Since Robin Williams’ death I have been ripped apart inside. I am not a world-renowned comedian, or award-winning actor, I am only a data analyst and a small cog in a wheel that few people here would know. Yet there is something that he and I have–“had” seems so wrong still–in common: we have both been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and severe depression.
I am fighting about as lonely a battle as I can think of; I have not seen anybody I know this weekend, nor did I last weekend, nor will I next weekend. Robin Williams fought his amongst millions of fans, but he too was alone in his own way. Until this week we didn’t match “Robin Williams” with “bipolar” or “depression.” Somehow in my heart I knew though. By some quirk of human nature I always seem funnier to others when I am at my lowest ebb, when I need others to be around to be drawn to me. So many descriptions of Williams in these recent days remind me of that. I read of a family who ran into him while he was eating alone in a restaurant and how he regaled them with loads of funny stories and laughter. It seemed they never stopped to think–why was one of America’s foremost celebrities eating by himself in a restaurant? I have to do it all the time, and the self-loathing afterwards is horrible. You feel alone in this world.
Having been where he was, I am starting to see a dark tinge to some of the stories “defending” Williams’ suicide. I cringe to write that but I am not certain what the right term is. Articles like this one which refer to “the last stage of Robin Williams’ illness.” I am starting to see a couple of incompatible threads to the coverage:
- People with mental illness need help.
- Robin Williams’ suicide was inevitable because he was so sick.
While I agree with 1 wholeheartedly (I need help–I need help so badly I want to shout it out at inappropriate times) I need help because I do not want to end up like Williams. If we are to believe that Williams’ suicide was inevitable, then you also have to believe that my future suicide is also inevitable. I cannot believe this. There is so much I want to live for. And if I had to give up my job or my home or my family to survive, I would do this. I don’t want it to get to the point that suicide is my only option. If it gets that far, I have not received help, or I have not asked for help in the right way.
I am seeking help again. I have an appointment with my doctor, one upcoming with employee assistance, and I am going to try to get a consult with my old counselor. I am going to discuss with my boss how I can dial back from a 60-hour work week–a conversation I am not looking forward to, but one I must have if I am going to survive much longer. I am adjusting my meds and hoping something will get the balance right. I realize it might not all be enough. But I also realize failure is not inevitable. To say that suicide is inevitable in any situation is just as toxic as saying it’s the easy way out.
I don’t know what Williams was feeling right beforehand. It must have been worse than anything I’ve ever felt (and I say this as a two-time survivor of suicide attempts). But I can’t say what he did was inevitable. I don’t know what would have saved him, but I realize that something must have been possible. I wish…I wish I’d been there, you know? All those times he was there for other people, and the one time he needed someone, he was alone. Down as I am, I just wish I could have been there to say something, anything that could have helped.
Sad thing is, here I am sitting here typing this in tears, knowing I am alone too. Something tells me there will be hope one day. I don’t know where it will come from (I have recently been following an old dictum by a fellow bipolar to “live one day at a time…if you can’t, do a couple hours at a time…if not, 15 minutes at a time”). There will be hope some day. The last stage of this is not to inevitably take my own life–it could happen, but I would rather the last stage to be the breakthrough, the day I step out of the gloom.
I just wish Robin Williams, and all those others who never made it out alive, had succeeded in their journey. For now I have to save myself and one day I hope to save others, so their last stage will be a new life.