?

Log in

No account? Create an account

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

Aug. 14th, 2014

09:41 am

Previous Entry Share Next Entry

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:

Page 1 of 2
<<[1] [2] >>
[User Picture]
From:pythia
Date:August 13th, 2014 09:50 pm (UTC)
(Link)
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.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:jenny_evergreen
Date:August 13th, 2014 10:01 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Ditto.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:i_love_freddie
Date:August 13th, 2014 10:22 pm (UTC)
(Link)
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.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:ms_hecubus
Date:August 13th, 2014 10:52 pm (UTC)
(Link)
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.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:anna_en_route
Date:August 14th, 2014 12:41 am (UTC)
(Link)
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.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:crazedturkey
Date:August 14th, 2014 01:05 am (UTC)
(Link)
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),
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:tatjna
Date:August 14th, 2014 01:17 am (UTC)
(Link)
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?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture]
From:helianthas
Date:August 14th, 2014 02:41 am (UTC)
(Link)
Thank you for this post. You've said so eloquently what I couldn't.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:tatjna
Date:August 14th, 2014 02:43 am (UTC)
(Link)
<3
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:richaarde
Date:August 14th, 2014 03:37 am (UTC)
(Link)
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.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:dragonvyxn
Date:August 14th, 2014 05:46 am (UTC)
(Link)
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.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:dreadbeard
Date:August 14th, 2014 07:05 am (UTC)
(Link)
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.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:tatjna
Date:August 14th, 2014 08:04 pm (UTC)
(Link)
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. ;-)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture]
From:meathiel
Date:August 14th, 2014 07:17 am (UTC)
(Link)
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 ...
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:tatjna
Date:August 14th, 2014 08:05 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I am also sad, mostly that someone who brought so much happiness to other people was unable to find it himself.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:August 14th, 2014 08:08 am (UTC)
(Link)
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.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:tatjna
Date:August 14th, 2014 08:07 pm (UTC)
(Link)
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.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:spotsofcolour
Date:August 14th, 2014 08:45 am (UTC)
(Link)
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.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:tatjna
Date:August 14th, 2014 08:08 pm (UTC)
(Link)
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.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:kehleyr
Date:August 14th, 2014 08:09 pm (UTC)
(Link)
"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.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:songindarkness
Date:August 14th, 2014 11:56 pm (UTC)
(Link)
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.

(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:fbhjr
Date:August 15th, 2014 01:28 am (UTC)
(Link)
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.
(Reply) (Thread)