Since the news of the suicide of someone who, as a comedian, you’d think would lead a happy-go-lucky life, I’ve heard a lot of people say a lot of things. One thing that keeps getting repeated is how selfish Robin Williams must have been. I’ve heard this word “selfish” get tossed around time and time again when someone takes their life. And, quite frankly, I’ve had enough of it. It’s time we stop calling a mental disconnect a personality flaw. Being selfish, in our society, is generally seen as a bad thing. So when you call suicide selfish, you’re calling it a bad thing. And it is, but not for the reasons you are implying.
Suicide is bad, it’s awful. It is the ending of a life. A living, breathing, thinking, feeling person. It steals loved ones from us. Let it be stated that I am not, in any way, trying to lessen the pain of those who have lost someone to suicide. Death, losing someone, is horrendous and emotional and sad, no matter what the cause. But we have got to stop calling someone who commits suicide selfish. Someone who ends their life is going through a mental struggle we should feel blessed and lucky to not understand.
To not be in a suicidal mindset, to be healthy mentally, is something most of us take for granted. Suicide isn’t something that simply happens. Suicide is a result of someone being so lost that they think ending their life is the only option. It’s not something someone decides to do one day. It’s something that happens when someone loses a long, seemingly endless, internal battle.
Suicide doesn’t happen to selfish people, it happens to depressed ones. We can’t keep calling something that people have no control over selfish. It’s selfish of us to tell them “feel better” or “just be happy.” Because when you say those things, you’re not thinking of the person you’re saying them too; you’re thinking of yourself. You want them to get better but you aren’t thinking about how difficult that may be for them. Depression is not something you can just get over and depressed is not something you can just stop being. Depression is a chemical imbalance and sometimes it knocks you down before you can catch yourself. And sometimes the push it gives you is too forceful to pull yourself back up.
Suicide isn’t selfish. It’s sad, yes, but not selfish. It’s selfish of those left behind to try to make light of the deceased’s situation. Suicide is not a selfish act. It’s not for attention. It’s for relief. As sad as that sounds, it is. Someone who commits suicide, who goes> all in> for an act that takes it all away, is looking for a way to feel better. At the point when someone is suicidal, they aren’t thinking about other people, but they aren’t thinking about themselves either. (Which, by definition, rules out their SELFishness.) They are lost, confused, and consumed by a dark feeling that takes away their ability to truly think about the world around them. They get swept up in a bad place and, sometimes, unfortunately, can’t find their way out.
It’s hard to understand how someone could take their life, I get it. I’ve been there. Losing someone to suicide is not fun and you just want answers. But we have to rejoice in the fact that we can’t answer the “why” question ourselves. Because, if we could, we’d be in that same, terrible place our loved one was. We’d understand what it’s like to think suicide is the only option. We’d also realize that it’s not selfish. But I truly hope that you never understand those emotions and realize the confusion behind them.
We, the people left behind, can feel upset and sad and mad and all other types of emotions. But we’ve got to stop trivializing suicide and simply writing it off as selfish. It’s so much more than that and the feelings run so much deeper than that.
So next time you hear someone call suicide selfish, I urge you to tell them to think twice. Tell them they’re lucky to not be able to understand it. Lucky to be able to think of it as selfish, not as necessary, or the only option. Lucky to not be fighting -and maybe losing- a battle. Lucky to be here and be alive.