Where’s kindness?

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I’ve been angry these past couple of weeks after I heard about Robin Williams’ suicide. My anger is not directed at him but at those who were callous enough to call him selfish, cowardly or worse for choosing when to leave the world.

Calling Mr. Williams selfish because of the mistaken belief that he did not choose his children and loved ones over death, or cowardly for resorting to what they erroneously called the “easy way out”, is cruel, insensitive, self-righteous and ignorant. Cruel and insensitive to the family and friends who not only lost a loved one but are now being told that they were “not enough” to keep Mr. Williams alive. Self-righteous for concluding that like them, who most likely had never suffered from or experienced depression, a depressive person should be able to overcome the onslaught of depression just by thinking of their loved ones. Ignorant because they have not bothered to find out what people with depression go through.

I know that I may be harsh on some of the critics who may have spoken out bitterly because of their trauma of being left behind by a suicide. I can sympathize with them. I know what it is to be that person left behind. It’s an extremely difficult experience to deal with and to try to understand why someone would rather end their life than stay with us. But maybe some of us will never understand, and maybe it’s not about us.

From the comments I’ve read, most of the harsh detractors had not experienced major depression. They have mistaken personal struggles and difficulties, sadness, loneliness, and even boredom for depression. Unless one has gone through the never-ending darkness, the suffocating weight, the relentless despondency, the crushing hopelessness and the bottomless void that seems to just sit and wait for us to fall, one cannot understand what can drive a person to end his or her life, despite the abundance of love, hope and support around him or her. That is what depression is like for me.

For the critics who spoke out but not because of a personal loss or understanding of major depression, what is their excuse? They do not need to have experienced depression in order to be kind yet they were not kind. Can they not simply have offered support to the grieving family? If they didn’t want to do that, then can they not have chosen to be silent? Often, the best choice we can make is to hold our tongues out of respect and consideration for others. Is that such a difficult choice to make?

These critics have made it a question of choice. But how did they exercise their choice? I find them hypocritical for condemning Mr. Williams and other suicides for purportedly not making the right choice, while themselves making a conscious choice to show no empathy, sympathy, compassion or basic consideration for Mr. Williams and his family, and making a deliberate decision to be cruel, spiteful, heartless and sanctimonious. Rather than putting themselves in Mr. Williams’ shoes to try to comprehend what had driven his actions, even if they may not agree or arrive at the same conclusion, they have self-importantly placed Mr. Williams in their own shoes and conceitedly concluded that he should have done what they would have done, even though they have no inkling of what he was going through or, standing in his shoes, how they would have acted. It was so much easier to force Mr. Williams to walk in their shoes than it is for them to walk in his. They are the ones who chose the easy way out.

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view …
until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.
– Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird (by Harper Lee)

 

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12 thoughts on “Where’s kindness?

  1. t1dme

    I agree with you. Unfortunately, some people are unwilling or unable to see beyond the confines of themselves. Hopefully they begin to see the need to expand their perspective. In the meantime, I’ll strive not to be like them.

    Reply
  2. pavedsilverroads

    Very well written and I completely agree. I feel kind of insensitive saying this, but I do hope that some good comes of this tragedy, in the form of lifting the stigma surrounding mental illness. I’m not naive enough to think that all of a sudden it will become a completely okay thing to talk about, but I do hope that it might give those suffering from mental illness in silence the strength to talk about it and seek help where it’s needed. I know that many people with major depression will not seek their own treatment, but if even one person steps out and gets help, then that’s a victory in my mind.

    Reply
    1. runningwithoutsugar Post author

      Thank you. It’s not easy to talk about depression and other forms of mental illness. It makes it even more difficult to talk about it, much less seek help, when people throw judgments at them for something that is a medical problem, not a moral issue.

      Reply
  3. GC/Bái yōulíng

    Jane i have been reading you blog piece fives time now always enjoy reading it,But this does have personnel ramifications for me,I know your self have suffered with depression from time to time from your writings in the blog

    My own sister who was eight years older than me had taken her own life when i was fourteen,She wrote three letters,One to my mother,One to elder sister and one to me,Am one of ten siblings by way and no there are no twins in my family,At time i was in school in UK i had left HK when i was eleven to go to boarding school in england and i had not been back home in them years as spent my time back in the UK my parents would visit yearly when my father was on business to the UK and i would stay with my best friends family in the holidays,

    My sister was what you would call a good time girl i suppose,She was a gifted mathematician and could gone to any ivy league or top UK university,She never wanted for anything as if am honest my family are not poor and she had a very privileged upbringing,But she had a weakness that was wanting to be wanted and loved and the other was a advective personalty.You name she was treated for it at private clinics and hospitals,In the end my parents let go of her with know access to a trust fund or monthly allowance.

    She ended up in Thailand and Bangkok for the last two years of her life and went from city to city in Asia doing what ever she use to do,

    She would write to me every two weeks with out fail and use to enjoy reading what she was up to and were she was living and visiting ETC,The other thing was her fears about her self and her self for few months she would be fine and do well and then she would self destruct her self and end up going on a binge that could last weeks,Her final letter to me was so different and showed all her variabilities and vulnerability and she had many of them,

    Her letter was honest and open,She talked of family ETC how much she loved use all what we got up to as children and childhood,She talked about how she had let her self down and most of all about our parents and how felt she had let them down and shamed them,Robin Williams had many many demons and so did my sister,But them demons can be difficult to handle and live with,She had many demons and was hurting,Sad,Lonely but most of all she was physically,Emotionally and Physically exhausted and just wanted peace

    That was in 1981 and still now i never had closure no one in my family did,My father had a phone call from the brit embassy in Bangkok,He and my eldest brother travelled there,Inquest conclusion was drug overdose and she was cremated there,With her ashes brought back and placed in a family mausoleum back home in HK,There was no service as she had committed suicide and being catholic family its a sin in eyes of church,

    I was angry,Mad,frustrated,Hurt,ETC by her actions,But i could not hate her the way it effected me,Something that really never shared with any one in my family or friends,I always think about her every day,But what you have written is very true in your essay,Thanks for sharing jane.I hope robin Williams is now at peace.

    Reply
    1. runningwithoutsugar Post author

      Thank you very much for sharing such a difficult and painful experience. Depression affects not just the person in depression but everyone around him or her. It’s enlightening to hear your side.

      As a Catholic, I am familiar with the church’s old position of denying Christian burial to a suicide. That has changed, which I hope has given more support to the grieving family and friends.

      Reply
  4. Phil Ruggiero

    Jane,

    Thank you. You know that I feel kindness in all forms is important. Nobody will ever know the pain Mr. Williams felt or the despair he may have faced when being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. We only know that he left us too soon. Maybe we could have shared the pain with him given a chance; lightened his load in some way as he has lightened the hearts of so many over the years.

    I have to wonder if one simple act of kindness shown toward him might have changed the ending? We will never know. But, perhaps it will remind us that we have a responsibility to treat others with care every chance we get because we will never know the difference it might have in their life.

    As always, a great piece of writing.

    Phil

    Reply
    1. runningwithoutsugar Post author

      Thanks Phil. It’s the same with diabetes and other conditions where we can’t see damage and symptoms. I wish people will just be kind or kinder, and think of what they say before they say it.

      Reply
    1. runningwithoutsugar Post author

      Thank you for your opinion of my post. It means a lot to me. As for allowing you to comment, my general policy is to trust my readers so, unless you are a major problem, I do not disallow comments.

      Reply

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