Monday, August 11, 2014

If Robin Williams had nothing to live for...

I was going to write about a great conversation I had with my aunt Caterina -- aka, Katya -- that put all my current employment disgruntlement into excellent perspective. But then Robin Williams lost his battle with bipolar disorder.

I learned about his death on Facebook (where else?) after a tremendous busy day of bossing people around and doing important work. I was feeling extremely accomplished and effective. In large part because my aunt Katya, a retired psychiatric nurse, understood exactly the frustration and confusion I've been experiencing. She is probably the most sensible, grounded, level-headed person I know. She sees people for who and what they are.

I never thought Katya would have had the exact same problems I've had negotiating this agency -- or previous agencies. But she has. She's experienced the exact same frustration and confusion. And she's a hell of a lot more normal than I am. I assumed there was something wrong with me, not knowing when to take initiative and when not to overstep, after being criticized for both shortcomiongs in what seemed an almost random manner. I thought I just wasn't getting it, and Katya always, effortlessly, knew what to do.

She didn't. And she was attacked and criticized for bogus reasons, like I have been. And she had the rug pulled out from under her more than once. And she was set up and knocked down. And there's nothing wrong with her.

So if it happened to her, I can't blame myself if it happens to me. There is much less wrong with me than I thought.

This was a huge and empowering relief, and I breezed through today. Deployed my direct reports strategically, gave directives and organized workflow. Chaired a clinical meeting, monitored the progress of various projects, supervised my ass off. I came home tired but satisfied with a good day's work done. Then I saw Robin Williams committed suicide.

On a human scale, it's tragic. He had children. You wonder how someone so accomplished and beloved could feel that life is not worth living, that it's just unending pain. But he damaged the pleasure centers of his brain with years of substance abuse, leaving him prey to anhedonia, one of the most insidious depression symptoms. The inability to feel pleasure and joy. Ironic, since he provoked riotous joy for so many.

People with bipolar disorder are the most successful suicides. That is, our fatality rate is highest. The next highest suicide rate is found among middle-aged white men. Robin Williams was 63. Only 19 years older than I am.

Who knows where I'll be and how I'll be feeling in 19 years. I certainly couldn't have anticipated the life I have now when I was 22. I don't have to worry about that right now. But I'm personally saddened by this loss.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. His death also made me really sad, and feel just a little more despairing. If he, who was so successful (by visible, measurable means anyway) couldn't make it, how much less hope does that leave me with? It scares me a bit. :(

    1. I know. I feel the same way. But all I can do now is try to stay in the present and work on myself.