may look and feel like a wilderness that doesn’t end.  It does; and by getting the right help and support, memory seeks the positive to hold on to and life becomes even more meaningful.     

  2. ian says:

    thank you for sharing your story Keith. It is powerful and wise, and your vulnerability will open space for others to look for help and give help in appropriate ways. Much love to you and your family.

  3. Beverley says:

    Hi there,I am a survivor of suicide, and it’s amazing how many people have chosen to cut me off and judge meIts amazing do they not realize how vulnerable and hurt you are and this may push you to the edge, I don’t think they really care.RegardsBev

  4. Sandra says:

    At the risk of seeming to criticize, which I am not, I find it hard to believe how many people in the world are “shocked” at the untimely deaths of so many public figures.  We don’t hear about the others going on daily to be shocked.  Mr. Williams made it clear he was struggling.  There are always signs.The problem from my standpoint is how so many of us can stand aside and only watch, and some point fingers.  Perhaps because most of the world is unaware of the solutions, or that there are any.  As a spiritual student, advocate myself, I more and more see my job is to continually spread the word about who we really are as powerful lights in the universe, not masses of vulnerable flesh and bones with broken insides, dependent on achievement and acquisitions as measures of worth.  So much of life is wasted in the frantic search to prove our worth, even as we “critique” others for not measuring up, when the first and foremost thing is just loving ourselves and each other.Through the ages we miss that simple message, though I think we are making progress.  Here’s to Mr. Williams’ death being not in vain, as it wakes up a few more people.

  5. Gill says:

    Thank you Ian,  for putting into meaningful, clear words how to handle depression if you’re ever unfortunate enough to suffer from it. The the sad passing of Robin  Williams just proves how difficult this bio chemical  disorder is to handle.  Anyone and everyone can get help for this.  The biggest problem seems to be in realizing there is help available and seeking it out. We all like to think we’re strong enough to help ourselves,  but often we are not  and those around us sometimes cannot see our hurt. We have to be strong for ourselves and get the help we need.   It’s the difference between  joy and sadness. And in some cases. Life and death. 

  6. Mona says:

    I am a survivor of suicide and I too struggle with depression. It is very difficult to convey the complicated nature of seeking treatment for depression. Finding a doctor who accepts insurance is becoming more and more difficult – therapists even more so. Medications, when sought out, can take up to six weeks to take effect. If they are new there are no generics and they can host hundreds. If you struggle with both anxiety and depression it can take a lot of trial and effort to establish a combination of medication that will allow you to function and stay awake on one end of the spectrum and not to become jittery and manic on the other.  Meanwhile you try to hold it together at work, at home, in relationships, hoping the medication works soon, hoping you can pay your bills, hoping you won’t get fired. It’s not just immediately solved by “seeking help.”

  7. Carol says:

    Mona,  you speak for me, as well. Fortunately, I had excellent insurance through that 20 yr time span; sliding into depression and trying to climb out. After a suicide attempt, my psychiatrist recommended ECTs saying I was a very complicated case. I’m not sure I would recommend the ECT treatment to anyone else, but they did pull me from the depths so that I could begin to respond to other treatments. My husband and children went through a lot. A commitment to meds and their side effects, the hard work of therapy, a deep faith in God (altho I know about the dark night of the soul), a strong network of friends and family, inner healing, it took all of these to bring me to a settled place of peace inside. There is no easy fix for deep depression. Healing is very hard work. It is so rewarding when the chains come off and day after day, the sun shines inside. No two people are alike in the healing process.It is very important that we first be gentle with ourselves and then that we treat others with utmost respect and gentleness. I have heard the sentence twice now from different places, that everyone sits beside a pool of tears. That is a beautiful and poignant statement.

  8. Mira says:

    Well written, and so true. It cuts close to home, namely, I am battling depression for years. Not going into details, years ago I was suicidal but was hanging on because of my sons. When it got too much, I talked to my family physician, who put me on Prozac. It leveled me out and I was better able to do daily life in a marriage that was major factor for the depth of my depression. After I escaped the marriage and was not in danger of ending as a homicide title in the crime section of newspaper, I was so busy hiding while still working at the same job that I barely had time to feel anything. I was also diagnosed with PTSD, thanks to the man I was married to. However, after having some semblance of peace and all the Prozac scare, I decided to go off pills, feeling I was doing well enough. I was also afraid what would the pills do to my health in general.From then on it’s up and down, sometimes really bad. My GP sent me to psychiatrist, who did not talk, just listened and on few occasions dozed off. I could not believe it. I was not feeling any better by seeing this guy; actually, in a way I felt worse as though I did not merit the attention of that doctor. Told my GP I am not going back. Tried another, retired professor emeritus, who was so old he sometimes did not get what I was saying and would reply with something totally off the map. The wait to get a decent professional is months and months.So I struggle from day to day, don’t know where to turn when I really need some help. There are times when I don’t leave my home for a week. I divested myself of all the “friends” who used me, some of whom fed off of my energy and made me feel totally depleted. So I have a few real friends, all ladies around my age. Everyone has their own issues so I don’t burden anyone with my struggles. My sons know the tiniest bit about my depression, because they know my mom had it and they sensed it in me in really bad times although I did not want to burden young, hopeful lives with the darkness in me. As you say, we are all good actors, some better at pretending to the world at large. And, that is me personified.So, although I think Robin Williams had much more going for him than I have and had all the means and connections to get proper help, I can in a way see his state of mind being far enough gone to escape it all by exiting this world on his own terms. If I am honest, the thought sometimes does come to mind – “I can always end it all”. It’s almost as a pressure valve, in a way. On the other hand, I know now I am strong enough survivor that I would not do it and my love for my sons and grandchildren is to deep to cause them grief in any way, let alone by suicide.Thank you for letting me talk about this and for all (both) of your writings that I am privileged to read.Namaste,Mira

  9. Kathy says:

    Thank you, Mona for you very articulate explanation of what it’s like to deal with depression.  I also have gone through all you talked about.  It was my good fortune to be referred to the most caring, intelligent, and persistent psychiatrist on earth.  She promised she would not give up on me no matter what.  She saved my life and helped me into a new way to think and act.  Meds will always be part of my life due to the chemical imbalance but I can function well on an inexpensive generic and some supplements.  I am so very grateful for her and the impact she’s had on my life.  A support system of family and wonderful friends also was part of my re-entry into living a good life.  We truly do need each other, not to “fix” us, but to love us.

  10. Tammy says:

    I would just like to offer the following.  My husband suffers from bouts of depression, 2 years ago we lost our business that he had spent 20 years building.  We live in a small town & the economy ate us up.  Anyway, after this situation my husband was so “down” that I worried about him committing suicide (as his father had done).  We were able to talk about it and I made certain that he was in counseling.  What helped both of us is that I decided to go to a counseling session with him.  It helped me gain so much insight into the situation.  I learned that he was not even on medication for depression!  He had led me to believe that he was.  He had told the counselor that he wanted to try & avoid medication & that he would “exercise & try to follow up negative thoughts with positive thoughts”.  I could not believe it!  I convinced my husband that he needed to be on medication.  It took several tries with different medications to find the one that would help him.  Today things have turned around.  My hubby is much happier & still working on his mental health.  I am much more aware & vigilant.  I try to be careful with my words & to offer encouragement.  It helps Both of us!  Don’t be afraid to talk about what’s going on.  It may lead to literally saving someone’s life.  Also go to a counseling session with your spouse.  Sometimes YOU are the one that knows what is really going on.  I truly believe my husband would not be here if I wouldn’t have gotten involved.  This situation was very hard on me too.  Be aware of your own mental state & be kind to yourself if you are living with someone with depression!

  11. Louise Rita says:

    I have just come across ‘Soulseeds’, not sure how, but here I am. I feel  compassion toward  Robin Williams. I am bi-polar, type 2 and twice in my life suffered a delusional psychosis, during which I came very close, too close, to suicide. The second time, after 12 1/2 months,  I felt backed up against the wall, down on the floor, with barely any  fight left. I tried to get my prescription of sleeping pills refilled way before time and providentially, my pharmacist refused. I was trying to figure another way when a family member did something for me that miraculously, lifted me out of my psychosis, after 13 months of continuous suffering.  This was in 2001 and I have been struggling ever since. A close friend and therapist once told me “People commit suicide because they can’t see a way out”…   How long did Mr. Williams suffer, how intensely,  to arrive at this final act..? My heartfelt sympathy to his wife and children.

  12. ian says:

    I’m feeling so many things as I read these comments; compassion, inspiration, humility. Thank you all for being strong beyond words. I hope that sharing your stories contributes to your own sense of strength, and I hope you have opened space for others to feel some hope. Let’s keep talking about these issues. Love and peace, Ian.

  13. Joan says:

    Me too, and so alone in my skin.

  14. Louise Rita says:

    Can we learn to make peace with this aloneness?

  15. I too am a survivor of someones suicide and wrote a book about it. Also worked as a therapist/ counselor/ social worker with many other survivors at the Canterbury Bereaved by Suicide organisation .. survivors helping each other. My book is called Surviving Suicide: a mother’s story and is intended to help all … friends, family and therapists.  I live how we learn to live around the hole in our heart.

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