An Open Letter to the Negative Commenters on Robin Williams' Suicide

August 2014

Dear Commenters, 

I feel disheartened by the plethora of judgmental, disrespectful, ignorant, and even downright hateful comments swirling around the internet regarding the suicide of Robin Williams. It's made me consider deleting all my social media accounts. I'd like to take this opportunity to speak my mind about a few things, if you're open to listening:

1. Don't make assumptions or judgments, words hurt. We never really know the private battles or secret hells that people endure on a daily basis, but this holds especially true for celebrities. There is the persona that they show to the world and then a whole separate person that is reserved for their private day-to-day lives. Actors and comedians are, by definition, acting, putting on a show. Few did that better than Mr. Robin Williams. They almost lead double lives and it's easy to judge them because they're in the limelight and there's a certain sense of entitlement with judging celebrities. 

But we're all just speculating on the life and death of Robin Williams. The mass majority of us didn't know him personally. Please theorize gently. My speculation is that he's the furthest thing from selfish or cowardly, like too many have commented. On the contrary, I believe he's been fighting one of the bravest wars--that against mental illness and addiction--for multiple decades. And my guess is that maybe he was damn tired of the relentless struggle after 63 years. Seems understandable. 

2. Mental illness and addiction are real diseases. It's not a lack of willpower, a character flaw, or a fundamental weakness; it's a disease. I'm not sure why some commenters have such a difficult time believing this. I have danced--albeit a very sloppy tango--with both in my life and I didn't choose them, they chose me. 

Depression and addiction are often compared to diseases like diabetes or cancer. Therefore, it would go that if not properly treated, they kill you. If properly treated, they might kill you anyway. Sometimes the pull is just too strong. Depression and addiction are often coinciding, sometimes not though, but both signify that the brain is sick and needs healing. Once our brains get the attention and treatment they need, us depressives and addicts can go into remission and be in recovery but the devil is never that far away, all too willing to take us back to the dark side as soon as we can no longer resist the persuasive invites. 

3. Open your heart. It seems to me that the commenters who are making snap judgments or harsh statements concerning this subject matter must have never experienced a low so low that suicide feels like the only viable option or a powerlessness so strong over a substance that's wreaking total havoc in one's life. Consider yourselves lucky. And I don't blame you, honestly, because how could you know what you don't know? 

The rest of us--the ones stigmatized under the collective labels of "mentally ill," "addict," alcoholic" and that intimately know these diseases because we live them everyday--know that what befell Robin Williams could befall any one of us, at any time. We know relapse is always right around the corner, even after decades of sobriety. Vigilance is vital to our survival, literally. 

I want to be vigilant about informing my fellow commenters of what they don't seem to understand so that perhaps they can understand and some compassion can grow from this. And hopefully: Less hate, more love. Less judging, more listening. Less knowing, more questions. John Lennon taught us not to hate what we don't understand. On behalf of addicts and depressives everywhere, open your hearts and let it be understood that we're only trying to play the hand we've been dealt, and sometimes we lose. 

Thanks for letting me share,