I know what it’s like to want to die.
I know what it’s like to be depressed.
I know what it’s like for everyone to look at you and say “But how can you be depressed? You’re so happy and funny and have so much going for you!”
So I feel comfortable saying that I understand in part how Robin Williams came to commit suicide. But in one of his character’s own words, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” (World’s Greatest Dad, 2009). Which is why I advocate in my videos and my writing and my personal interactions for people to speak out about suicidal feelings (because that’s the only way you can get help) and those who hear these cries for help to deal compassionately but strongly with them.
I’ve been thinking about the “Genie, you’re free” quote making its rounds on the Internet. At first, it struck a chord because I know what it’s like to want to be free from the depression and the pain and the loneliness and in a superficial way it does seem like Robin Williams is free.
But then just NO.
Committing suicide is not freedom.
Committing suicide is letting Depression win.
You see Depression is a trickster. It tries to convince us (and can do a very good job on many of us, myself included) that it is our Master and we are the Genie bound in the bottle. And so we must do it’s bidding in order to live an even halfway decent existence. But this is wrong.
Depression inherently has no direct control over us. It is a deceiver, but we are ultimately the ones who cause our own pain. We are the Master AND the Genie. We trap ourselves in the bottle. We give ourselves rules and bounds and shackles and chains. And we cry and we beg Depression to set us free while it laughs in triumph until some of us cannot bear the burden of living as a Genie any longer and we falsely believe that suicide will give us freedom. But death does not bring us freedom. It brings an end to existence. An end to the fight of which by death we have lost.
What we don’t seem to understand is that we are our own worst enemy. For those of us with depression, this is all the more true. But Depression is not the enemy. It is a leech. A parasite that preys on those of us who war within ourselves too intensely. It is a deceiver. A liar that convinces us we are insignificant and life isn’t worth living. It tries to make us lose the battle. But ultimately, it cannot force our hand. It is a fight with ourselves.
For Robin Williams, one of my favorite actors, I am sad that he lost the fight. That Depression and Addiction won. For the community at large, I am even more sad that we say flippant things like “Genie, you’re free” as a form of paying respects without realizing the implications it has on other depressed and potentially suicidal people.