No Laughing Matter: Robin Williams, Mental Illness, and Suicide

On Thursday, April 14, 2014, it was made public that Robin Williams had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and was in the early stages at the time of his death. Later that day, an acquaintance of mine stated that he was glad that Williams died when he did because he wanted to remember the actor as he was in his peak rather than watch him waste away as the disease progressed until he died due to the disease (which according to him, would be between 5 to 8 years for older people like Williams). I was taken aback by the statement; it seemed to imply that Williams made the best option to kill himself off as if to say to everyone “I give you the gift of not having to see me suffer in my last years of my life.” 

Robin Williams suffered from severe depression. While I don’t doubt that receiving the prognosis of Parkinson’s didn’t help matters in any way, Williams had struggled with severe clinical depression for many, many years. And while he sought help for it on many occasions, he could no longer fight off the suicidal thoughts that plagued him. 

Depression is a complicated mental disease. Unless they’ve suffered through it themselves, people have no idea what it’s like to fight off the darkness and not give into to suicidal tendencies. It’s never okay for people to preach that suicide is never an option and that if a person is considering suicide, then they’re only taking the easy way out and that they just need to work through the “blues” and bad days and they’ll make it to the other side. To these people, I want to say that I hope they never have to go through severe depression. I hope they never have to watch someone they love fight through severe depression and watch helplessly as they try time after time to get help only to have the sinking realization that the medical help they’re seeking isn’t working. Sometimes, even with the best mental help available, people still commit suicide. It’s like cancer, amputations, or other forms of diseases and surgeries: even with the best doctors, medicines, and treatments, people still die.

But neither is it okay to commit suicide and it’s not okay for people to say “Oh, well, you know, Robin Williams was going to go through the next several years suffering through the effects of Parkinson’s, so it’s okay for him to commit suicide at his career peak so the rest of us don’t have to watch him suffer.” That too, is selfish. It’s like me committing suicide because I’m happy and in the peak of my life and nobody needs to see me suffer the potential bad misgivings that might happen. Robin Williams still needed to strive for help until his suicidal moods passed, he didn’t need to commit suicide. There were people who loved him and wanted to help him (as far as I know). And I’m sure there’s medicine and treatments to keep him comfortable for his Parkinson’s, to keep him positive.

To have someone say he’s glad that Robin Williams killed himself when he did is shallow, flippant and selfish. Nobody should be glad at somebody’s death, no matter how well loved or hated or even sick. We as a society need to work together, to see the signs of depression and help the person suffering through it. We need our doctor’s to continue researching for cures and treatments that will help alleviate the pain without taking away their humanity. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want to see another prolific actor, creative, or anybody else die needlessly because they didn’t have the help. But those are just my views. What are yours?

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“You’ve Got a Friend in Me”: Remembering Robin Williams

Robin_Williams_picture

Robin Williams, public domain picture.

To the rest of us, celebrities appear to be immortal. They grace our televisions and big screens with an energy and talent that seem larger than life. We remember their characters, mimic their lines, and debate on our loves and hatreds of them. But when they die of whatever afflicts them, reality brings us back to earth. They’re really human, we say, with hopes, fears, happiness, and dark struggles like the rest of us. Some of them just have a better time of projecting their better persona to the general public, hiding what was really lurking beneath their optimistic, often energetic appearances until its too late.

Robin Williams’ death is probably one that has really affected me deeply. I admired his energy, optimism, versatility on stage and screen, something that I rarely say about any actor. It was amazing that he could play a flamboyant Genie in Aladdin one minute then turn around and play a dark, impulsive stalker in One Hour Photo. I’ll always remember him in Jumanji being chased by lions and monkeys, the first movie where I truly became aware of Robin Williams (aside from Aladdin). He was a big part of my childhood and hearing of his death by suicide Monday rocked me. I wish I could say I followed Robin’s career down to the T, but I didn’t. I always knew that if I needed a good movie, a Robin Williams film would always be the best bet.

Having depression is probably the worst thing a person can have. It doesn’t matter whether you’re famous or the average Joe, depression can hit you whether you expect it or not. Robin Williams openly talked about his drug and alcohol addictions and heart surgery, but very little, if at all about his depression. He had so much energy, so much optimism, and a personality that generated kindness and love-ability that it was hard to imagine him as someone less than happy.

Obviously, our perceptions of celebrities are often skewed and knowing whether someone, anyone is severely depressed is often masked or even mistaken for a case of the blues, especially with Robin Williams. The stigma of having depression is so great that to even mention it can cause shame and ridicule. When news of his death broke out, a friend stated that Robin Williams had suffered from severe depression for many years.

I hope that his death will be a lesson to us all that if we suspect someone’s depressed to do everything we can to get them help in spite of the stigmas attached. Of course, we should remember Williams’ life and his talent and achievements, but we should also remember that he taught us to reach out to those around us and tell them that they’ve “got a friend in me.”

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In the Moment

Since I haven’t been hiking in about a month, I decided to get out there this morning and go for an hour walk alone. This time, however, I decided not to take my camera along with me. I wanted to focus on where I was and just be in the moment. We’re all so focused on capturing every moment of our lives through social media, cameras, recorders, and who knows what else and forget to really notice what’s going on around us. We’re not really paying attention to our surroundings, really feeling, seeing, and smelling. We just look at something and think “Oh, I would like to share this,” and so we do. But do we truly look at something and really ponder why we like it or let it reverberate through us till the tips of our bodies tremble with emotion?

It’s hard to get away from all the technology and social media that surrounds us on a daily basis. When I went for my walk this morning, it felt really weird to not stop and snap a picture every now and then when I saw a picturesque moment. I kept stopping and thinking “If only I had my camera right now, this would make a great picture to share with everyone!” By the end of my walk, however, I had forgotten my camera blues and felt refreshed after just walking and noticing the flowers, the river, the trees, everything that was around me. I didn’t really care that I didn’t have a picture of that particular flower or an August photo of my favorite stops along the way. I was just happy and thankful to be alive.

A few months ago, I went to see the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring Ben Stiller and Sean Penn. At the end of the movie when Walter Mitty finally catches up with Life’s star photographer, he learns the most important lessen of all: That while you chase certain moments in life, when you finally get there, you realize it’s just better to live in the moment rather than just focusing on capturing it.

It’s a great life lessen and one that I hope to indulge in more often in the future. 

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Scenes From Lately (What I’m Currently Doing)

I haven’t talked about myself too deeply on here recently, mainly superficial things like what my favorite things are and pictures from my last hiking adventures. I’d like to stop a minute and talk about what I’ve been doing using the “currently” meme that has been floating around the interwebs the last couple of months. You know what I’m talking about: What I’m currently reading, listening to, wishing, etc. Maybe it’ll jumpstart others to write or do something similar or maybe even give me some ideas for future posts. Who knows. Anyway, here are some of my “currently” happenings:

Currently Reading: Outlander by Diana Gabaldan. I started reading this last month because a girl I work with and I wanted to start a book club, but so far it’s just me reading it. I’m almost done with it, though, and I have to say I can’t wait to finish reading it. It’s a good book, but it’s so long and tedious and sometimes the scenes repeat themselves over and over again to the point of driving me nuts (the sex scenes in particular). But now that I’m almost done with the first book, I almost feel obligated to read the rest of the series. We’ll see how I feel at the end of it.

Currently Writing: Blog posts, for here and my book blog. I’ve been thinking about writing fiction again, but it’s hard to start writing that sort of thing again and because I my well of ideas has dried up for the moment, I don’t feel any big desire to start up again.

Currently Listening: Compass by Lady Antebellum. This is one of their newer songs and I enjoy it so much that I’ve put it on my playlist of traditional sounding music. It’s just beautiful. My favorite line is “You wanna give up because it’s dark? We’re not that far apart.” Just another way to say “Don’t give up because the light at the end of the tunnel’s coming up soon.”

Currently Thinking: That I want to go hiking this weekend. I haven’t been in a month and I miss greatly. It’s my natural headache medicine and general de-stress-er. Plus it’s my exercise of choice. I’d rather go hiking than go to the gym or run or any such things.

Currently Smelling: Nothing much, my nose decided it wanted to run in the past 30 minutes so I can’t smell much. Earlier I smelled the rotting potatoes in the trash and it smelled quite ripe.

Currently Wishing: To work with kids and teens again. I didn’t realize how much I missed working with them until I’ve spent some time away from it. Wishing I’ll be able to do that again.

Currently Hoping: That we eat soon. I’m hungry and craving pizza. No, I’m not pregnant, but I do get cravings for certain foods and they won’t relent and only get worse if I don’t have it Right. Now.

Currently Wearing: Old jean shorts and a Helen, Georgia shirt I got the last time I went down to Georgia to visit my aunt.

Currently Wanting: To put my jamis on and read in bed but it’s way too early for something like that to be acceptable.

Currently Loving: Chocolate chip rice krispie treats and reduced fat Cheese Nips. Rather odd combination, but I haven’t had either in several years, they no longer carry Cheese Nips in the dollar store but my mom found some at the out of stock store in Beavercreek and now I’m scarfing them down like a heathen. And no, I’m not on a diet, but I think reduced fat Cheese Nips and Pringles taste better than the regular stuff. Only reason.

Currently Needing: A massage. I’ve had such a stressful, long week that a good massage wouldn’t assuage. Unless you can get me a cute man to give me a massage and dinner (only partly kidding on that last bit).

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These Are My Five Favorite Things

Like a lot of people, I have a lot of favorite things. Sometimes it’s hard to narrow down my favorites and say that I like these things exclusively and no matter what else changes in life, these favorites aren’t going to change no matter what. 

With that being said, I’m going to make an attempt to write down five of my favorites here for you. Believe me, they’re not an exclusive list, but they come pretty darn close:

  1. Country music. This is one thing that hasn’t changed since I was a child. I’ve listened to it every day since I became aware of what music was. I’m a minority for liking it where I live, but I refuse to cave into peer pressure and listen to something else exclusively and nobody can make me.
  2. Comfortable clothes. I can’t say I’m a fashion star or anything. I buy clothes for the sheer fact that they’re comfortable. I don’t think anything in my closet is in fashion and if they were, they’re a couple years behind the times. I don’t want to spend my life being uncomfortable, so why should I force myself into clothes that I don’t find comfortable? 
  3. Books. I love to read and that’s never changed. I have no problems buying a ton load of books even if I never get to read them. My family might have a problem with it, but why deny me the pleasure of looking through books, smelling them, feeling them and whatever else you can do with them? I love being surrounded by them and that’s all that matters to me.
  4. Mashed potatoes. I have no good reason for loving mashed potatoes. They’re fattening and most likely can cause health problems if eaten in large quantities. But if I was allowed to eat mashed potatoes every day, I would eat them. There’s so many ways to eat them to: With gravy on top or sausage gravy or even noodles and biscuits poured over top. Maybe it’s due to the fact that I love foods that remind me of home, mashed potatoes are my comfort food and nothing’s going to change that.
  5. Chocolate. Almost for the same reason as number 4. I have a sweet tooth and if I can’t have a piece of chocolate eventually I’ll go crazy. Don’t set chocolate in front of me because I’ll probably eat the whole lot of it in five minutes (to my dismay later when I get sick). What can I say, I gotta love my chocolate.
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Baby Steps into Irish Culture & Dancing

In my corner of Ohio, you’ll find a lot of Americans of Irish descent. There are many Irish pubs, bars, and even Irish dancing groups. So, naturally we would have a yearly Celtic Festival in July for an entire weekend. Here you’ll find everything related to the Celts, most notably Ireland (and Scotland, though its usually tagged on as an afterthought here, no idea why) which includes fish and chips, drinking, little booths with Irish/Celtic related souvenirs, and the main theme: music. 

I’ve only been a couple times and that’s been several years ago. But this year, I went with a friend and we spent several hours watching different bands perform and even went to a keili where a real Irish man taught us a few steps of Irish dance. I couldn’t quite get the steps to a couple of sets, but it was fun to participate in anyway.

And the highlight of my night was dancing with a band member from one of the bands I watched earlier for two minutes. In this dance set you switched partners as they swung you around before handing you off to your original partner. I was lucky enough to switch partners with this guy for a couple minutes. He came up to me and grabed my waist and swung me around confidently. I laughed and said I didn’t quite know what I was doing. He said “You’re doing just fine, just fine” before swinging me back to my original partner. 

Later I thought that I was a bit of an idiot to blurt out something like that. Why not say something flirtatiously, get him to notice me? But by then it was too late. I’m lucky to have talked and danced with him at all: after all, that’s the closest I’ve come to any band member, let alone a band member of a small semi-famous group in an Irish-American sub culture. But then again, I’m a romantic: a connection across the dance floor that renders in drinks and dates and dinners at a later time wouldn’t be too far fetched in my mind…in theory. In reality, awkward comments always blunders my chances in something deeper. 

At any rate, I have a good story to tell people over dinner about my amateur dances with an attractive Irish man with whom I may never see again. Perhaps there’ll be a next time where I’ll be less awkward in my intentions.

 

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Relationship Choices: The Importance of Respect

For the past few months or so, I’ve been reading a man’s blog about dating, relationships, and modern chivalry. There have been many posts in which I felt empathetic towards. Things like how men and women should behave towards each other, especially when dating or thinking about becoming serious. It made me like the blog enough to follow it (obviously).

But today I read something from his blog that made me step back a little. He said that the “I don’t need no man” philosophy is killing relationships and making men feel low. He also made the statement that men know women don’t need us, but want us to want them. 

While this is a true statement and I’m not undermining relationships or men, I feel like it’s a blanket stereotype over women who choose to remain single. I’m sure there’s women who say they don’t need or want a man because they’re bitter about what life’s given them. I know because I used to be one of those people. But now that I’ve allowed myself to grow, heal and explore myself as a single woman, I’ve discovered how happy I am as being single.

I don’t hate men, but neither do I want to be in a relationship. I like being who I am without being attached to someone else. I don’t want to have to ask my boyfriend about his plans before making my own. I want to make my own decisions and take off when I need and want to without having to compromise. I want to be free with no strings attached. 

I think there should be some respect involved when it comes to whether or not a person wants to be in a relationship or stay single. Some of us are perfectly happy to be where we are without a partner in our lives. If a woman says she doesn’t want to be in a relationship, respect her decision to be single. You don’t know her story as to why she is where she is in her life. Don’t make her feel guilty about her choices in the dating world by saying she’s killing relationships by her choice in being single. Just support her in her choices and encourage her to be who she is and grow to be an even better person that she is without impeding her in her journey. 

That’s all I and other women ask.

 

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