This morning I broke into tears when I saw the tweet that went viral: “Genie. You’re free.”
With all the tragedies happening in the world at the moment, you’d imagine someone like Robin Williams of all people…someone with such amazing talent, such success, loved by so many, and with so many resources at his disposal…would be able to tame, if not altogether vanquish, any inner torment.
But that is not how it went. And it’s not how it goes in too many cases.
After sadness, the next reaction was anger…why do people do this…and why did he do this of all people?
But judgment or a diagnosis don’t change anything.
I wanted to write something really special about all this, something helpful. There is so much to say. This is so important.
But I found no song to translate into words. All I could think of today was that I know what pain can do, how much hope can hurt and how sometimes hopelessness hurts far less than hope.
I also know shame, what it is like to face a day with only dread for the fight that lies ahead, because even though you know you will probably win, you also know it will only start over the next day and the next, and the next after that with no end in sight.
At times like these, it’s insulting when others suggest suffering is always or usually optional. Or offer sympathy and encouraging platitudes.
At times like these it is humiliating and exhausting to put up a front…to always have to say you are tired or worse, fake a happy mood… when on the inside you’re so deeply wounded and scared you can barely breathe.
So what can possibly change all this? What can possibly make a difference when you reach the limit of your endurance and patience?
For me, what mattered and matters is realizing that we’re not alone. Everyone knows some kind of great pain…different masks, same devil.
And also, even if for ourselves we feel completely out of choices for a time, at least we can choose for others. Because we know that great pain, and we know what it does to people, we can choose not to bring any more of it into the world for others.
That’s what suicide does. It gives our pain to other people who must carry it forever, on top of their own.
The world and life may not be fair or easy. But we have no right to make things infinitely worse for those who share our lives. It’s no different from, the gods forbid, losing a limb in an accident and then going around chopping other people’s limbs off as well. Can you imagine doing this to a friend, a parent, a spouse, or a child?
But even understanding all this requires some hope and trust, a sense of connection and belonging, some awareness of self-value and a bit of perspective. For many, these things are simply not available for many reasons.
Still, I believe we can all make a difference to each other and especially to all who are too near the edge of that tragic path of no return…if we can be a bit more willing to share our stories and show our scars. All too often people don’t reach out for support because they feel ashamed of their brokenness.
But if everyone knew that everyone else is also “broken” despite appearances that might suggest otherwise, then there would be no need for shame. And when shame fades, there is room for light.
Rest in peace genie.