I didn’t know Robin Williams. I don’t know his family. I don’t know what he liked to eat, where he lived, or what kind of car he drove. I know that I enjoyed watching his movies; but I don’t know what he enjoyed. I know that he made me laugh, and cry; but I couldn’t tell you what made him laugh or cry. And I know that he struggled with depression, although I don’t know what kind of depression or how he actually felt.
I can only tell you how I feel; and how I felt – when I attempted suicide.
I was 19 and just coming home from my tour of duty during Operation Desert Storm. I was happy to be home with my family and enjoyed the time I got to spend with them after being away. After a few weeks, everyone went back to work, and I suddenly felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere. I couldn’t adjust to life back home. I was panicked every second of the day, afraid to leave the house. I would go weeks at a time without showering. I was depressed, but I didn’t really know it; I didn’t understand it.
I started to see a therapist. Because I had no insurance, I went to the local clinic where I could see someone for free. She didn’t know how to help me. Truth be told, she was probably a fine therapist, but I don’t think she was equipped to deal with my specific issues; I don’t think she was trained to deal with PTSD.
She prescribed medication, which I took faithfully. It didn’t really “fix” my issues, it just dulled the pain. In fact, the medication dulled everything. I didn’t feel sad, anxious, nervous, or lonely; I just stopped feeling altogether. I was like a zombie, sleeping all day, crying when I was awake, but trying to put on a brave face for my family. I felt tortured.
One night, I was getting ready for bed, and, honestly, I don’t really remember doing it, but I took the whole bottle of pills. I remember thinking that there was nothing left for me. I wasn’t really living at this point, I was just a shell, and I just wanted the pain to go away.
My mom came in to check on me and say goodnight. I don’t recall if I told her I took the pills or if she saw the empty bottle, and I don’t remember how I got to the ER. I just remember sitting on a gurney drinking a horrendous mixture of liquid charcoal to force me to throw up.
I don’t remember the doctors, I don’t remember the questions they asked, I don’t remember how I got home. The only thing I can tell you about that night was how I felt. It was a feeling of total and complete despair. The feeling of not being able to handle even one more day.
As you can plainly see, my attempt to take my own life was not successful. I’m here to tell you about it; and I’m so glad that I am! From time to time I think about all the things I would have missed if I had actually succeeded with my plans all those years ago.
Many, many years after my suicide attempt, I battled depression again. This time, with a proper diagnosis (ADHD, OCD, depression, and bi-polar disorder) I managed to work my way through without trying to end my life. There are still times when I struggle with depression, but I’ve learned new ways to cope.
I haven’t thought about my suicide attempt in a very long time, but the news of Robin Williams’ death hit me hard. I imagined what might have been going on in his head and in his heart at the moment he decided to leave this Earth. I felt pain for him. I felt pain for his family, and for the people that were close to him and loved him.
The news sparked lots of talk on the internet today. People reflecting back on Mr. Williams’ work and the joy that he brought to others. Many people remarked that they couldn’t understand how someone who seemed so full of joy could be in a position to end his own life.
The only thing I can say is that you can’t explain what it feels like to someone who hasn’t experienced the pain. We may never understand what happened to Robin Williams. Trying to make sense of it makes no sense at all.
If you are experiencing any type of depression, please get help. There are many resources out there to help you. And please, PLEASE, if you have any thoughts of harming yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
I wish Mr. Williams’ family peace in the difficult days ahead. And to all those suffering with depression, I hope that you find peace as well.