CW: This essay discusses suicide. If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please call 911. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. The world needs you.
By Angela M Giles
This weekend marks the four year anniversary of Robin Willam’s suicide. I still cannot watch anything with him in it, it makes my heart hurt too much. I know this is irrational. But it is real. Perhaps it is my fear of seeing a flicker of darkness cross his face, or perhaps it is hearing him say something that hits too close to his end that prevents me. I know how his story finishes, I want to remember enjoying his work.
Suicide is a complicated act, its shroud is depression and it is often accompanied by something else, another disease that really gives ideation heft. In the case of Robin Williams it was Parkinson’s disease, in the case of my father it was alcoholism. In my case it was a combination of diagnosed issues, packed in trauma, tied up in emotional abuse, both at the hands of a lover.
When I declared 2017 the year of letting go, I intended it to be the year of letting go of things that no longer served me. Instead, I began planning my own death. All the things one must think of were being thought (date, time, means). Yet midway through the year, just after another round of gaslighting, some very small very bright part of me realized that I needed to set a new intention, so I did: I will not die. Eleven letters that held me together. Four simple words that became my mantra in the middle of the night. One statement that gave me an alternate ending.
It’s hard to explain to someone who has not felt the seductive pull within ideation what it’s like to contemplate your own end, and it is an understanding I do not wish on anyone. It’s even harder to live within ideation for days on end. It’s harder still to reach out to those you trust most to say “I am not OK.” But the hardest thing of all is battling your own mind as you try to emerge from such a dark space.
There have been times over the last eighteen months that I knew without a doubt that my purpose was over, that my time had come. Slogging through that and pulling myself together enough to do something as simple as brush my teeth was difficult. I am fortunate in that I have exquisite friends who, at times, fell over each other reminding me that I am not the story another person made of me.
I know how close I came to being one of the 125 people who die by suicide each day. My heart aches for the 3,000 people who will attempt suicide today. I understand how it feels it is to be wrapped up in such deep, sad hurt that it feels safer to hide than than to open up to a friend. If you have ever felt this, you are most certainly not alone.
And here I am, not dead, feeling thoughtful about Robin Williams, and remembering that depression is still a duplicitous asshole.
The idea of Robin Williams not existing in the world will always make me sad I suspect. Other acts of suicide that have made the headlines will always tug at me in a strange way. And I really miss my dad sometimes.
So for me, if nothing else, please spread a little extra joy in honor of a talent who made so many laugh on a regular basis. And reach out to the one person who keeps popping into your mind, just to connect. Time is precious in ways most cannot comprehend. Also, if you need help, please ask. If asked to help please listen.
Angela M Giles has had her work appear in The Healing Muse as well as on The Nervous Breakdown and The Manifest-Station. She tweets as @angelamgiles and can be found on Instagram as @angela.m.giles. When inspired (which isn’t nearly often enough) she updates her blog, Air Hunger. Angela lives in Massachusetts where she conquers the world, one day at a time. She is a partner in crime and fellow bad-ass at The Manifest-Station.