To the jerks saying Robin Williams was selfish

I was once a jerk like you. I thought that anyone who would take their own life and leave behind grieving family members was the most selfish person in the world. I thought suicide was the most selfish thing a person could do.

I was wrong.

I know through devastating personal experience what it’s like to have your depressed brain lie to you and tell you that you are worth nothing. That no one loves you. And that everyone would be better off without you. In that moment you don’t feel selfish. You believe that best thing in the world would be to remove a burden, yourself, from the people you love.  In that moment you contemplate ending your life it feels very selfless.

Depression lies to you. Depression is a brain disease that distorts a person’s world view. Depression is debilitating and it’s the ultimate act of betrayal to have your own brain make you believe that the world is better off without you. I know, because I’ve been in the “pit of despair” where I have contemplated taking my own life because I believed it’s what I deserved. I believe my family members would be happier with me gone. The pain. The unimaginable pain you feel that makes death seem like an option better than taking another breath. It’s a hell I can’t adequately describe. It’s why I work so hard to stay out of that dark place and surround myself firmly in light.

I have nothing but compassion for Robin Williams. He must have been in a torturous state of mind to believe that this world was better off without his light, his passion, his humor, his grace, his art. Who among us wasn’t touched by one of his performances? Who didn’t he make laugh? Please, if you have a soul, have compassion for this man and what he must have been going through to feel so desperate that taking his own life was the only answer he could think of to get out of his horrific pain.

To those of you who can’t understand, please look past your own feelings and accusations of selfishness and try to imagine the hell someone with depression might be living with that death is the better option than life. Look past your own life’s paradigm to see the people around you who are hurting and have some semblance of compassion for where they might be at. Reach out in love and remind those whose brains are lying to them that they do matter, they are loved, and that life is the better option.

And if you’re depressed and contemplating suicide, please reach out to someone. We need you here.

Suicide hotline 1-800-273-8255



Bangarang, Peter. Until we meet again.



27 thoughts on “To the jerks saying Robin Williams was selfish

  1. Thank you. I put a link to your essay on Facebook; I think it’s important to help people who don’t suffer from depression to understand (as best they can) that it’s not a matter of just “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps”.

  2. Outstanding response, Risa. I’m sorry that you’ve suffered from depression too, but I’m glad that having done so allows you to describe it so well.

  3. Besides the a**holes at Faux News had anyone else been stupid enough to call Williams selfish? How sad if they have, I had really hopped that our society was more grown up than that.

    1. That Matt Walsh douchenozzle has taken the opportunity of this tragic occasion to call all of those who die from suicide “selfish.” I’d like to know where he got his degree in psychology because he is really sucking at it. Hey dude, when something tragic like this happens, if your first response isn’t compassion and empathy, you’re kind of a horrible person.

  4. You articulate beautifully what millions of people, including myself, have felt. The darkness that sets in and the state of mind that takes over, it’s hard to decipher what is real and what isn’t. I too felt my family would be better off without me, I would free them from this burden i was placing on them. Ultimately though, my plans to end my life were really about me ending my own pain. I couldn’t see how I could possibly face another day in such darkness. So in those regards, my plans were selfish. Fortunately, like you, I found things that healed me. But it was only because I had to make the choice to somehow hold on to a glimmer of hope and search for those things that delivered me from my own peril.

    I have also read Matt Walsh’s blog and see his side of the issue as well. I didn’t get that he was lacking compassion or empathy, but striving to do something about this epidemic. To get people to see that they are not powerless and still have a choice, even in the pit of despair. So maybe look at his words that way instead of having such contention toward him.

    But thank you for shedding a light on what many people just do not understand.

    1. I’ve never seen Walsh show an ounce of compassion for anyone. He’s not trying to save a soul. He’s trying to get clicks for his blog to put money in his own pockets. It’s gross to make money off a tragedy when the man hasn’t even been dead for a whole day. Where were his statements to RW’s family expressing his sympathy? No where. His post was tone deaf and sad. And when Matt Walsh actually has a degree in Psychology or a related field (or a college degree at all) then he can offer his “expertise” on these topics. Until then he’s nothing but a carnival barker.

    2. Walsh *was* lacking compassion for all of those left behind in a wake of devastation when he posted that blog post within hours of Robin Williams’ death. He *was* lacking empathy for Williams’ family when he wrote what he wrote. “Striving to do something about this epidemic” with compassion and empathy would look a lot more like this and a lot less like Walsh’s response. “Striving to do something about this epidemic” with compassion and empathy would look sound a lot more like this and a lot less like Walsh’s response.

      A compassionate person would have never said such cruel things. An empathetic person certainly wouldn’t have typed up what he did and then clicked “post now” within hours of someone’s tragic death to such an insidious illness.

      Walsh was wrong for his response, both in timing, tone, and content.

  5. I just find it ironic and hypocritical that some people (yourself) tout tolerance, compassion and empathy and then in the same breath rip someone else apart with crude names, accusations and general assumptions just because they have a differing opinion. I think Matt Walsh, while harsh at times, is brilliant and provides another side to contemplate (as you do). And I feel he does exude compassion, just different than what you see and believe. He also has a right to express his opinion, degree or not.

    1. You have a right to think he’s brillant. I have a right to vehemently disagree with everything he says and express that however I want. Unlike Walsh I do this for free and don’t have the time or desire to talk about the vitriol he spews in every post. This is your last Walsh apologetic comment on my blog.

      Edited to add: I find it the height of irony for you to expect me to be tolerant of Walsh’s opinions of suicide that are not factual and and are actually hurtful to those with mental illness and those of us with family members (like me) who have committed suicide. Walsh is stating an opinion that is not grounded in scientific fact, research, or knowledge. He has no expertise in this field and yet has stated an opinion like it was fact. That’s why I question his lack of a degree. I actually have first-hand knowledge of mental illness, have had a family member take their own life recently (and to call them selfish is just about the most evil thing a person could do, especially without having insight into how much they were suffering), and have professional knowledge and dealt with suicidal people as a social worker. You know what they say…knowledge without experience is basically ignorance. So please, don’t come on here and tell me to be tolerant of abhorrent ideas expressed in a compassionless blog post.

    2. No, he does not have the “right” to express his opinions. When an opinion is wrong it needs to be shut down. His opinion can kill and he needs to shut the hell up. Actually decent people know better and will speak up to shut him down.

      No one who “exude[s] compassion” would pretend to know something they know nothing about and then shame the people who are suffering from depression. People who actually know what they’re talking about don’t shame depression sufferers.

      The fact that you think his asinine poste is “brilliant and provides another side to contemplate” just shows that you are an idiot. I don’t need some self-righteous twit and his ignorant fawning fan girl to tell me how I should be treating (and reacting to) a very serious and potentially fatal disorder.

      Until he (and you, for that matter) has walked in the shoes of those of us who suffer from deep, debilitating depression and he’s fought the black hole of suicidal ideation he needs to keep his opinions to himself.

  6. M’lisa, if you read my first message above you’ll see that I have walked in those shoes and too have suffered debilitating depression to the point I had a “plan”. And I still feel, to some degree, that suicide is selfish. I’m not Matt’s fan girl, I just have an opinion. And Irondaisy, by all means feel free to delete my comments from your blog. Clearly I have mistakenly stepped into an arena where I am not welcome.

    1. I’m not going to delete your comments. I’m just laying down the boundary that no more apologetics for Matt Walsh will be made on this post. My playground. My rules.

  7. I’m responding belatedly because I read this belatedly so I realize no one may be listening anymore, but I just want to recommend to Jenny Law Rollins that she reflect a little more on whether or not she was selfish when, as she wrote, “Ultimately though, my plans to end my life were really about me ending my own pain. I couldn’t see how I could possibly face another day in such darkness. So in those regards, my plans were selfish.” Is Jenny (or anyone) really selfish when they take their own pain and needs so seriously? Is thinking of others “unselfish” and thinking of our own experience and needs “selfish,” especially when we’re in that much pain?

    I believe no one is selfish for contemplating ending or for actually ending their life in order to end their own pain (speaking also as one who has been there). We are each immeasurably precious and our own condition matters just as much as the condition of anyone else whom we might care for “unselfishly.”

    But it is good to be told not to give up, not to give in to suicidal thoughts, and, in Jenny’s words again, “to make the choice to somehow hold on to a glimmer of hope and search for those things that delivered me from my own peril.” It is very, very good to be told that because sometimes that looks impossible.

  8. I posted this on my FB as many others before me. But the reason I am commenting is to say an honest to goodness heartfelt thank you. You were able, in a few words, to say exactly what it means to be depressed. Speaking from someone who battles with Bi-Polar disorder every day, you gave my pain a voice, because my voice can not express it for my self. Again, thank you.

  9. Risa, I too must echo jehyde79 in saying, “You gave my pain a voice”, and I say thank you. I have thus far been incapable of articulating my sorrow to the point at which it might be mostly outside of myself. Robin Williams’ death (and life) is one of the thin threads of hope from which I have continued to dangle as I fight to come back from the magnificent desolation of my experience.

    People are comfortable in pointing out that others have suffered harder knocks than I have: They are, of course, technically correct. I acknowledge that somewhere, there are those who have endured more, and have endured more graciously, more stoically, and more heroically than I, and these are to be commended. And why should I, who have no legs, complain when my brother has neither legs nor eyes? Some like to say that (God) never gives us more tribulation than we can bear. Are all then, who succumb to torture, cowards?

    For outsiders, depression anxiety, and despair, are as invisible as the air, or at worst, a light fog, insubstantial, and hardly real: “Smile”, “Shake it off”, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps”, “Make a list”, “Get a hobby”. “You look Fine, so you’re Fine”. All but the last of these quips are okay to use, but not by passers-by, or glibly by friends or family, whose main quest is to conserve energy (effort, engagement, emotional discomfort).

    I cannot fault most people, chronic severe depression is difficult to understand, and thus it is hard for people to assist those who suffer. I speculate that there were many who loved and supported Mr. Williams. But there is simply not enough ‘community’, professional or otherwise, to lift up and work with those who are prone to falling down.

    All of you people out there, don’t give up, keep trying, I can’t tell you why you should, but I WANT YOU TO, because many of you are beautiful and have lost your ability to filter and you see the world for exactly what it is, or for many other reasons, which you have shared with no one. If I could, I would sit with you and talk to you and LISTEN to you. But there are telephone numbers – find them – dial them.

    1. Thank you for your comments, rtaylor58. It is truly heartening to hear from you, and others, that anything that I have written has resonated with anyone.

      People are comfortable in pointing out that others have suffered harder knocks than I have

      What really bothers me, and what you articulated so well in your comment, is the pain olympics. It doesn’t matter if someone has it “worse,” pain is pain is pain is pain. How we cope with that pain is varied and based on a multitude of factors.

      1. Thank you Risa, for your gracious reply. I found your blog accidentally. Similar to your bio, I tell my spouse at times, when we are delving deeply into tender exigencies, that I am a ‘deeply ‘flawed’ human being’. But these flaws can be reforged into tools of insight; bring forth springs of wisdom. But more fundamentally, at the root of us, our flaws must be our bridge of empathy to our fellow humans, because our lack of empathy destroys the world. I apologize for cluttering your front porch. I’ll try to get to the salient topic:

        I had never before read anything by ‘MW’ until today, after I had posted on your blog, and I feel ashamed to pollute your beautiful space with his sophomoric and untraveled view of the ‘Universe’ (long ago I taught Sunday School out of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance) I am, however, a desperate man. For your level of discernment, I need only revisit one phrase uttered by ‘MW’: ‘those who may be contemplating this heinous deed’. In my 1976 ‘College Edition’ paper dictionary, ‘heinous’ is thus defined: Grossly wicked or reprehensible; abominable; odious; vile.

        I had cut one paragraph from my previous post, my guilt and sorrow too great to honor the subject: I cannot bear now to be silent. When my friend took her own life, her Catholic Soul was remanded to the Purgatory Society and her body was cremated. I have found no trace of obituary nor memorial, and there is some evidence that her act is a banner of family shame.

        But, in the years hence, the Catholic Church has updated its official position on suicide. In so many words, Only the Lord God is witness to the condition of the soul at the instance of death, and only He can know if confession is received and absolution administered. The rest of us are admonished to hold our water.
        I have to stop now, I guess I just felt safe here. Thank you, Robert Taylor

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