What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Jessica Belf Vincent.
The death of Robin Williams hit me hard. I was sad for the loss of a great man who brought people such light was gone. But more than sadness, I was terrified. It brought up the real possibility that my husband could commit suicide. Robin Williams is one of my husband’s great idols. Both are comedians, actors, performers, and have lived with depression, addiction, and recovery. My husband was, at more than one point in his life, suicidal. His father committed suicide and for all accounts, my husband thought it was his fault. Through pain and therapy, through addiction and recovery, he has healed some and has realized it was not his fault. He is healthier now and he has pulled out of the dark places where suicide seemed the only option. But he knows that darkness. He knows the heart of darkness that is deeper than the blackest hole and more numbing and empty than the deepest pain. I say this only as a report. I have not been in that level of darkness myself. I’ve been hurt, sad, in pain. For whatever reason, I’ve been protected or saved or just lucky to be kept away from this deep, soul sucking blackness. While it’s true that ultimately only the individual has the responsibility to help themselves enough to get out of the darkness in the end, I also have a responsibility in that darkness. The darkness is not sucking me in. The darkness is not overwhelming my senses so much so that it numbs me from feeling. The darkness is not killing me so that I think my only option is suicide. And because I have been saved from that darkness, I believe it is my responsibility to reach out to those in the dark. It is my responsibility to, sometimes literally crawl into the darkness to reach out a hand to pull someone out. It is my responsibility to connect with those who have been through the dark so that they know someone is there for them. It is my responsibility to listen to the darkness and try to understand how it feels or how it doesn’t feel anymore or how much it hurts. It is my responsibility to humanize and empathize what it is like to live in the darkness. It is my responsibility to check on people who at times in their life have fallen through to the darkness and make sure they are getting enough light. I do not say this as if I am some hero, that I am here to save all the people from all the pain. I do not say this with ego that I am better than those who have suffered. I say this with humanity and compassion. I have not taken such a hard hit, so I have more strength to share with those who have. If I have more, then it is my responsibility as a human, to share. There is certainly no guarantee that life will be devoid of pain. But those of us who have been spared by the deepest pain must take responsibility and always reach out to those who are consumed by it. Ultimately, it is each person’s responsibility to make the choice to continue to live. But, if everyone, even those in the darkest of dark places, knew that someone would reach for them. A hand to hold, a hand to pull them out, then I have to believe that continuing to live would seem a little more possible. If when you heard about Robin Williams or any other suicide, you thought to yourself, I can’t imagine! What got so bad? How could he have thought that was the only way out? Didn’t he know everyone loved him? Or, if you know that suicide is something that you never could do to yourself, then I believe you are one of the lucky ones who have been spared from the deepest pain. And, I implore you to seek out those who hear of his suicide and can understand and relate and have felt those feelings before, those that have been in that darkest place. It is your responsibility to find these fragile souls and reach out to them. Let them know that you are there for them. Tell them that you will be there (not that you can fix it or take it away or change them) just that you are there. Tell them they are not alone. Tell them they are loved and that you love them no matter what. Tell them that you will travel the path ahead with them no matter how treacherous the journey. No matter what has come before. Tell them that no matter what they go through or how hard it feels or how dark it becomes that you will hold their hand, that you will sit beside them, that you will listen. Tell them that you won’t judge them and that you accept whatever feelings they might have. Tell them that you want them to live and you love them. Take responsibility as a compassionate human and reach out to the fragile souls, they need that light. When they feel that and believe that and accept that, I hope they will crawl out of the darkness. Because, I know for sure, that NOBODY.EVER.DESERVES to die alone in that darkness.