I’m not the type to get into speculation about the circumstances around Robin Williams’ suicide–his recovery, his mental health diagnosis, the care he received, etc. However, I read a few pieces that picked up on a theme of aloneness in suicide.
From the New Yorker [emphasis mine]:
Robin Williams’s suicide was not the self-indulgent act of someone without enough fortitude to fight back against his own demons; it was, rather, an act of despair committed by someone who KNEW, rightly or wrongly, that such a fight could never be won.
. . .
Suicide is a crime of loneliness, and adulated people can be frighteningly alone.
By now you’ve figured out what the three groups have in common; they are alone. It may not look that way to you, but that’s how it feels to them. It’s not the fault of their family or friends. It’s nothing that anyone is doing wrong.
From Jennifer Matesa, mulling over the coroner’s report:
And here’s the thing. He wasn’t found by his wife. He was found by his personal assistant. The employee knocked on the door at 11:45 a.m., more than 12 hours after Williams’s wife had last seen her husband, and couldn’t raise his boss. So the assistant went into the room, the assistant found the body.
I’m thinking about this report in this way because I think a lot these days about the commonalities of people who are suffering for various reasons. If Williams died in this supremely lonely way, then you can bet there are hundreds, thousands of others who have died this way
All of this brings to mind David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement speech from Kenyon College [emphasis mine]:
And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out.
. . .
And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation.
One thought on “Suicide and aloneness”
It’ so hard to fathom. I can tell myself I know what he was going through—because I too am an addict that suffers from depression and anxiety and has, on occasion, contemplated the end—but I can also be absolutely certain that I have no notion whatsoever of the anguish that moved him to what he thought was the only solution.
With so many able to empathize it’s more than a bit tragically ironic that we form a legion of the alone.
Thanks for sharing. I appreciate it.
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