Wednesday, August 13, 2014

about yesterday's 6am-ish ravings on Robin Williams and the public

Yesterday, for my 6am-ish thoughts --a thing I sometimes post on Facebook before I go to bed-- I wrote:

"Robin Williams has not EVEN been dead for 24 hours and already people in the press and FB users are trying to wrap up the reasons for his suicide into a nice, little, understandable package so they can return to the safe thoughts of their mostly chemically-balanced brains. I understand, no one wants to imagine that life can be so FUCKING painful and unsafe. No one wants to think ...that this kind of shit might happen to you or someone you love. Please, take the pretty bow off the package and get a good look at that insane-panic-ridden-bloody-mass of pain and loss inside. This shit is REAL. Don't diminish the tragedy with your stupid and trivial insights. No one can guarantee that at some point this shit might come very, very, VERY close to you, and trust me, if it does, you'll want to punch the fucking lights out of anyone who tries to put it in parenthesis, like "he had mental illness," or "he struggled with addiction." Seriously? Just stop. You. have. no. idea. what you're talking about."
I'm sure my rant was not very clear, so this is my somewhat messy attempt to further explain what I mean. (It's messy because I have a migraine, as well as back and body pain, so please bear with me.)
The point I was attempting to make (in a fit of rage, if you couldn't tell) is that, as a survivor of two suicides --that of my father and my friend Gretchen--is that I know first hand how people (not all, but a major portion of them) attempt to put suicide in a less frightening box that can soon be put away in order to get back to their lives, while the survivors are left writhing and confused on a journey that may take years to sort out --if ever. Very much like this quote from Lemony Snicket, "You and I, of course, would never do this to any of our grieving acquaintances, but it is a sad truth in life that when someone has lost a loved one, friends sometimes avoid the person, just when the presence of friends is most needed."

In our culture we do not grieve well. A person dies, we have a funeral and reception, and then the grieving are expected to get over it, as quickly as they can. There was a time when grieving went on for a long while, some wearing of black for months, or a black band worn around the upper arm, as a reminder those grieving and those around the grieving that something tragic has happened, and there is still in pain.

In her book, "Stitches" Anne Lamott writes, "...the slow-motion pain of each private death and cataclysm we endure... slams us off our feet, yet we have agreed to pretend to be fine again at some point, ideally as soon as possible, so as not to seem self-indulgent or embarrass anybody, so people can get on with their lives," and, "What I resist is not the truth but when people put a pretty bow on scary things instead of saying, 'This is a nightmare. I hate everything. I'm going to hide in the garage."

THIS is what press and some people on FB are doing, saying "OMG Robin Williams is dead! RIP, man! We'll miss you!" Then they'll pack it up and in a months time (or less) nobody will be talking about it, because someone else famous will have died, or something political will come up for the press to sensationalize and people to argue over. This is fine, of course, as the Press and FB users do not know Williams personally, but only a few people are penetrating the heart of the matter.

One of my FB friends commented, "news is more marketable if it is presented in a certain way. society has a distaste for suicide as it usually happens among highly intelligent and valuable deep thinking individuals, and when a genius movie star success like Williams is associated with it, it is in fact a statement against the entire value system the culture enforces. So, this is water in the face of the culture's assumptions about life, success, happiness, and so on. The culture then seeks to redirect this inditement from being a statement how fucked up IT is, so it provides a bullshit tag lie excuse that is the myth of total personal choice and responsibility, such as: 'depression' or 'personal problems' 'addiction' or whatever that is supposed to mean it was their problem, when it is really the problem of the whole society, like a cancer cell grows in an unhealthy body.*

Some people are actually discussing the horrors of suicide and informing the public how to help people who are suicidal, as well as continuing to comfort the survivors.

I also want to mention that I have struggled with suicide since I was 15, and even more so when I suddenly had a chronic disorder and pain --which began almost 20 years ago. I was hospitalized for overdosing when I was 16, and then twice as an adult. I'm on more RX's than you can imagine. Only recently have I started to see my thought patterns change, thanks to God, my supportive family, friends and my incredible Christian counselor. But it's still a struggle --and it's so much more intricate than my chronic pain, depression, anxiety, etc.

Again, my point is that death and suicide are tragic, and our culture talks about tragic events for a week or so, and then go on. Grief is no longer explored to it's depths, and the intricacy of suicide is one we most certainly do not want to explore for very long, because it is horrific and very difficult to compartmentalize in little words like "depression" "mental illness" "drug addict" and so forth. THAT is what I mean by trivializing it. My father's death was much much more than "chronic pain." I WISH it was that simple and that I could just go on, but the truth is, it has been 7 years since the gunshot woke me and my life continues to be shaken and dismayed by it, whether people around me like that or not. THAT is why I said people should just stop trying to put it into a box, because, as Lemony Snicket wrote, "If you have ever lost a loved one [by suicide], then you know exactly how it feels. And if you have not, then you cannot possibly imagine it." (insert mine.)

*by Kurt Alejandro Linguini, edited for clarity.