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I have been strangely unmoved by Robin Williams' death. Sometimes… - Tactical Ninja

Aug. 14th, 2014

09:41 am

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I have been strangely unmoved by Robin Williams' death.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm a sociopath.


I mean, everyone loved him, right? He was a great actor and a huge part of the life-background of GenXers worldwide, right? And the internet is outpouring all this grief, empathy and something I don't have a word for that's about depression and suicide as a phenomenon, the recognition thereof. All these things that I just don't feel.

I won't miss him. My thoughts on finding out he died were something along the lines of "Oh, that's a shame." And carrying on about my day. I was genuinely surprised to discover that lots of people, even people who are normally not affected by celebrity deaths, felt the need to express grief over this one.

I guess I just don't feel it as a loss when he wasn't really a part of my life except as an actor in things I watch for entertainment. I didn't know him, I didn't experience any form of two-way interaction with him, ever. What I saw and knew of him was always his representation of another person whose character was written and portrayed to make me respond in a certain way. It wasn't real.

So when the real person died, I was vaguely sad because the world's lost a good actor, but I didn't go anywhere near my real emotions.

I know a lot has been made of the depression/suicide thing. How sad that someone so well loved could feel so alone as to desire to take themselves out of life rather than continue to suffer. Well, yes. But here's where my opinion get somewhat controversial.

From what I understand, he'd been struggling with depression for a really long time. I don't know how old he was but he was well older than me, and I think it's fair to say that he'd had a lifelong struggle with it. I've experienced depression, and it's pretty fucking awful. And I see absolutely no reason why, when faced with the prospect of living for another 20, 30 or 50 years with the kind of awfulness that depression can bring on you, choosing not to is so bad.

Someone in our social group made the same choice a couple of years ago, and when I expressed this opinion in relation to that, at least one person took it upon themselves to berate me for having it. Because I was supposed to *want* this person to go on living, because living is the best choice. Full stop. End of story. Because *reasons*.

What reasons? Oh, they might get better, and then they will want to live! Which is true, but if someone's been round the track of feeling better, continuing to do everything right, then sinking down that hole again, and again, and again, despite their best efforts to do everything they can to prevent it, then who are we to judge whether they ought to continue going round that track till we deem it ok for them to not fight any more?

Exactly who are we thinking of when we decide that someone else should want to stay alive at all costs?

Yesterday, someone posted about the response to Robin Williams - particularly about people saying "Oh, but he had no reason to be depressed!" My reply to this was that saying that is like saying "Oh, but your Mum had no reason to get cancer!"

Because depression is an illness, right? That's the generally accepted view. And for some people, it's a chronic illness - one that brings about as much pain and suffering on an ongoing basis as many other more obvious illnesses. Yet most people will not disagree if you say something like "I really wish they would allow voluntary euthanasia for cancer sufferers." Because we recognise that there is a point where quality of life is so poor that the ill person could rationally make the choice not to suffer any more.

Yes, cancer is very often terminal. Depression will not kill you the way cancer will if you don't intervene. And for some reason, we as a society have decided that the only time suicide is a legitimate option is when you are going to die anyway. Otherwise, you must try to stay alive regardless of what you're going through, because you might miraculously get better and then what?

I would like to suggest that for people who suffer from chronic depression, the idea of a lifetime of going around that track may seem like a quality of life that isn't worth staying alive for. I would like to additionally suggest that if someone's been doing all the right things to be in their right mind, and they are still not in their right mind a lot of the time (and that lack of right mind causes them extreme suffering), then perhaps we are not in a position to judge the rationality of the choices they make.

This is the part where people usually go "So you reckon people with depression should just kill themselves?"

My answer to that is no. Of course not. But I do think that we should stop automatically assuming that suicide is an illegitimate option and that anyone who chooses it is automatically wrong to do so, that it isn't rational. I believe there are times when it is rational, and that as a society we are doing ourselves a disservice by not recognising our agency to decide this for ourselves. We prefer to let people suffer, because..

.. because God said suicide is a sin? Is that the only reason that life is so sacred that it's preferable to prolong it regardless of how full of suffering that life might be? On the off chance that things *might* get better - against all evidence to the contrary, in many cases?

So um, yeah. I guess I'm kind of pragmatic about death. You get that way hanging out with animals. We don't let them endure prolonged suffering.. well, actually, some of us do - those of us who can't stand to let go of our attachment to their presence in our lives. And others of us judge those people cruel for doing so. Yet when it comes to people, we accept that suffering is inevitable and worthy, and we judge people harshly for even suggesting that someone ending their suffering might be a better option. It's weird and wrong, IMO.

As a result of all this, what I feel about Robin Williams is the minor loss of someone I didn't know but who was famous, a great deal of sympathy for those who are more affected than me by his death, and a sense that maybe there is some rightness in this. I don't find choosing to die as repulsive as many other people, so to me it's not that different from if he'd died of cancer. And that's nothing to be that upset about, because, well, people die all the time.

And I ask myself, which is more sociopathic - an insistence that other people should want to be alive because we can't stand the idea that they didn't want to stick around with us? Or letting them choose for themselves and accepting that maybe that choice was better for them even if it wasn't good for us?


Also, I'm not charming enough to be a sociopath.

Comments:

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From:pythia
Date:August 13th, 2014 09:50 pm (UTC)
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I agree with pretty much all of this, except I surprised how upset I was by his death. i nearly burst into tears at work. WTF?

But yes, I agree with your views on suicide. I might add to this later, but I've got to run to work and need to formulate my thoughts.
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From:jenny_evergreen
Date:August 13th, 2014 10:01 pm (UTC)
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Ditto.
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From:i_love_freddie
Date:August 13th, 2014 10:22 pm (UTC)
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I actually kind of agree with you. I think he was good at what he did and it is a bit of a loss. It is kind of sad - I find it sad when anyone dies. But I can't really understand the whole 'devastation' (for lack of a better word) that I am seeing everywhere. I put it down to an aspie thing, but it leaves me a bit bewildered.
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From:ms_hecubus
Date:August 13th, 2014 10:52 pm (UTC)
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I haven't been terribly moved by his death either. I find a lot of people getting sad, angry, etc. about it, but I don't feel it so I keep my mouth shut.

My most controversial view is that I do think suicide is selfish. I, however, don't find anything inherently wrong with being selfish when you need to be. We need to care for ourselves first and foremost. If that sometimes means doing something we know will hurt others it's a fact we have to live with. So while I think suicide is selfish I don't condemn people for being selfish when it comes to ending life-long pain.

But I can't post that on FB or somebody will get upset. So I've just left it alone.
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From:anna_en_route
Date:August 14th, 2014 12:41 am (UTC)
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I would divide my reactions to suicidal depression into the way I believe people should act if they believe someone they know is suicidal (which is to do everything in their power to get that person, treatment and help) and post-suicide (recognise that someone was facing a horrendous slog against their own mind).

I know people whose lives have been helped immeasurably by medication, by therapy and various other means, I wouldn't say their improvement was miraculous but it would have been a shame for them if they'd been successful at suicide before encountering the measures that currently help them deal with day to day life.
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From:crazedturkey
Date:August 14th, 2014 01:05 am (UTC)
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My response to that as a medical professional is to ask if someone is so deep,y depressed as to be suicidal how can you determine that they are rational?

Because I've spent a great deal of time working in mental health and I've yet to come across someone who is rationally telling me they want to die.

Even with end stage palliative care patients its rare. (I've had a few there but most people beg for more time),
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From:tatjna
Date:August 14th, 2014 01:17 am (UTC)
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I can't. And a lot of the arguments against voluntary euthanasia centre around this question too.

I guess my counter to that is that if someone is repeatedly so deely depressed as to be suicidal, despite everything they have done when not depressed to avoid it happening again, should we have the right to judge for them whether their decision is the right one or not?
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From:crazedturkey
Date:August 14th, 2014 02:30 am (UTC)
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On that I will agree.

One thing I can say if someone really wants to do it - nothing will stop them (witness the man in question).

I hate the 'selfish choice' talk because when you're that deep irrational as it may be every person will frame it as a selfless choice - the world is better without me. So, judging them is cruel. They usually feel lie they're helping,
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From:tatjna
Date:August 14th, 2014 02:32 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I have issues with the idea of suicide as selfish.

I also have issues with selfish as a value judgement.

Heh, maybe I just have issues.
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From:crazedturkey
Date:August 14th, 2014 04:11 am (UTC)
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No I agree with that too but that's a rant for another day.

We probably agree more than we disagree ;)
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From:tatjna
Date:August 14th, 2014 04:53 am (UTC)
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Seems like it. ;-)
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From:helianthas
Date:August 14th, 2014 02:45 am (UTC)
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I think suicidal people can be rational. I could certainly be termed "suicidal" -- passively suicidal, but suicidal nonetheless -- even when not deeply depressed. Because my depression comes back so regularly, predictably and intractably that even rolling on Molly if you said you could snap your fingers and disappear me I'd take you up on it.

Maybe if I someday have more than just a few kray-kray free months I'll think my life is worth living, but I still think suicide is a rational (if sad) choice for many of us.
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From:crazedturkey
Date:August 14th, 2014 03:39 am (UTC)
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Look I don't disagree to an extent, I've had my method of choice picked out for years. Like you I ave those intrusive thoughts often. I've learnt to live with them.

But I haven't.

Neither have you.

Sorry to be blunt but If you wanted to , you would have. People who really want to always, always find a way. Even if we find them and bring them back, dollars to donuts within a month or two they'll beat us.

I have had many, many people tell me eloquently over the years how much they want to end their life and how it's a rational choice, usually associated with a terminal diagnosis. Towards the end - ever single one has begged me to give them more time.

I appreciate what you are saying but in my experience the will to live is something very innate in humans.

(Also I apologise, I tend to be rather blunt about death and suicide, I've been dealing with it for years and its not something I know how to sugar coat any more - I don't mean to offend or belittle your personal experience which I can certaint empathise with :()
(Edited for insensitive choice of wording - apologies to OP)

Edited at 2014-08-14 03:48 am (UTC)
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From:helianthas
Date:August 14th, 2014 03:54 am (UTC)
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Well, maybe you are right.

When I tried and woke up in the hospital and saw how devastated my mom was, I promised I'd do my best never to hurt her like that again. It has involved me having people babysit and taking drugs to knock me out of consciousness to keep myself from doing stupid things. But maybe not wanting to hurt those around me is just an excuse to not do it. for some reason it's how it's framed in my mind, but also why I get SO upset when people say suicide is selfish, because I feel like if anyone really cared about me they would understand and "let" me end it. </p>

There certainly is that human will to live; for me it feels more like fear. The few times I've been in life threatening situations, I've been afraid of pain, of surviving maimed, and afraid of how my mom would feel if I died. (Codependent much?) it also feels primal. When I rationalize ("hey, you don't want to be alive, anyway!) the fear / anxiety goes down.

My bet is you're right, I'll live to a ripe old age, using the excuse of not wanting to hurt someone or being too afraid. Still, if there were a magic eraser button -- of which there is not yet -- I'd probably push it.

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From:crazedturkey
Date:August 14th, 2014 04:07 am (UTC)
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Yeah I get the shits when people say suicide is selfish too. When I made my own attempt it was actually framed in my head as "to make things better for everyone else"

The thoughts are always for me - the world would be a better place without me. Not rational in the cold light of day but I cannot make them go away and I never will be able to - my illness is what it is - the drugs help but it's only close to normal not completely normal.

Every patient I've ever worked with too - as I've said further down thread - suicide is never, ever framed as a selfish choice in their discourse - quite the opposite.

Your brain sounds like a hard place to be. I've been there, I'll be there again. As I said I can be blunt, I hope I haven't been triggering. I wish you peace.
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From:helianthas
Date:August 14th, 2014 02:41 am (UTC)
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Thank you for this post. You've said so eloquently what I couldn't.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 14th, 2014 02:43 am (UTC)
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<3
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From:richaarde
Date:August 14th, 2014 03:37 am (UTC)
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It's sad that he died, and my condolences to his friends and family, but he's just a person, just like anyone else. And he suffered from an illness, no different than many other people.
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From:dragonvyxn
Date:August 14th, 2014 05:46 am (UTC)
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i can definitely see where you're coming from on this. working with dogs, and having been responsible for making the call to euthanise for health reasons in my 2 dogs and due to behavior for several clients, i definitely understand and agree with your parallels. it's hard to have that opinion. i'm all for assisted suicide in terminally ill folks. alzheimers is a situation where i wish folks who don't want to go down that road weren't forced to do so because suicide is the big bad.

i do love robin williams in all his cultural glory and it really did make sad that he died. it sucks. the choice he made for himself was his to make and has little to do with anyone else. he was clearly in a lot of pain and couldn't see his way out. i don't know how to make someone not depressed. fiddling with neurochemistry via some magic pill? they don't really work that well as far as the studies i've read have shown.

it's a tough thing about working with animals. life and death are just places on a circular path that we invented meanings for.
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From:dreadbeard
Date:August 14th, 2014 07:05 am (UTC)
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Suicide has permanent effects/is irreversible. Depression doesn't/is not.

Suicide may appear a rational decision, when based on incomplete information; however, depression/state of consciousness distorts the information we attend to, and this distortion does not last. This understanding of impermanence is I think the most important thing in dealing with suicidal depression.

While I do think people should have the right to end their existence if they so choose, if I had killed myself many years ago when I was suicidally depressed, that would on reflection have seemed extremely ill-advised.

I also don't buy into the disease model of mental illness. But that is a separate.

And I had no particular reaction to Williams' death.

There endeth my scattered reaction thoughts.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 14th, 2014 08:04 pm (UTC)
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I think most decisions in life are made with incomplete information. The idea of complete information informing decision making is usually the realm of free market economics and generally accepted in the real world as a somewhat delusional ideal.

However, I don't expect everyone to agree with me on this topic. ;-)
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From:dreadbeard
Date:August 15th, 2014 01:12 am (UTC)
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Then have your inner pedant read "incomplete information" as "radically stupendously badly slanted and warped data hand picked to ensure terrible decisions" :P
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From:tatjna
Date:August 15th, 2014 01:16 am (UTC)
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If we are talking in terms of free market economics defined within capitalism, this does not help your argument. ;-)

But I do understand what you mean, I just don't conclude from it that it's always more rational to stay alive because of what the future might be like.
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From:pythia
Date:August 14th, 2014 11:32 pm (UTC)
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"Suicide has permanent effects/is irreversible. Depression doesn't/is not."

I disagree. Depression MAY be treatable and MAY not be permanent, but for some people, it is permanent and nigh on untreatable.
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From:dreadbeard
Date:August 15th, 2014 01:13 am (UTC)
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Nothing is permanent until you are dead...
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From:plantgirl
Date:August 22nd, 2014 12:45 pm (UTC)
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Thank you, pythia.
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From:meathiel
Date:August 14th, 2014 07:17 am (UTC)
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Actually this made me think ...
I never thought that people should just go on living and that it is only okay to commit suicide when you're terminally ill. I'm just sad that he didn't see any other option ...
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From:tatjna
Date:August 14th, 2014 08:05 pm (UTC)
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I am also sad, mostly that someone who brought so much happiness to other people was unable to find it himself.
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:August 14th, 2014 08:08 am (UTC)
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Erhem. When I read the headline I thought "Wow, Robbie Williams is a bit young to die" and only then figured out that is was the actor, not the singer. I'm really bad with names.

I didn't even remember he played Mork.

I always feel though that when a depressed person kills himself, there might have been something that could have been done for his depression. It seems... Like dying of cystitis because somebody didn't think of antibiotics.

In general I think every person has the right to their own life. It's just sad when psychic illness seems to be the only reason. But in that case rational thinking and illness can't be separated I guess.

Oh well. I'm not crying over him but I'm a bit sad that I won't be seeing any new movies with him any more.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 14th, 2014 08:07 pm (UTC)
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Yeah. It's very easy to make judgements about suicide when observing it as an abstract idea out of context, but large life decisions are mostly made with a great deal of context, and trying to separate someone's thinking from their illness seems to me to be an exercise in futility.
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From:spotsofcolour
Date:August 14th, 2014 08:45 am (UTC)
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I have to say, I usually respond to celebrity death's like you do - "Oh that's a shame", but for some reason this one really affected me. I didn't cry, but I spent the whole day feeling very sad and a bit lost (it was the first piece of news I read when I woke up)

I'm hoping at the very least there will be a wider understanding of mental health issues promoted as a result of this, that people will become more aware of depression and its root causes and how you can support people with it rather than stigmatising it, but in reality I'm not holding my breath.

I don't think you're a sociopath at all, I think perhaps some people can just get very overwhelmed by death, and swept up in public furor. It always makes me think of the public grief when Princess Diana died - I remember I was 9 when it happened, and thought it was odd that so many people were SO UPSET that she died, I mean yes it was tragic, but people were openly weeping in the streets. I wonder how much of that was personal grief and how much of that was people feeding off the grief of people around them, it being reflected back and forwards between all these people and multiplying until it became this huge thing. I dunno.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 14th, 2014 08:08 pm (UTC)
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I had been in the bush for several days, and came out to the news that Diana had died. It was literally the first thing I heard when we stopped to get petrol at this tiny out-of-the-way station in the middle of nowhere.

I was bemused by the reaction. I know she was well-liked, but I didn't understand why people felt personal grief about someone who was so distant from our reality.
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From:kehleyr
Date:August 14th, 2014 08:09 pm (UTC)
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"Oh, but he had no reason to be depressed!" My reply to this was that saying that is like saying "Oh, but your Mum had no reason to get cancer!" So true.
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From:songindarkness
Date:August 14th, 2014 11:56 pm (UTC)
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I think you have a very interesting point of view. I have felt quite upset by his death. It's crazy that I do... One of those weird things that familiarity does - even if it's only on a screen, I saw him many many times.

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From:fbhjr
Date:August 15th, 2014 01:28 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I agree with what you say.
My thought was "it finally got him".
He had certainly spoken of it many times over decades, so I'm not sure why folks were so surprised.

But, I'm not saying "yay" either.
It is a shame. But as you say, much like cancer, things happen.
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From:meri_sielu
Date:August 15th, 2014 02:02 pm (UTC)
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I don't think your heartless at all, in fact part from the part about not being affected by his death I completely agree with all of your points. This is pretty much how I feel about suicide.... it's not right to try and make someone live on just because you want them to or for the sake of living if they really have given up. It just seems very selfish... :(
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From:warriorsavant
Date:August 16th, 2014 02:14 am (UTC)
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1. One can be a sociopath without being charming.
2. One can be unmoved by Robin Williams death withour being a sociopath.

I'm unmoved by his death. Yes it was sad, blah, blah, platitude, but millions of people die every day, and it is really only sad for,their near and dear. I don't know him personally, nor did you. Yes, he was a really good actor, but for,the good he did in the world, it's not like he was Ghandi or Lincoln. People need to get a grip.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 16th, 2014 05:44 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I'm actually kind of flippant and known to be facetious on a regular basis. If you keep reading you'll get used to it.
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From:warriorsavant
Date:August 30th, 2014 10:21 pm (UTC)
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I'll show you mine if you show me yours. (A.K.A. friending each other).
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From:tatjna
Date:August 30th, 2014 10:25 pm (UTC)
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Let's do it!
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From:pundigrion
Date:August 16th, 2014 09:38 pm (UTC)
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My response is that I don't get why people are so shocked by this. I don't follow celeb news and even *I* knew he had battled depression for many years.
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From:plantgirl
Date:August 22nd, 2014 12:40 pm (UTC)
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I was extremely upset by his death. I loved him as a person and an actor.

But a larger reason for my being upset is upset is that I have battled severe depression for 32 years. I have always made the choice not to kill myself. But when someone else who has been fighting the same battle for a similar number of decades decides the other way, it is hard.

It is hard because I have no doubt as to why he made that choice. I understand it completely. People who have not experienced suicidal depression do not understand how painful it can be. I have experienced many forms of (accidental) physical pain. They do not begin to touch the pain of severe depression.

Tats, I'm going to argue some of your wording. People who commit suicide don't do so because they don't want to be with their loved ones. They do so because they absolutely cannot stand the pain anymore. But on your main point we agree - someone in that much pain, for that long, absolutely has the right to commit suicide. It is a rational decision. I just wish we had a safe & legal way for it to happen.
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