With the sudden death, and suspected suicide, of Robin Williams, I can’t help thinking about all of the people in the world who suffer in silence.
I have been one of those people at various points in my life, so I know how difficult it is to 1-get through each day and 2-ask for help when you feel so horrible. There are too many people who don’t understand that a smile can be as much a mask as it is an expression. Just because you think a person is happy and playful and excited about life does not mean that is how they actually feel.
Every day I see people being hateful to one another under guise of it being “just a joke” or something the other person needs to “just get over.” Just because a person is laughing does not mean they do not believe the insult that you consider “just a joke,” and if they don’t laugh it does not mean that they do no have a sense of humor. You never know what they are going through. You may never know.
People shy away from sadness, and that’s only if they do not outright reject it. Too often people learn that someone is sad or depressed, and they want to get away from that individual. “They just need to get over it.” is not a helpful phrase, and it is not going to solve anything. So, people who feel this way often feel the need to hide it from the world. It’s a sad truth.
For myself, I never wanted to burden anyone with my own depression, so I smiled brightly and made all of the right noises. At the same time, with a big smile across my face, I would run through scenarios of how I might die. Don’t get me wrong, it was not suicidal thoughts. It was more wishful thinking. “If I get up and drive to work today, I might get killed in a car accident.” or “If I come into contact with enough people today, I might get sick. We’ll think it’s the flu, and find out too late that it’s meningitis.” These thoughts were not frightening to me at the time, they were hopeful. I could never hurt my family by suicide. My biggest problem was feeling like a burden on everyone, and suicide would only make me the eternal burden. Instead, I only made it through each moment by holding on to the hope that the next might be my last. All the while I would giggle and joke, chatter on about nothing, and bounce around as though I were a silly, happy, normal girl when I was anything but.
I worked through those feelings years ago, but the thought of what I went through can still bring me to tears. It is something I would not wish on my worst enemy, and yet it is something so many people suffer through in silence.
People you know and love may be suffering while you sit in ignorance of it. Let them know you’re there. Let them know they can talk to you, you will not judge them, and they, and their emotions, are important to you. More than anything, earn that trust, and hold it close. Betraying someone in pain can be the last dagger through their heart.
Save the mockery, joking or not, it serves only to cause pain. If you want someone to smile, give them a real reason to feel happiness, and don’t expect them to feel the same as you. The best gift you can give another person is respect for who they are, not who you think they should be.