Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Thoughts on Robin Williams' Suicide

I like many others are still taking in the news of the death of Robin Williams.  He was a great actor and a genius in comedy.  His ability to improvise in any situation was admirable and very rare.  This type of acting is second nature, not taught.  

Robin Williams brought many laughs and tears to all of us who watched his movies and programs.  However, the question remains: How can someone who seemed so jovial be so depressed?  There are no simple answers to this question. Perhaps the fact that he always seemed to have a need to make a joke of something was his way of masking the inner pain he had.  

We may never know what was going on in this man's mind.  He suffered from alcoholism, drug abuse and had a heart surgery.  These factors can weigh in on the stability of one's brain. Alcohol and drugs are known to alter how the way the brain works.  Many philosophers describe the brain as the hardware while the mind is the software.  If this is true, then if the hard drive is damaged, then the software cannot operate in its total capacity. This was probably why Mr. Williams took his own life.  He brain and mind were just not working right together.  It is obvious that he had no real reason to "opt out."  He loved his family, especially his three children.  He seemed to love his career and according to his neighbors, was a very humble man.  That being said, it was most likely his altered state of mind that caused him to see reality differently bringing him to committing suicide.

His children should not feel like they weren't important enough for him to stay.  I've read that one of his kids wrote something to that effect.  Again, drugs, alcohol and biological issues does alter the way the human brain and mind work.  There is no way around this.  Drugs and alcohol rewires the brain.  They make you perceive things differently than others who don't use those substances. Growing up in New York City, I saw alcohol and drugs all around me.  Some in my own family have abused those substances and are suffering the effects now.  As a kid, I vowed never to imitate what I saw around me.  Instead, I relied on books, music, video games, sports and especially family and good friends in order to keep me focused.  I cannot stress enough the harm drugs and alcohol abuse does to the user and those around him.  It pains me to see on social networks photos of people at clubs or even house party holding up red plastic cups or liquor bottles as if it were something to be proud of; an accomplishment.  Some even take pictures holding weed in their mouth or blowing smoke as if it were "cool."  This mentality has to stop.  These things are not cool.  They are not things to be proud of.  These things can kill you one way or another.

Drugs and alcohol distort the flow of neurotransmitters in the brain.  They create false connections in the reward center of the brain linking the use of them seems as a "good."  When deprived of them, the brain goes into a chaotic mode of withdrawal.  This extremely alters a person's psychology and can cause all kinds of illnesses in the body as well.  These are testament to the power these substances have over the human brain and why they are dangerous.  Again, there is nothing "cool" about being "high" or drunk.  There is nothing "cool" about being "out of your mind," so to speak.

Mr. Williams obviously was going through this chaotic mode in his brain.  I can't even imagine what the man was going through as he struggled with his brain's attempt to cope with the rewiring done from his substance abuse.  This man was so funny.  He could make those British soldiers guarding Buckingham palace crack a smile.  The fact that these substances triggered depression in him that was so strong that he committed suicide should be a loud message to all of us.  If this can effect a funny man like Robin Williams to the point of forcing him to end it all, then imagine what it can do to anyone else.

It pains me to hear some Christians say that he is in hell for taking his life.  While killing is a mortal sin, suicide is different and must be looked at carefully.  A person who commits suicide just for the heck of it obviously was in his/her right mind and fits the criteria for mortal sin.  However, if a person is not in his/her right state of mind, then it is this chaotic mode of the brain that is killing the person, not the person himself.  Williams was not himself.  He was not thinking rationally.  We must not judge whether or not he went to hell or not.  The catechism puts it well:

2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of. 
2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God. 
2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.
Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.
2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives. 

If you are reading this now and are thinking about suicide or have thought about it, please reconsider.  You are needed in this world.  You exist for a reason.  You were not a mistake nor a creation of chance.  There is no one in the world like you and there will never be one like you. You are unique and have a lot to offer to this world.  If you are feeling depressed, hopeless as if there is nothing more to do than to end it all because you feel you are losing the battle, then reflect on this: You are winning the battle!  The fact that you are there thinking further delaying suicide shows that you are winning and capable of defeating depression or whatever it is that is making you feel hopeless.

Moreover, each one of us is like a snow flake.  No two snowflakes are alike.  Each snowflake is
unique with its own pattern and symmetry.  A snowflake begins in the clouds as condensation. It falls and begins to crystallize due to the cold weather.

As these crystallized droplets of water fall, some of the water evaporates and creates the flake's pattern based on how its molecules are formed. Each flake is unique because each falls into a different path with different atmospheric conditions effecting it.

Once it reaches the ground, these flakes collect and create a beautiful scenery worthy of a postcard.  The scene of snow on trees, bushes, mountains with its appearance as crystals sparkling is breathtaking.  When it's time, the snowflakes melt, evaporate and return to the sky from whence they came.  You and I are like these snowflakes.  God sends us down to Earth. We have our own unique patterns due to our molecules and DNA.  Each path we're on alters us a bit making us unique flakes.  Once we are on Earth, we decorate this world and give this world meaning and beauty.  Then when it is time, God calls us back to Himself up above.

You are special, you are unique!  Please don't deprive our world of your unique presence and existence.  You exist because you are important and God wanted you here.  There will never be anyone else like you ever again.  You are irreplaceable so continue to bless this world with your presence.  Seek out the help of family, friends, priests and psychologists.  There is always hope!

Eternal rest grant to Robin Williams o' Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May through the mercy of God, may he rest in peace.  Amen

O captain my captain, rest in peace!        

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