Wednesday, 13 August 2014

I'm feeling angry this morning.  So beware, if you have a desire to condemn me in the comments section, because this morning I might just damn well bite back.

Such a massive amount of grief porn in my social media feed yesterday, one thing after the other.  I was really saddened to hear that Robin Williams gave in to the whisper.  I get those whispers.  I've had them often in the last decade.

You know what?  There was a part of me yesterday that was jealous of Robin Williams because for him it's over.  The battle is over.  It's not the life that people who feel suicidal want to be over.  It's the constant battle, wearing you down.  It's the constant battle that gets in the way of being able to live life.

And so with these outpourings of grief yesterday, on the one hand I got it, but on the other it creeped me out and even angered me a little.

What gets me about article after article about poor Robin Williams is that nobody was thinking about him last week.  This is where this feels creepy to me.  This giant outpouring of grief isn't about Robin Williams the man, I don't think.  It's about how as a celebrity he is representational.  He is someone safely enough away from us that he is able to become a safe container in which to pour the massive amounts of grief we carry in our own life.  Sometimes, we can't see our own pain until situations like these.

If we weren't a culture in tatters, we would have, like all good cultures do, dances and stories and embodied ways of helping us navigate through life.  But we are at the end of one thing and the beginning of another, and so stuff lies in tatters.  We don't have a  public square anymore.  Somehow, we have allowed our culture to be taken over and turned into a giant warehouse for our stomachs that actually really only benefits a small group of people.  So what better stand-in than celebrities, right?  Robin Williams has become our stand-in, an icon.  What better symbol of our own hidden pain than the guy who many still can't quite believe could battle such dark demons rearing out of the shadows when he was so good at making us laugh.  As if every single person on the planet isn't so multi-faceted.

How about the people in our midst who are suffering as much as Robin Williams?  I used to talk daily with one who suffered like him.  She made the most awesome art.  Beautiful, intricate drawings that she would sell to the very, very few who walked past her on the street and actually saw her every single fucking day.  I am drawn to the weak ones, because I feel so fucking weak myself, and so I did stop.  We'd talk to each other every day.  Because I felt so weak, she was actually the safest person on the street to talk to.  She felt so much more human than the suits going to work at the bank, believe me.

Most people who are struggling like Robin Williams probably don't have the creative platform that he did to be able to demonstrate that they have valuables hidden in the folds of their jackets just because they're struggling with depression, or anxiety, or some other mental illness.  They're probably the same people we generally ignore unless we're forced to have to deal with them, or that we despise on some level because we sense their pain and it triggers our fear.  Because fuck me if we aren't stuffed up to the brim with fear.  Or we've tried to help them and they didn't respond in the way we expected and now we feel rejected.

Maybe some of the grief that we are pouring into the safe container that Robin Williams represents is about that as well.  Maybe we're grieving for ourselves, too, for what we have lost and what we don't even know we have lost.


  1. It feels like you are (at least in part) talking about me, and I'm sorry if something I said made you feel misunderstood. It's a really hard thing to talk about, but I never want you to think I judge you. You always help me see things from another perspective, which I why I love you.

    That said, I think the grief over Robin Williams is because (speaking for myself) he brought so much to our lives. It's not grief over the person or the man, because we didn't know him. It's about the loss of a persona who brought joy to many.

    I think it also makes mental illness so much more real to those who have never experienced it. Like, if someone with his resources couldn't lick it, it makes it more understandable that so many people struggle in the long term. It makes space to talk about it.

    These are just my thoughts. Bite away. :)

    1. Nothing to bite at there. No, I wasn't talking about your post. That was good and I actually felt encouraged reading it even if I didn't respond further. I felt too overwhelmed yesterday ... it felt like the world's grief was palpable. And it just washed over, over and over and over as every single person on the planet shared their fucking feelings about it. You know, that whole empath thing?

      And yes, I'm mindful of how hypocritical that is seeing here I am sharing my own thoughts but I don't fucking care because fucking fucking fuck fuck cunt cunt fuck fuck fuck

    2. The persona thing is what I was trying to write about here. I think that's what frustrates me. What, people think that people who happen to find themselves famous are just personas for them to chomp on? No wonder famous people take drugs. They're trying to make themselves as big as the archetypes we insist on them being. It's the mindlessness of people. If you are mindless in this culture, it will turn you into a giant pair of chomping teeth. I'm so tired of it, Erin.

      I'm so fucking tired of everything this morning, seriously.

      I was going to insert and apology here for dragging ya down, man, but I am resisting that urge.

    3. No apologies. This is your space. I'm sorry you are feeling overwhelmed. I hear you, on a different level, but I do.

      I think Robin Williams is one person who wanted to be a persona. He knew his work was a big deal to a lot of people, because humor heals. I don't feel that way about every celebrity, but with his death he has left a palpable void. In the bigger picture, I think opening a door to talk about it (and he did talk about it openly and publicly, which I wouldn't infringe on the privacy of a celebrity that opted to keep a mental health issue private)...he wanted us to talk about it. It's just so unfortunate that people didn't really listen until it killed him. No one (big world, big picture) cares that my friend killed herself after a long battle with mental illness. But people care when it's a celebrity. I know that feels so wrong, so hypocritical or something, but it's truth. And in that I feel your pain and frustration...why does it HAVE to be someone famous before the world cares?

    4. Yes, it's angerfying. Can we really only see the worth of a person in the very small dictates that society projects onto us? So it's worth grieving Robin Williams' death because he was BIG, a STAR, with lots of wealth and therefore worth? Whereas your friend, not as much? It's a really distorted way of looking at the worth of humanity. We have outgrown this way of looking at things, surely.

      What you said on (that stupid bloody shitty platform I hate) Facebook yesterday was really important and I guess it's what you're saying here. How do we learn how to be the sorts of people who WILL be able to help those who have depression, who are suicidal, instead of turning away from them? And like the other commenters said, it's about being able to be strong enough yourself that you know you're not going to be sucked under.

      That's it, right there, always. It always comes back to that. And it also comes back to the fact that so many people are in denial about how close they are to the edge themselves, that they will demonise those who are already looking over the precipice.

      Not that I'm talking just about suicide here - I don't think the entire world is suicidal. I think many are though. And then there's many more who are floundering and pretending they're not.

      Thanks for this conversation. I really, really appreciate you listening, Erin. You are just pure Quality Street (did you have those chocolates over there?) xo xo

    5. Well I wrote a supermassive reply then accidentally closed the tab before submitting...I HATE that.

      My friend who wasn't "officially" a suicide, but knowing her as I did I know it was a long-term suicide. She had a penchant for mixing drink and pills and she knew the risks and she did it anyhow, willfully, with the words "well maybe I'll get lucky and not wake up in the morning". Anyone who knew her well knew what happened. I don't think she *meant* to die this time, I just think she mixed her poisons in the wrong way, or maybe she just wore her body out.

      She was young and fit and healthy...except she was a high-functioning alcoholic, OCPD, and probably addicted to anti-anxiety meds and/or sleep meds.

      I still miss her every day, I cry for her most days. She was my friend and we had so many good times over the 12 or so years we were friends. But when I say that about being able to reach out and not be drug down into their darkness...I also mean that there is a limit.

      I had reached out to her, over and over and over...but this last time, I had set a boundary for my own well-being. She and I had a misunderstanding in January, and she withdrew from me, and instead of chasing her, I let her.

      Don't get me wrong....we had innumerable good times together. She lived across the street, and we had those good times that only neighbors can have. The spontaneous ones. We also had many many other fun times together. But every so often the darkness would creep in, and for years and years I'd follow her into it.

      The day before she died in May, I remember thinking as I saw her drive by, "I need to reach out to her again. I miss her company". The next day, they brought her out of her house in a body bag.

      I don't feel guilt that I wasn't able to save her. I do feel sad that I couldn't help her find the thing that would ultimately save her. But I knew in my heart of hearts that it was only a matter of time before she would get what she thought she wanted.

      This is the evil of mental health disorders...for some people there just isn't any other outcome, regardless of what anyone says or does, regardless of medications.

      So I don't mean to say that we should always, without limits, chase them into the darkness. I do think we need to talk about that to do it and remain healthy, how to love on someone who doesn't want to be loved, and how to be a light for them, a beacon. And to know when it's time to back off to protect our own sense of well-being.

      It feels like abandonment in a sense. Last winter, she expected me to chase her, and I didn't. She lived across the street, and we didn't speak for 5 months. We watched each other live, but didn't interact. I'm sure she felt I had abandoned her...that's the evil of the depression again, believing I hated her and that's the part that really hurts.

      Her parents began moving her belongings out of her house this week. That's tough.

      Thanks for listening. :)

    6. Wow, that's hard all round, Erin. For her - poor thing. And for you. It's so important, what you say, that there is, like in everything, a balance. If we're going to talk about finding ways of helping people climb out of their stuck spaces, then yes, it needs to feel safe on both sides. I understand both sides, personally. You wish to be rescued by someone outside of yourself because you don't feel that you have the ability to do it yourself. And at that point in time, maybe you don't. But that's not anyone's fault, or even yours. It just is. The best way of coming alongside people to help them climb out of black holes is to just be there and share your strength when they don't have their own, UNTIL they can find their own.

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  3. Your words resonate strongly with me, and I wrote too long a reply that perhaps didn't belong here. I'm sorry, Sue.
    I've placed my thoughts on my blog.

    Your words shine here and speak of the heartbreaking truth.

    1. Oh, no, of course you can say whatever you like on here, Vicki. I saw your comment and have been thinking about it and was going to respond to it today when I had more energy.

      I wish you didn't struggle with this stuff. I wish none of us did. But that is a rather futile wish, really, isn't it, because we do. I guess it's a hope for healing, more than anything.

  4. Apparently, struggle makes us stronger :/
    So, what of the privileged, entitled ones who've never had to endure, or lift a finger other than to snap, and have their wishes and whims granted? They must be very weak then.
    If our inner struggles are "character building", then we must have some seriously strong and tall characters.

    I too thought about the outpouring of grief... after Robin died.
    It seems a common societal malady - to be shocked, angered and grieve at suicide. After the fact.
    Doesn't anybody see the signs, subtle as they might be?
    Surely the shock isn't altogether surprising.

    And, what of the multitudes out there right now, intending to end it?
    Are there thoughts for them, before they too become a statistic?
    Or perhaps it's meant to be for some. The longed for eternal peace.
    Who's to say what's right and wrong.
    There are no easy solutions to very complicated, convoluted "conditions" of the mind.

    I do wish for a Universal healing. Souls that carry scars and hearts that bleed.
    But, I fear my wish is a futile dream.

    Nice to know there are brave people like you - who aren't afraid to express their fears, thoughts and pain... at the possible cost of alienation.
    But, in truth, win more hearts than lose them.

    1. I do think that there is healing to be had. Maybe not as quickly as we would like, and not as easily found as we need, and not as comprehensive as we desire. It's knowing which way to turn when turning in any direction feels futile and sometimes damn near impossible. That's where other people should come in. And in a topsy turvy world where those privileged and entitled ones rule without wisdom, unfortunately that seems to have trickled down, unlike neoliberal economics.

      I like to think about the state of the world in Taoist terms (my latest spiritual fad ;) That yin/yang idea that what goes up must come down. Evil prospers, but not forever, and gives way to the good. I like to think that we are on the bottom of the bottom and beginning our slow ascent upwards again. In that space, those who are entitled by birth don't get a look in. Those who have scars are the ones with the wisdom.

  5. Oh, I like your world, where evil has had its day, and it's time for those who have suffered to prosper and thrive and live without fear, judgement and internal pain.
    And be given access to good, natural, holistic health treatments - at no cost. Because this new world benefits from the wisdom of the sufferers, and thus needs them to be well.
    And, I love the thought of the entitled having to work - really work - for what they need, and not be able to get what they want as easily as they do now.

    I yearn for a proper community of understanding and care. And rewards for honest, hard workers.

    My idea of Utopia :)


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