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What If We Forget to Breathe?

August 13, 2014

It’s hard to be sure I am brave enough to read the varying opinions and beliefs plastered here and there from pundits and normal Joe’s while we, as a culture, try to understand how the Funniest Man Alive, the one with a seemingly bottomless well of spontaneous joy could be found….

Like that.

The news of Robin William’s life’s end felt like losing a family member or an old, dear friend.

Right along side you, I remember when…

I laughed at the exuberance of a furry man as he danced naked through Central Park in that one movie I can’t remember the name of off the top of my head. Or Prince Ali, mighty is he, Ali-A-Babwa, or Patch Adams and the kids, or Mrs. Doubtfire and that terrible floral couch of a dress. Carpe Diem.  Carpe F’ing Diem.

Or…  We all have our own memories.

Robin Williams.  Love him, hate him, you couldn’t disregard him or be unaffected by his joi de vivre or the passion he threw into everything he did.  Even those horrid late night tv junkets.

Maybe his Fourth of July personality was staged for our benefit.  Maybe the toll of being The Funniest Man Alive become so exhausting he just couldn’t do it anymore.

See, that’s why I’ve stayed away from the internets.

So many repetitions of personal old queries echo like the sound of shattered glass in an empty room. Those unresolved fragments of The Girl I Used To Be, The Girl I Ignore, bouncing off the cold, hard concrete of logic, reason, judgment, while shredding the tender places of Love and Family, Future and Hope.

I know what it is to be so tired of being The Person Irrepressible while the fantasy of nothingness tantalizes like an ever-elusive high.  I have lived my conscious life with the yearning to step off stage; willing to give nearly anything to be out of the spotlight and sit quiet on the sidelines, unseen, unpressured, still.

But still valued.

Could it be he too felt what it was to be measured as commodity, worthwhile by what is produced and not by virtue of shared humanity? Not many are willing to see and believe the tiredness lying just beyond a full-fledged, brittle, smile and the seemingly inexhaustible energy and drive.

Spider-web lines crisscross my thin skin in pale, silvery reminders of lost battles with demons and blades.   Small and invisible to most, yet I remember, still feel,  the dark red smear effortlessly bubbling up and sliding out, shiny and warm against white skin while dead, dry eyes watched in a macabre fascination.  I think I hoped I would feel something at that moment.  Something besides the desperate shame and agony of being but not living that dogged my every thought, every step…

No one could have convinced me, in those moments, life was anything worth imposing on anyone else.  Crushed beyond recognition, I truly believed I was so worthless and existence so pointless that my absence would be barely noticed, possibly even a relief to those who had far better things to do than bother with the girl who Never Got Better.

I was 27 the last time I watched a single motion turn to a crimson line while I waited for a change in the way I felt.   I had children.  Beautiful children.  A husband.  A good man loved me.

There were even people around me who, had I the words to share with them, would have surrounded me with love and affirmation.

It wouldn’t have helped.  I would have called BS on all of them.

I still struggle, every day, with those feelings of being worthless, pointless, beyond redemption. Laughing inside at kind words aimed at me.  Calling sincere people liars in my heart, because if they “really knew me” they would take all those nice things back and turn away.   “They would.”, come the whispers and taunts of insecurities and fears crucified and resurrected over and over again.

It’s hard to share this.  It hurts.  I know I don’t look like the face of someone who struggles like this.  But then neither did he.

Perhaps, for him, breathing just got too hard.  If you’ve never struggled with debilitating depression that might sound stupid, like some kind of excuse, or a copout.

Maybe it is.

However, I’d bet good money I can’t afford to lose that anyone who has ever sat in their car next to a sharp drop-off, on the beach looking at the ocean, next to a lake, drove down a rode and contemplated speeds and trajectories and head on collisions with a big pole while they  wondered, however briefly, at how easy it could be to just make it all stop are nodding their heads right along side me.

Breathing can be so hard, even too hard sometimes.

I have the love of a family and I force myself to choose faith and trust.  Choosing to believe they are telling me the truth when they say how much they love me while the inner dialogue shouts denials and cynicism so I don’t dismiss beautiful, sincere, words.

There’s a friend who gets it and doesn’t reject me.  We talk about the abyss sometimes and don’t demand answers.   I found a friend I have paid to listen to me… And he does.  He reminds me of Whose I am, really, and advocates for me when I don’t realize I should be bothered by the trespass I have allowed on this life.

Depression is a life-long war; a battle fought one skirmish at a time.  It’s darkness and blinding light as despondency and excruciating introspection collide. 

Some of the bravest people I know are those who feel hopeless every day but choose to live full anyway.  Interacting when it’s exhausting, working when it’s painful to move, holding hands and comforting others through the white-out numbness of a shriveled soul.

I am poorer for knowing Robin Williams lost his strength to continue to breathe.  We all are.

We are poorer not because of the loss of amazing talent and the movies he would make that could put us in stitches or make us feel, but, because the man behind the mask visited the troops, advocated for the homeless, St. Jude’s Hospital, Doctors without Borders, and more.  His generosity was well-known while his family, even an ex-wife, remember him with fondness.

Psalm 34:18

“The LORD is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.”

I choose to believe there was a kind hand wiping away a stray tear in those last moments before…  Surely there can be no one more brokenhearted than those who can no longer continue.

Now go hug someone precious and don’t let them look away until you’ve poured out all your love into each other.  Hold on tight. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow.

Today is all grace.

So, don’t forget to breathe. 


  • I am your biggest smart @$$ liar face moron. My whoppers are unbelievable. The idea of a year’s separation hurts my core. But the idea of knowing that someone, a world away, will share what I feel when you visit? I can share that feeling with them. From your biggest lying fan, I loves us bunches.

  • Shelda McCullar

    I love you, cousin. That’s all. Just that. There’s not much more than that that I can give. I love you more and more with every honest word you share with me, every quirky comment or picture that tells me, “Yep, we are SOOO family!” So when you’re having a strong enough moment you make sure and tell all those thoughts and emotions that are always in the back of your mind, that I love you, because I want all of you to know it, even the parts you think no one loves 🙂
    Hugs hugs and more hugs! Wish I could hug ya for real! 😉

    • Heidi Stone

      Love you too, cousin-friend

  • Lisa L. Swanson

    Ah, Heidi – Arielle posted the link to this on Facebook, and it’s so good to see your face & hear your voice (so to speak). I used to hang with y’all over on Blogger in years past – I think mine was “Lisa’s Front Porch,” and you went by “pebblechaser.”

    Anywho, you might want to put a trigger warning prior to some of your more graphic descriptions. Thankfully for me it’s not an issue, but over the years I’m becoming more sensitive to others’ trigger points.

    I think you are awesome. We can talk more about it later, but let’s just say I’m familiar with the neighborhood you describe. 🙂

    I just want you to know this post is an important one in the discussion of depression that is buzzing right now. Thank you for being so open to us.

    • Heidi Stone

      Hi, Lisa, so nice to connect again after all these years! Gotcha. Sounds reasonable. Although “graphic content” warnings do tend to make folks curiouser and curiouser, 🙂

  • “I still struggle, every day, with those feelings of being worthless, pointless, beyond redemption. Laughing inside at kind words aimed at me. Calling sincere people liars in my heart, because if they “really knew me” they would take all those nice things back and turn away. They would, come the whispers and taunts of insecurities and fears crucified and resurrected over and over again.”

    Yes, this. Same here. There has been a point or two along the way when the only thing that has kept me alive is my faith in God.

    It’s simply not in me any more to judge anyone who suicides. If there’s judging to be done I will leave that to the One who is more qualified than I to do so.

    Poor Robin – there but for the grace of God go I.

    • Heidi Stone

      Amen, friend, amen

  • wendy

    Thanks for sharing this, Heidi. One of the most helpful things I was told in my life is that God loves us in our darkness as much as our light. I know this will help others, thanks for opening up!

    • Heidi Stone

      Love that thought. I’ll hold on tightly to it. I am certain of that.

  • Thank you.