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August 11, 2014

Suicide is not selfish.

Nobody likes the word "selfish."

It's a word that means to have a lack of consideration for others, and to be concerned with one's own personal profit or pleasure. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all are selfish to a degree but none of us would ever want to be described as such.

Photo-9When my brother committed suicide last November, there were several people who said to me that what he did was the most selfish thing a person could do. I think the intent of that statement wasn't to hurt me. But it did. The intent was probably to try and comfort me. To help me know that there was nothing that I could do to stop him. Because he was going to do it anyway. Because he was selfish.

I haven't ever replied back when these statements have been spoken ... but I've been taking all this time to develop a proper response. 

On this Monday, the 11th day of August 2014, the day when I have learned (along with the rest of the world) of Robin William's untimely death through his apparent suicide, I'm ready to respond.

Here it is.

It's not about you. It's not about me.
It is and was about him.

After my brother's passing, I read a lot of research about suicide. Suicide is usually associated with severe depression. When a person is severely depressed, all they see and feel is a painful darkness that seemingly has no end. It hurts to numbness. And it's not that they are wanting to be inconsiderate but the only thing they can consider is this abyss. And it's not that they want to experience pleasure or profit. They simply want the pain and darkness to end. They don't want to hurt anyone. They want to stop hurting.

It's not about any of us.

For those who are reading this post and mistakenly thinking that I am per chance advocating suicide, I have a response.

Here it is.

Fuck off.

How could anyone advocate such a thing?

So then what would I advocate for? I suppose something uniquely genuine for each and every severely depressed person. So that each person can find the thing that switches on the light in the darkness ... maybe the right doctor, or the right friend, or the right coach, or the right teacher, or the right kernal of corn beneath the refridgerator, or the right medications, or the right something else that happens with effectiveness so that the abyss could come to an end without life coming to an end on purpose.

My brother was not a saint for how he lived nor for how he died. Neither was Robin Williams.

Regardless, there is not a day that passes without my feeling the heartache of his passing. I miss him. I take comfort in knowing that he is at peace.

My heart goes out to the friends and family of Robin Williams during this tremendously difficult time. May he rest in peace. And may all the happy that he spread through his genius work be remembered with unending smiles.




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Oh Jenny,
I can't imagine that I could love this post more. Your sad experience coupled with your Jenny-esque spin has put it in perspective beautifully. xo

~I wasn't aware of the circumstances surrounding your brother's death & am so sorry.~

So perfectly put. Thank you Jenny. Nanu Nanu

Yes. It's about darkness and fear. Crippling paralyzing fear. I've seen it. I've washed the clothes after my mom's unsuccessful attempt to end that fear. Fff off to the judgementals. It was and it will always be about darkness and fear.
Sending you lots of love.

Amen sister

Absolutely perfectly said

Thank you for so perfectly putting into words my own thoughts about this. Thank you. Thank you!

My 14 year old daughter attempted suicide last winter and several people close to us told me how incredibly selfish she was - and how selfish people with depression, in general, are.

Those were not comforting words. They still hurt. They pissed me off then, and still do today.

I feel extraordinarily lucky that her attempt was unsuccessful and that we were able to get her the help that she needed. It's been a very long, very lonely road. She seems to have found the right doctor and the right medication - and yes, maybe even the right kernel of corn under our refrigerator. (Great book)

Your art and your writing have helped me so much. Thank you again for sharing.

Beautiful words perfectly spoken! Thank you. . .

Take care,

This is a wonderful blog post. I hope your words open the eyes of those that need opening.

Jenny, Your response is spot-on! This week is the fifteenth anniversary of my sister's suicide and earlier in the week, my father planned to kill my mother and sister and then himself. Dementia and severe mental illness are not a good combo!

But what I want people to know, is the feeling of the need to die really does go away. If you take a breath, then take one more and then again until you realize that you are going to make it if you just keep breathing. At some point, you will feel strong enough to ask for help, reach out to a friend, co-worker , or family.

Just keep breathing, in and out!

Amazingly said Jenny and I am sorry for your loss. But as one who suffers from depression, I appreciate your response. I am tired of the stigma society has on mental illness. Why should I feel ashamed for something I have no control over that so many others experience as well? My hopes are that through his life, Robin Williams made us laugh and in death he began the start of a better understanding. God bless!

thank you


I'm no stranger to the pain of depression or the loss of a loved one to depression. My heart goes out to all those who suffer with depression and lose the battle and to the loved ones they leave behind. Robin Williams gave us so much laughter, it's sad we couldn't find a way to return the gift.

Depression is a chemical imbalance in your body. It runs in families. I have lost two brothers to suicide. I have been seriously close to ending my own life. I got the help I needed. Jenny, you are absolutely right about suicide not being about you or me, but about the person who does it or attempts to do it. I can totally understand wanting to make the pain stop. Someone who has never felt the utter despair and hopelessness that a deep clinical depression can bring, cannot ever understand how this truly feels. I would go so far as to say that no one takes his or her own life on the spur of the moment, simply because of a bad day. Many months, years or decades of pain, whether physical or emotional or both, contribute to such an act. I am so sad to hear of your brother's suicide. And of Robin Williams'. I do understand it though.

I'm so sorry for your loss! And I agree that is a very hurtful thing to say to the people who attempted or to the loved ones. It is not about hurting others or not thinking of others and being selfish, it is ONLY about wanting the pain and sadness to end. I would know.

Thanks for posting this, more people should know this.

Thank you Jenny. This is without a doubt one of your best posts.

I really appreciate your open and honest sharing and I agree 100%...needed to be said...glad you did..

Thank you Jenny... well said

Who can presume to judge another person, especially when they suffer from depression? I would never use the word "selfish" to describe the desperation someone must feel that leads them to end their own life. I only feel great sadness that they didn't receive help in time. I hope that time will help heal your pain.

Many Many Many years ago I tried to take my own life. I have to say I wasn't thinking of anyone else except myself and how I FELT I effected others, I did think about my parents - I THOUGHT they would be better off WITHOUT me ! you are so far down you do not see that this is such a warped way of seeing things - It never entered my head at the time that they would miss me ... what for? I was so thankful that I was taken to hospital and saved - to this day I battle depression but I would never try and take my own life again. There is so much help out there now- please just extend your hand if you are feeling so low and someone will grasp it and keep you here.

i also lost my brother to suicide . majority of people do not know how to respond to this type of death . and most do with a
inappropriate comment . i always tell people that a well person does not commit suicide and my brother was not mentally well . he was ill . the brother i knew and loved did not do this my brother that was ill did . i hope this makes sense to you . the only thing i feel about his death is i will never have closure .
thank you for your post .

I love your post....it is hard to express these feelings and thoughts...thank you for speaking up about a subject that never gets talked about. My nephew was in a dark depression and committed suicide....it is hard to deal with.

well said Jenny. I applaud you.

Well done.

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