Robin Williams: 1951-2014

12 Aug

The world lost Robin Williams today.  I posted a series of personal reflections on Facebook and felt that I should share them here as well.

A word on the passing of Robin Williams. I can tell you from personal experience that depression and suicide are nasty buggers. Terrible for the person suffering, terrible for the people around the affected person, and in cases like Robin Williams, positively gut-wrenching for those left behind. I guarantee you, the amount we will miss Robin Williams as an actor and comedian does not even scratch the surface of those who will miss him as a friend, husband, and father. I truly hope Mr. Williams has found peace, and I hope that his family does eventually as well.

***

For those who did not know, I lost my uncle to suicide almost 11 years ago. My other uncle attempted suicide almost nine years ago. A co-worker committed suicide about four years ago. A friend’s mother committed suicide just last year. Multiples of my friends, and even myself briefly at one point, have either considered or attempted suicide. I know firsthand the pain one must feel to consider suicide, and I can only imagine the point one must be at for suicide to be the only answer. I also know the anguish, and damn near guilt, of those left behind. “Did I miss something?’ “Was there something I could’ve done?” “Did I say the right things?” How difficult and how sad. I take this moment to publicly acknowledge my parents and Mrs. Dersey and Mr. Seidelman for seeing me out of my darkest hour. Having been on the other side, I never in a million years would want to put my loved ones through that.

***

I’m a journalist. It’s been my career choice in some form or fashion since I was probably five or six years old. Given my life experiences, though, there’s a part of the journalistic style I cannot abide.

“Died suddenly.” It’s not been used today, because Robin Williams is a public figure, but “died suddenly” is often a journalistic euphemism for “suicide.” Why can’t we talk about it? Why can’t we let one person’s pain teach us a lesson that might give some sort of meaning to such a senseless tragedy.

The CDC reported that one in 10 people in the U.S. suffer from depression. Almost 30,000 Americans commit suicide each year. By comparison, 14 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year. While cancer kills almost a half-million people annually, making it far more “deadly,” a disproportionate amount of attention is paid to cancer, while mental illness, depression and suicide are swept quietly under the “died suddenly rug.”

Ernest Hemingway. Freddie Prinze Sr. And now, Robin Williams. These are famous people, printed and well-publicized examples that all the wealth and artistic brilliance in the world might not be enough. And while they should be the conversation, they shouldn’t be all of it.

Jim. Chad. Sandra. These are the names of real people, people like you and me that suffered through their depression and whose deaths, if they had made the news at all, would have been reported as “died suddenly.”

“Died suddenly” should not be the same as “died silently.”

It’s time to remove the stigma that depression brings. It’s time to embrace the people who suffer from depression in the same way we embrace people with cancer or any other serious illness.

I’m Brian Smith. Each day I move one day further past my darkest days, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t keep myself and emotions on high guard to avoid ever feeling that way again.

Excuses excuses…

20 Jan

Okay, so I totally meant to get back and start blogging here again.  And then I got distracted.  And distracted.  And then I forgot what I got distracted from.

Seriously though, I’ve been busy, at least in the past couple weeks, starting and managing two new blogs and Facebook pages.

Excuse me while I use my own blog to promote these other projects…

  • Heather’s Pay It Forward 2014: A dear friend of mine, Heather Escoe, recently started a year-long “pay it forward” project.  As her friends and family rallied around her cause, I decided to use my own Internet savvy to promote the project, both through a Facebook page and a blog.  Facebook page here.  Blog here.
  • Linda’s Fight:  After seeing the work I did on her own Facebook page and blog, Heather approached me to ask if I would do a blog for her Aunt Linda, who was recently diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.  Of course I readily agreed.  Facebook page here.  Blog here.

I appreciate greatly those of you who follow and interact with me here.  I hope you follow my other projects as well, because I am really enjoying doing them.

We will cure this dirty old disease

2 Nov 1379845_418826704906279_2097481652_n

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you know that Jace and I have a friend and ex-roommate who has been battling cancer since April.

We lost Kenny last night.

Cancer is such a dirty, horrible thing.  It makes me ill that sometime in the next week or two, we will bury a man who died three days short of his 31st birthday.  Cancer has had its impacts on my family.  My grandmother is a breast cancer survivor.  So is my mother.  One of my grandfathers had lung cancer, the other melanoma.  In 2009, I lost a dear family friend to melanoma at the age of 39.  I will never understand how such a horrible thing can touch innocent people.

Now, a mother and father must bury their son.  A man of not quite 22 will bury his partner.  Kenny will continue to live on in our hearts forever though.

When Kenny got sick, Jace and I created a Facebook page to raise awareness for Kenny’s cause.  He and his partner started a GoFundMe page to raise money to help with Kenny’s medical expenses.  Together, Kenny’s friends, family, and total strangers donated more than $6,000 to help Kenny and his family.  The power of social media really shined in Kenny’s case.  Feel free to peruse either of those pages to learn more about Kenny and why we all love him so very much.  Also, please keep Kenny, his partner Chris, and all of Kenny’s friends and family (Jace and I included) in your thoughts and prayers.

‘Then shut it down’

6 Oct

You may have had to be operating from an under-rock locale not to know that the U.S. government has been shut down since October 1, because of Congress’s inability or lack of desire to pass a budget.  I say “lack of desire” because Congress and the President have been able to agree on a budget all but 19 times that the question has come up since 1976.   Continue reading

Blogging success?

6 Sep

To consider myself a successful blogger, a few things would be important to me.

  1. Posting more regularly.  I haven’t been posting as regularly as I should, both to keep readers engaged, and to fulfill all the things I want to write about.
  2. Engaging with the readers.  Often my posts include TalkBack points.  I use those to try to attract comments and reader engagement in my posts.  It’s not as much fun if I feel like I’m writing at a brick wall.

So those are my goals.  I’m gonna work on improving those aspects of the blog so I can eventually become “successful.”

[A prompt from here: What would it take for you to consider yourself a “successful blogger”? Is that something you strive for?]

 

What’s in a name?

5 Sep

For many people, there are great stories stretching back 69246237841 years as to how they got their names.

For me, there’s not so much history with my name but I’ve never had a problem with it.

Brian is an Irish name meaning “high” or “noble.”  Neither of those are bad things, I guess.  I think it suits me pretty well, and I guess after 27+ years it better, whether I particularly care for it or not.

To fulfill the full responsibility of the blog prompt, I insert here that I [obviously] haven’t any children. :P

TALKBACK:  So what do you think of your name?  Where’d you get it?  Tell me in the comments.

[Blog prompt: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/daily-prompt-identity/]

The family: We’re an odd bunch

5 Sep LaFamilkia

I was an only child.  I mean, really really an only child.  I was my parents’ only child, and my only uncle and my only aunt both had no children (well, my aunt did have a child, but she only lived for one day).

I had friends in Michigan, of course, but no one I really considered a brother or sister.

That all changed when I moved to Georgia. Continue reading

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