Scattered thoughts on Williams, Suicide and Depression

by Elliott Wallace in

Hey Gang:

Given his recent death, I felt the need to write a little more about Robin Williams, suicide and depression. But, I’m still trying to figure out the best way to tackle this issue.

Earlier this year, a really nice, funny guy named Justin Carmical, known as JewWario on YouTube, committed suicide. He was 42 and he was an online video personality with a big heart, a funny guy and all around a lot of great energy. Hearing about the suicide was a shock, because had you ever seen him, he radiated. He just felt so positive. I remember seeing him a MagFest, not even speaking, just seeing him in his yellow hat across the exhibition floor and feeling “Hey, it’s JewWario.”

Hearing about his suicide gave me a very similar feeling to Williams.

Rage and that instant feeling of “How selfish” rationalization, something that is pretty much imprinted on how we think of suicide and depression to an extent, some form of weakness, followed by the thoughts and questions which stick the most with me, “What was he going through? What hurt him so much? What was killing him so much inside? What did he carry that was just too heavy for him to go along with life?”

Maybe it’s the way I grieve now, because for the tears that I feel welling up when I think about their deaths and a lot of the people’s how are close to me, when I think about their lives, I cannot let those tears fall. But those thoughts I have about people who suffered mentally and emotionally before their deaths, especially those from suicide, always and often come to me.

The burden is so strong for people like them and for a lot of people.

But those questions still trouble me. Those whys. Those whats. Am I being too hard on these people? I would like to think I am not. It’s not that I think they are weak. No. It’s that something, I don’t know what, something gave out. Something too big. And deep down I think where was I or anyone to know or help or connect.

I instantly attempt to focus this on myself, which is probably the worst thing about this whole ordeal, because these are people with families. The families are suffering in a way that is too difficult for me to really imagine. The best I can offer is compassion and empathy for these people’s friends and families.

But it’s a question which continues to haunt me and digs deep down. Those whys, those whats. That burden. That weight. That suffering.

I started to reflect on my struggles with depression. About three or four years back I was diagnosed with depression, Major Depressive Disorder actually. However, this struggle has been going on since I was young. Of course it was difficult to really distinguish between actual depression, teenage angst and attempting to copy the mood of Billy Corgan, but something deep down made my self-esteem suffer immensely.

I can say that depression is a strange beast. I read somewhere that its the “cancer of the soul” or at least I think I read that somewhere. For me, however, it’s been a mixture of a battle and a bully. Something I have to fight to clear my head and something that keeps me down and keeps me in line, the way the worst kid on the schoolyard does.

My youth was filled with a healthy amount of bullying, mostly on weight and sometimes on race. In the occasional cases, my intelligence and I would be lying if the bullying didn’t involve my general weirdness. I was an outsider and wore that flag….ambivalently. I tried to embrace my strangeness but could still feel this internal monstrosity. I was feeling alone and disconnected when people seem to like my company.  

And it was rough, a rough thing to communicate effectively, letting people know you feel like you don’t matter to them. It’s still hard now. It’s hard to explain and hard to understand sometimes. It’s even harder to take in the positives of living. Depression fights me, because it needs to remind you how useless and worthless I am.

It’s as much a struggle now. Now, I’m in a wonky kind of shape. There’s a heavy amount of burdens in my life, but I just seem to go along and deal with them. They are there and they are scary. But, they have to be dealt with. Things are exactly going great, in fact a lot of what I’m dealing with feels like “When it rains, it pours.” In essences, the last few months, years, have been rough on my personally.

I think suicide can be an equally bigger burden. A burden that hangs over one’s head. My own experience with suicide … makes me a bit uncomfortable to really discuss.

When I was around 17, I had one of the worst, most crippling nights at high school. I would say it might have been the most crippling night of my life. I had been embarrassed in front of the school, been yelled at by my parents. I couldn't sleep that night. I wandered throughout my house. I took a steak knife and rubbed it across my wrist. I didn't draw blood. I wandered some more. I tried again, only with a butter knife. I just did not want to continue with my life on that night. I was about to go to college and Europe, but I didn't care. I wanted to stop existing. But, I strangely wanted to keep moving on. It remains a weird moment, not wanting to be alive while also not wanting to die. Maybe it was the fear of the unknown on the other end of death's dream. Maybe it was something less. But, I wanted to die as much as I wanted to continue. 

That feeling still, somehow, nearly a decade later, a decade after gradschool, jobs, undergrad, Europe, sticks with me. It's a cloud. It's the burden. It strikes and it's scary. 

I never met or spoke to Robin Williams, JewWario, another person who ended their lives. I can only say that I felt it. I really am struggling in writing some of this. I didn't want to just focus on what these people mean to me, because there are endless tributes. I wanted to share what may be the most difficult thing in all of this. This why. This what. This burden. This struggle. 

In the end, without a note or any last words, we might never truly honestly fully understand these people. It's rough. Maybe we can ask different questions. Maybe we can get better answers. Maybe we can find a way to get closer. I think that's been another important reason I wrote this, I want to find someway to connect with people and I decided to be incredibly vulnerable. I'm a wee bit tired and will probably edit or get frustrated with myself for writing this, but I think it's important to share something.