That’s exactly what one of my most favorite authors wrote on her blog after Robin Williams’ death. It was a genuine effort to make sure no one feels shame in taking the prescription drugs that many people do; just to get through the day, and maybe even, to stay alive.
But, it stopped me a little in my tracks. Okay, a lot.
This author is talented, funny, and compassionate and there has never been a word of hers that turned my stomach like this.
“Take your goddamn meds.”
I know a thing or two about the convoluted message behind this statement because Robin Williams was my dad.
Not literally of course. But the story of taking his own life, even with a wife and kids who adored him to the moon and back, was my dad’s too. And just for the record, that was while he took his meds, which apparently weren’t any magic bullet. None of the hundreds of different ones doctors had him try over the course of 25 years were. The countless therapies including drastic shock therapy were void of success, too. Still, he wrestled with this gripping fear and darkness that followed him everywhere. We, his family, wrestled right along with him.
Robin’s death has stirred a storm of controversy, even from those who have “been there.” These well-meaning statements of “take your goddamn meds” and “just get help” are the equivalent of saying to an anorexic, “just eat.” The suggestion assumes that someone experiencing anorexia will actually understand the importance of food from where they stand at that moment. And just like when I had Lyme disease and 44 pills a day wasn’t my cure, for someone with anorexia who can or is willing to eat, food may not be enough either.
While the message in the blog might have been as simple and genuine as just freakin’ do what you have to do to be helped, for those of us left behind, it’s okay to know that sometimes, even all they could do will not save them. For those of us who remain, we get to choose for that to be just fine in our half-broken hearts.
You could not cross my dad’s path without feeling special, almost lit up. He was a talented therapist and mediator, who helped so many people bring their lives into focus and find joy after darkness. But, he could not do it for himself.
Again, on my dad’s last day, he took his “goddamn meds.” About 300 pills too many of them this time, and that’s how he finally made his way out of the hell he had been living. When I saw him just minutes after his last breath, do you know what I felt? It wasn’t sadness or fear or anger that he should have done more. It was pure, unfiltered relief – for all of us. His plump cheeks were squished up like a baby’s and he literally looked like he had napped his way to heaven. I kissed them both.
I wouldn’t go back and change it. I don’t wish I did more for him. I do miss my dad with an ache so deep I cannot convey, but I don’t want him back here, for him or for me or anyone else in my family. In fact, I am immensely proud of him for doing what he did, because even though he couldn’t free himself and our family how we wished; he found a way to get us all some peace anyway.
People are allowed to do that in this world; just do the best they know how.
If we can let that be enough, we will survive and thrive beyond what we could in the presence of our loved one’s suffering. If we can’t, that’s our ball of yarn to unravel. It means we need more understanding and forgiveness. It means we need more practice letting the people who we love, be human.
The CDC estimates that nearly 8 percent of people over age 12 report being currently depressed. More people now die of suicide than in car accidents, making it the 10th leading cause of death for Americans.
Many of those people will not have access to or be able to afford medical help or drugs.
In the years after my dad’s death, I became a minister of holistic healing. I have helped guide many of my own clients out of that place of total despair into the light of their lives. I believe with absolute certainty each person, independent of their struggles or their history, can heal. I’ve seen it so many times when it seemed like all hope was lost. However, sometimes, for reasons beyond our understanding or approval, it will not happen.
There are few people who say or sing things more brilliantly than our family’s favorite, James Taylor, who wrote, “Perhaps, just as we were swept away, so was he. Who can pretend to understand a gift like Robin Williams’s Meteoric, volcanic, fast and furious… Perhaps there is a price for such brilliance.”
My dad’s life may have been short too, but it was not scarce.
In his obituary guestbook, I wrote:
Although I have struggled immensely with hating that you had to suffer so much in your life, tonight, I finally came to something that brings me complete peace. Because of, and in between your times of suffering, you experienced a level of joy that most never even touch. The good days were better than life. When you smiled, it illuminated the entire space around you. And when you loved, you made people feel it better than anyone else I know. You taught us such important lessons, because you lived fuller and more, in 64 years, than most could accomplish in 100. And for that, your entire life, even the sad times, were absolutely perfect.”
Eventually, he felt he had enough brightness, and darkness, too.
His life was not void of joy. And in his wake, our family’s is not either.
America’s hilarious superhero was the same.
There is just one thing left to do so we can let this man rest, or play, in peace: Ditch the goddamn judgments and let his final act be good enough for us.by