Robin Williams, Matt Walsh, Joy and Silence

August 13, 2014

Don’t worry, I won’t pretend to be an expert on depression or any mental illness or addiction for that matter. I could try to do that, telling you I have a degree in Psychology and ten years experience working professionally with people struggling with mental illness. I could tell you that I have struggled myself, with both depression and addiction and I am sober and I’m better. That I know how it feels. I could tell you how many people I’ve known who have taken their own lives. In a way, I guess I’m telling you all of that.

But none of it matters, so let’s not focus on it.

Nothing makes any person an expert on another person’s pain, mental health, life, or death.

And yet there sure are a lot of self-proclaimed experts out there, especially on the Internet. And lately I’ve been so immersed in life that I am very UN-immersed in Internet life and then I had a moment last night, and I read some things and it’s so different after stepping away. I’ve been so disconnected that it all looks foreign. I have stopped responding, and I feel mostly unattached.

The news of Robin William’s death left me speechless and sad, and he settled down deep in my heart and I felt the need to honor him with some time on my couch. It was quiet and I didn’t have a device of any kind around me. I did not tweet. I did not update my status. I did not read any articles about it.

I sat with it. I sat with my memories of his work, two of my favorites, Dead Poet’s Society and Good Will Hunting. I thought about their impact on me. The way stories bring perspective and a deeper understanding that we are all the same.

We are all the same.

You may not like this at all, but I’m going to say it. Matt Walsh is the same as Robin Williams. Robin Williams is the same as Matt Walsh.

I say it all the time; we are all the same. In the way that we are, with all of our differences.

Many of us know their names, one for being a creative genius with a talent and a long list of work that will remain with us for every generation after us. The other for having strong opinions and writing about them on the Internet. A guy who most likely will do his best with shock value to get clicks, in the same way similar folks, like Dr Laura, got listeners. Self appointed experts on humanity. Pharisees.

At first I sit quietly amused because I see only a lot of run-on self-righteous drivel. These ignorant, unprofessional, self-serving words, via radio, TV or Internet are humorous to me. Until they are not. Because I always remember the vulnerable people who are falling for the damaging opinions of people who are just….people. Just as broken and messy and ugly in the morning as the rest of us.

And then, I feel sorry for them, in the same way I feel horribly sad for the people they reach with their temporary platforms. Platforms built of things that can’t last. Unlike Robin Williams, who had an impact rooted in telling the truth, staying open to his art, and simply being exactly who he was. That’s beautiful.

The Lauras and Matts will soon be forgotten, friends. And yes, let’s get angry and vocal about the damage they are doing while they can. Let’s speak up for the people on the other side of the screen who feel shamed by their false opinions. Those who feel like they just aren’t trying hard enough to overcome their mental illnesses because some guy on the Internet says they just need more joy. Let’s tell them how silly that is. But let’s spend more time in person with those people, okay? Let’s spend time offline, sitting together and telling the truth. Don’t wait until another celebrity gets us all talking about our own struggles with depression and suicidal ideation.

Let’s walk in the woods together, or sit by the water. Leave your smart phone in the car and grab a cup of coffee with someone who you sense is struggling. Let’s spend more time sitting in the quiet with no screens so we can remember how to listen to our heart-guts, the holy intuition we are given to read each other. Feel the connections that have nothing to do with wires or 3G or 4G or any kind of bytes.

We so badly need each other to spend time, sitting and walking together. Working together. Listening intently. Telling the truth so the truth inside another feels safe and comes out in story.

People like Matt Walsh can sit down to type about depression and spirituality and how it all works all day every day and it will mean nothing, because it means nothing. But it only means nothing if we are protecting those around us from it. We take care of each other by spending time together. Leave the vulnerable and hurting in your life no time to read links on Facebook, and if they do, recover the truth with your loving presence.

In reality, we don’t get to make our own conclusions about Robin Williams and his inner turmoil. In the same way, we don’t know why people like Matt Walsh feel inclined to use their platforms the way they do, believing they are doing some kind of good. We can’t name exactly what is broken in either of these lives. But just like you and me, both of these men are a mysterious joy and pain in one body, one soul. Matt Walsh says that the depressed person simply needs joy. I wonder if he knows that we each already have joy, and that so often, the pain of living, or the pain of illness or loss, suffocates that joy like a cobra around its neck.

I hope you and I can honor Robin Williams and his family with quiet as much as possible. I hope we are a chorus of quotes from his movies, as we all sit together around Mrs. Doubtfire and Patch Adams and all the rest.  I hope we watch marathons of Mork and Mindy. I hope we lift up our thoughts and prayers and the joy that is buried or not in Robin’s name, and for his family and friends. When we do this, I hope we don’t have to shout. I hope there is a hush, a holy whisper that connects us all in the silence that honors.

Rest in peace, O Captain.

Screenshot 2014-08-13 at 8.36.34 AM

(photo credit)




katie August 13, 2014 at 9:24 am

This is perfect. My first thought when I read the MW blog was “how does he think this is helping anyone? What good is this doing?” I resisted the urge to fall right into the trap of putting my energy into commenting. Thanks for the challenge to spend time in quiet observance. There’s already enough shouting, you know?
katie recently posted..From Beethoven to Billie Jean: A Birth Story

Nichole August 13, 2014 at 9:27 am

I needed to read this today. Thank you for writing it.

Marnie August 13, 2014 at 9:47 am

thank you for this.

Denise August 13, 2014 at 10:12 am

Beautiful. You are absolutely right. There will always be people out there who are loudly cruel and insensitive and it is up to the rest of us to hold each other in our arms and help each other.
Denise recently posted..Reach Out Because Depression Lies

Kir August 13, 2014 at 10:25 am

this is what everyone needs to read and know.
Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful, honoring thoughts about an incredible soul gone too soon.
Kir recently posted..The Thing You Never Knew

Karen Duggan August 13, 2014 at 11:45 am

You make me cry…its a good thing. Xox
Karen Duggan recently posted..Grateful Monday

chrissy August 13, 2014 at 1:45 pm

This is me in the quiet, holding your words close. Thank you. XO
chrissy recently posted..Rewritten

Andrea August 14, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Love your perspective on this. I will definitely spend some time in quiet reflection about this.

Elaine A. August 15, 2014 at 8:58 am

My heart sunk to the ground when I heard the news because I loved his work so very much. My two favorite movies of his are the ones you listed as well. My heart also sunk because we lost my brother-in-law, back in June, in the same way and I saw it happening AGAIN.

And then my heart breaks for the fact that they were in so much despair… it breaks over and over again.

Thank you for reminding us, in such a gentle but adamant way, to pay attention to the hurt of those around us and to spend time with them. And to be understanding.

I block that other “junk” out. I cannot take it. Those hurtful words that only add to the pain.

Elaine A. recently posted..He Wasn’t Famous

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