Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Welcome to the Slaughterhouse!: Robin Williams Was My Friend!

"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." George Washington
Welcome to the Slaughterhouse, America!!

by Nicholas Meyeres
Few times has a complete stranger so deeply and profoundly touched my life that upon word of their passing I am left with overwhelming sadness and regret for not knowing who they truly were. Such a person was Robin Williams, and now I- like so many other people- feel that a part of me is missing. A part none of us will ever get back again.

I may not have known you, Robin, but I feel that you knew me.

You knew when I needed a good cry. You could make my belly shake until my side ached from laughter. You showed me how to think about life in a way that no one else could-- unique and fresh. You were a good friend to me even though our paths never crossed.
Whenever I heard Robin Williams was doing an interview, or when he was on tv, or in a movie I was excited like a child the night before Christmas. I knew at some point during that short period of time I would be allowed to step completely outside of myself, and let the sorrows I felt in my own life go. Unfortunately, no one could do the same for him.

His manic energy and infectious laughter and smile shook me to my core. Yet, few actors could go to that quiet, small place with their craft, shed the frenzied intensity, and make you believe with all your heart like he could. Robin couldn't turn off the emotional spigot within himself. He was either a sun or a moon. Very rarely was he anything in-between. Yet, that is what made him so brilliant, and so sad.

I can't say I fully understand depression, addiction or suicide because I have never struggled with any of the above. In fact, I have only ever known one person close to me who ended their own life, and it still confounds and haunts me today. Why would anyone choose death when life is filled with such joy, happiness, beauty, and wonder?

But in that very question lies the answer.

In the mind of depression lies that same desire for joy, happiness, beauty, and wonder, but somehow it's like a distant memory. It's an abstract cloud in the sky that’s always out of reach. It’s tons of ocean water crashing down around you where you can never quite reach the surface no matter how hard you try. The depth of the world's woes far outweigh the positive influences surrounding them in the world of addiction. To these people, the bottle or the pill is a release from pain, and frighteningly, suicide is ever an option.

Ending a life would be an absolute last resort for me. Maybe it would never be one for another person. To people who suffer from severe depression, perhaps they feel it is their only recourse. But rest assured, it is not.

Life is about making choices, and it is what separates us from the animals. Those choices define who we are- right or wrong- and we must always endeavor to find ways to make the proper ones for us, and those around us. Sadly, most people seem to recall the few times when we turned left instead of right in life, and not the many times we moved forward without stumbling.

The old adage goes "we all make mistakes." Unfortunately, some of us make big mistakes often, but that doesn't stop us from trying our best to be the best we can be in life. I just wish I could wave a magic wand, and have everyone say to themselves without question: "I like me today, and I can't wait to be an even better me tomorrow." After all, we are not the men we are because of the mistakes we have made in life; we are the men we are because it is who we choose to be, not who we have become.

Death as an abstract thought is a very selfish business, and a business no one likes to ever invest in. When someone passes on we say out loud, "I can't believe this person is gone", or question "why did this person have to die?" But what we really mean to say is, "We did YOU leave ME?"

However, suicide is not the same.
A person determined to end their lives doesn't think in the same rational way we do as evidenced by the many suicide notes and letters left behind. They don't seem to be thinking about the wake they leave, but instead what they can do to mitigate the pain of others. Robin Williams likely didn't say before he left "I am leaving you  because the world is too hard", but rather "I am leaving because it will make your life easier." If anything that is the opposite of selfishness.

Robin Williams said in a movie back in 2009, “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.

I am sure Robin loved his family, and never felt alone in their presence, but could they truly empathize with his many struggles and hardships? Could any of us, even someone who suffered like he did? We are all individuals, and we all walk a different path. No one was in Robin's head but Robin, and no one will ever know what his last thoughts were. But do we even need to?

It is true, most people choose not to remember the many times we move forward without stumbling. I choose to remember Robin Williams, not as an addict who ended his own life, but as a friend who brought joy to mine many times over. I choose to surround myself with people and things that make me happy and whole, not with those who only wish to drain me, and tear me down.

Don’t let the worst thing in your life end up being with people who make you feel all alone- including you.