As everyone in the world has no doubt become aware, Robin Williams the great thespian and comedian passed away yesterday. The media and vicariously, the public, has been informed that his death was caused by suicide by asphyxiation, which has prompted me along with a rough evening involving a “Russian duck” and some opera tickets, to write this brief post about suicide and Williams, but what I hope this post discusses mainly is strength.
Williams was married three times and had just as many children yet despite being able to leave such a warm and poignant legacy to the world in terms of his work and family, he struggled in life with alcohol and cocaine and problems with his heart. Much like other celebrities (Kenneth Williams and Jimmy Clitheroe spring to mind) known for being funny to the public eye, in private Williams evidently had a painful and difficult-to-bear existence. I cannot claim to know more facts that any concerning his death, or his career and personal life for that matter having only seen Popeye, Aladdin, Mrs Doubtfire, Jumanji, Aladdin & the King of Thieves, Flubber, Bicentennial Man, Man of the Year, Night at the Museum, License to Wed and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (actually, that’s quite a chunk of his filmography having listed them!). However, my viewing activity aside, he was a respected man and actor and I can only assume having read what his daughter Zelda has posted over the past twenty-four hours, that he was a greatly loved husband and father.
Robin McLaurin Williams (July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014)
His life achievements make me wonder if the desire to screw everything and end it all ever goes away. I mean to say, I go on and on about how much I need there to be a family of my own in my future for my life to truly begin and be worth all the suffering I have endured, am enduring currently and anticipate until I become a mother, but Robin Williams’ death does make me stop and think about whether that will be enough or if it will fulfill me in the moment but leave that deep obsession with quitting the world where too much hurt and pain and war exists still scratching away at my synapses. The man was a much sought-after, successful actor in Hollywood, a terrific father and a man who managed to attract three women (more than I’ve ever accomplished) and yet what life gave him and potentially had in store for him was not sufficient to keep him alive. His suicide meant that a future of grandchildren, growing old(er…), seeing his kids live their lives and continuing to have a thriving career was not enough future and unguaranteed happiness to outweigh the sadness and morbid thinking that must have been percolating in his mind prior to his decision to hang himself. That is what worries me the most.
Nothing in the future is certain, I’m astute enough to understand that fact and that at any given moment I may get an ovarian cyst that will eliminate the possibility of biological children, or a terrorist will manage to blow Essex up in a cloud of orange fake tan and vajazzling glitter. The world is a place of chance and it is not a given that just because I’ve had some rotten luck in my personal and love life so far the scales will even out and there will be definitely be happiness in my future. It is completely by chance that I went to a brilliant school, was taught by impressive and inspirational teachers, found an extended family in my friends and ended up at the University of Exeter. I am well aware that others aren’t so lucky in this bleak (yet beautiful!) world of ours!
It takes a certain type of strength to survive and even more to blossom in the 21st century but it also takes a different ilk of strength to leave it behind. Many perceive suicide as giving up and as a display of cowardice, but I hold a different opinion. I believe suicide is a high form of bravery. It is an emotional, drastic and committed expression of the depravity or the depression or the disappointment of life (hopefully not all three simultaneously!). This – naturally – is a biased opinion from one who has dwelt on suicide for more hours than there are in a day and attempted it on no less than five occasions, committing self-harm more often in practice and I do invite you to disagree and argue with me in the comments section, but nevertheless, I am fully entitled to have this opinion. Just so you understand that I am not only someone who thinks about killing themselves, I will disclose that (to my knowledge) one relative and one acquaintance have committed suicide in my lifetime and thus I have been affected by the suicides of others in my life too. Obviously, I am not dead, so what you might have inferred is that I have bottled it five times when trying to kill myself. Some have attributed these failures to the need to attract attention, others comprehend them as actions the basic, human, primal instinct to survive has averted. I have another opinion. I am a weak human being right down to the core. I struggle with change, I live most of my life alone and beyond the world of the real and living and I speak to my nan (deceased) way too much for it to be healthy. This weakness never lets me go all the way and leave. It never lets me find an iota of peace far away from Earth as it crumbles. It is a weakness that I am still trying to overcome, though with the help of my pills, the desire to try is dwindling, so maybe one day it will disappear entirely…
I realise that this post seems morbid and definitively negative, however, I would just like to share with you one final thought before I go and get some sleep. Whilst it might be a lack of strength or attention seeking that keeps me alive, I’ll tell you truly that on my good days I disagree utterly with both those explanations. I believe that it is hope that stays my hand, hope that the future will bear all the fruit that I hope it will, that I will be able to have children of my own and that the world will not blow itself to smithereens in some terrible nuclear holocaust (please, God, no…). This hope that was left in Pandora’s jar will see me through to my graduation, to America, to becoming a fabulous teacher, to motherhood, to grandmotherhood and finally to death at its right, proper and God-appointed time.