Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Robin Williams, Suicide and Catholic Guilt...
He had been there himself; engulfed in that pit of darkness and despair, where hope is lost, life has become meaningless and desolation permeates every cell and molecule of a person's being.
It is the type of feeling that prompted the psalmist to write, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me," which Jesus recited while taking his last breaths on the cross.
My friend couldn't sleep. He couldn't eat. He couldn't concentrate. In fact, just reading a full sentence was a challenge. Therefore, he obviously couldn't work. He had what doctors call clinical depression, which afflicts millions of Americans every year.
And, it wasn't because he wasn't successful. My friend was a professional with a plush high rise office, making more money than he ever imagined and the envy of many of his friends and associates because of his youth, rising success, good looks and prowess with the opposite sex. But, he was miserable. He was in a bottomless funk and couldn't dig his way out; no matter what he tried.
He says the only thing that kept him from taking his life was Catholic guilt. It was the thought of spending the rest of eternity in hell (Let's take a quick sidebar here. Although, the Church teaches that depression is a serious mental illness and suicide is something that only God can judge, many still view it as the taking of a human life, which only God has the right to do).
It's a good thing my friend saw it as the latter because, admittedly, it saved his life.
I was reminded of my friend's words this week, as the story of Hollywood actor Robin Williams' death captured the headlines of every major news outlet, both locally and nationally, across the country.
It's ironic. For me, Robin Williams was not only an incredible talent as an actor and comedian but he represented a sense of energy, enthusiasm and spirit of happiness that was unrivaled by any standard. In fact, he appeared to have everything the culture tells us makes people happy; fame, fortune, influence.
Unfortunately, it seems, there was also lots of sadness, internal conflicts and darkness. It was severe enough to make him take his life at the age of 63 and still in the prime of his career (having just shot four movies that are yet to be released).
Williams was raised Episcopalian and often referred to his faith, especially in helping him get through drug and alcohol addictions, broken marriages and open-heart surgery. He once joked, "I'm an Episcopal; that's Catholic Light. Same religion, half the guilt!"
I couldn't help but think of my friend. Maybe, just maybe, a little more Catholic guilt could have helped Williams' as well...
[photo credit: Reed Saxon/AP file]