Quick Hit--Rest In Peace, Robin Williams

Robin Williams died today, apparently of a suicide.  People have reacted to express their love for Williams, and rightfully so, as he was one of the most maniacally funny comedians I've ever seen.  He had a long history of struggling with addiction, and there are reports he was suffering from pouts of depression.

Among the comments when one sees when someone famous commits suicide, you usually find some version of "I cannot imagine how someone would get to the point where they would do something like that."

I can.

I've never seriously considered committing suicide.  I've never been in that place.  But I've seen that place from where I was standing.

I cannot speak to addiction, but I can speak to depression.  One of the most insidious aspects of depression is that your mind blocks out what it feels like to be in the grip of depression once it is over.  It's a defense mechanism, I am sure, but it makes every episode feel like the worst experience you have ever had.  If you think hard about it, you will realize that this experience is like the last time you were down deep, but it doesn't feel that way.  It feels like you are in a unique world of pain, that pieces of you are falling off that can never be re-attached.  By definition, depression prevents you from being able to have any perspective on your situation.  All you know is that you are failing down a dark bit that has no discernible bottom and no rope to pull you out.

That's not true of course.  There is a bottom, and there is a rope.  You can get out of the pit.  But it is very hard to make yourself believe that, because all of your perceptions are telling you that this pit is never going to end.  See, depression is not about being sad.  Depression is a condition that changes the way you perceive the world.  It's like being underwater--everything looks and sounds distorted and misshapen, and you feel like you are going to drown.  When you feel like you are drowning, you begin to panic.  And when you panic, you make tragic decisions.

I don't mean to criticize the folks who say they don't understand people who commit suicide.  I am glad for them.  I would rather not understand a sliver of what Robin Williams might have been thinking this morning.  But I think I do.

I wish someone could have been there to throw him a rope, but there wasn't.  And so, all we can do now is hope he found some peace.


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