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On Surviving - I Wish Robin Williams Had

Nearly a week's worth of reporting on Robin Williams' death, some of it heartfelt, some of it educational, some of it ignorant bloviating -- even if you have been living under a rock and not heard any coverage at all, you can name the bloviators, can't you.  By now, my readers surely wonder, What is the Prozac Monologues take on his untimely death?

I have written reams on suicide and suicide prevention.  Click on those two links and take your pick.  But skip the Suicide Monologue, at least for another week.  It is inappropriate for another week.  And if you do go there, then mind the humor alert.  I am serious -- about the humor alert, that is.  Some of you won't find it funny. It wasn't written for you.

But before we abandon the suicide conversation in favor of the next thing, let's expand the frame.  Here's the deal.  Of all the people alive on the planet today, 50,000,000 will, at some point in their lifetimes, struggle with suicide.

I can't say we will think about suicide.  Those of you who think about it in passing seem to think that the seriously suicidal think.  There is lots going on inside our burning brains.  But thinking doesn't really describe it.

Anyway, of those 50,000,000 pitiful souls, 5,000,000 will die at their own hand.  That number could be a lot smaller, if there were sensible and serious suicide prevention available to anybody who needs it.  Suicide happens when pain exceeds resources to deal with pain.  We could use some more resources.

But let me remind you that Robin Williams had loads of resources, loving friends and family, economic security, and excellent health care to boot.  And he used those resources.  For years, decades, he used those resources.  They weren't enough.  Depression killed him anyway.  Like how people with health care can recover from cancer.  But some of them, even those with the best health care in the world, die of cancer. Just like that.

Back to the 50,000,000.  Do the math.  45,000,000 people are alive today who will at some point in our lives struggle with suicide, and will survive.  Note that I am placing myself, God willing, among the 45,000,000.  I have loads of resources, too, among them the good sense not to own a gun, which significantly improves my odds of survival -- a side note there.  But back to my point.  Gosh, I am having trouble sticking to the point.  Psychiatry has a word for that...  But back to my point.

What about the 45,000,000?  We are cautioned this week.  We are reminded that we struggle against a fearsome beast.  We cannot be careless.  We have to get rid of the damn gun, and the leftover meds, too.

We also have to live.  We have to celebrate every day a victory.  Those of you who love us, maybe you could, too.  That would be really nice, to have somebody celebrate that we are surviving depression, like you would celebrate our surviving cancer.  Why not bring us some flowers?  Or bake us a cake?

If you are one of the 50,000,000, aspiring to be one of the 45,000,000 -- don't wait for somebody else to bake you that cake.  Bake it yourself.  Even if nobody around you celebrates, there are 50,000,000 people alive today who know something of what you are going through. And we rejoice that you are still here.  We are all in this together, us 50,000,000, even if we do not speak a word when others are bloviating about those of us who stumble on the way

In that spirit, I repeat a post from September, 2009:

Cut the top ten and go straight to the number one reason why Willa Goodfellow should never get herself committed to the psych ward:

I suck at arts and crafts.

I didn't used to.  I used to produce Christmas cookies and gingerbread houses that made adults and children alike respond, "Oh! My! God!" -- though not the way this cake does.  I used to make big gingerbread houses.  No kits. and no showing off with royal icing and special decorating tips (which might have improved this cake, if I had been able to find them).  I used Golden Grahams for shingles, individually placed sprinkles on the door wreaths, graham bears ice skating in the yard, pretzels for fences.  I made Dr. Seuss-like trees out of marshmallows and gummy savers, M&M's for roofing material, or maybe candy-canes for the Swiss chalet touch -- those were a bitch to hold in place until the frosting glue dried.  Once I used peanuts to construct a fire chimney.  All color coordinated.  I must have made thirty of those suckers, and each an original masterpiece.

Then I took Prozac.  And Celexa, and Cymbalta, and Effexor.  And part of my brain has never come back.  I think the part that departed included the "good taste" part.  Also the "give a damn what you think" part.

This cake and the guerilla party I held in the hospital lobby to celebrate the 45,000,000 people at risk for suicide who will survive it, the same hospital whose psych ward I hope never to call home, definitely come out of the Prozac Monologues spirit.  So does the grammar of that last sentence.

This one, I am submitting to  So, Elaine, (a friend who happened by the party and was speechless) you can go ahead and say it.  Yes, I know.

Some people actually do get it.  One of the guests was a psychiatrist who laughed along when I bemoaned having thrown away all the meds I have stopped using over the course of the Chemistry Experiment, so that I was reduced to Smarties and Mike and Ike for decorating material.


"I have a dream. Okay, technically it's a fantasy." [Elmont, Doonesbury]  That when people who survive self-injury are transferred from ICU to the psych ward, they will be greeted with a cake.  That when they get home, there will be a party, just like the party that will greet my friend who just made it through colon surgery.  A quiet party, befitting the energy level of the guest of honor.  But a party with a guest of honor, for having survived this latest round with a disease that has a 15% mortality rate.  I have a fantasy that people who survive self-injury, or manage to avoid it altogether, will be treated like people who survive breast cancer.

I have a fantasy that next year the Psych Department itself will host the party for Suicide Prevention Week, with both Emergency Room workers and the patients, out on a pass, sharing the honor.

For sure, the hospital-catered cake will look better.

photo of Robin Williams by John J. Kruzel/American Forces Press Service, in public domain
flair from
photo of cake by author
photo of Prozac by Tom Varco, used under Creative Commons license
photo of miscellaneous pills used under Creative Commons license


  1. Willa - you are amazing and brilliant! I am so glad that you wrote this post....thank you!



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