Selfie spam because I feel good
Yesterday, Robin Williams died by suicide. I can’t know why, in that moment, he felt that ending his life was the only door, but the version of the story that sounds realest to me — and to many other people — is that his depression killed him. Since this news came out, the internet has been a sorrowful but beautiful place to be. I spent hours last night and this morning scrolling through Facebook and Twitter and feeling connected to a tremendous and temporary community, united by our love and grief for this man we didn’t know. And scattered among those, with really astonishing frequency, were the expressions of regret that so inevitably follow newsworthy suicides, variations on themes: “If only he’d known how loved he was,” “If only he’d reached out for help,” “If only he’d known he wasn’t alone.”
Historically, when I’ve seen these waves of platitudes cresting on social media, I’ve felt angry. This morning, though, I didn’t. I felt truly, genuinely confused. Why didn’t these people understand that you can’t just will depression away? It’s not something solved by “reaching out” or “knowing that people love you”; depression is not, in point of fact, you at all, but a malicious program that’s taken up residence in your brain that runs alongside your you-ness, and turns your brain into a zero-sum landgrab between malware and firmware. Not only does the depression chip away at your energy and focus and clarity, but what you do retain is so exhausted from the nonstop defense of its resources that at times you just want to give in, give up, sink all the way into the warm, quiet darkness.
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