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The media's obsession with Robin Williams' death made my own depression worse

Posted on September 5, 2014 8:52 PM in ,

WordPress site  You can find this post in italian in the archived site lgiustini.wordpress.com.

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by Michael Gerhard Martin*

It's been over a week since Robin Williams killed himself. I loved Mork when I was a kid, and Williams (as Mr. Keating) was one of my idols as a young teacher. I am sorry to hear of his passing, but I wouldn't say I am grieving. After all, I didn't know him. But as someone who struggles with depression, I've found that the media blitz around his suicide has messed me up more than I could have imagined

I had my first thoughts about suicide around the eighth grade. I was bullied at summer camp, which certainly didn't help. Once you contemplate suicide, it's in there forever, a rattling in the attic, a whisper in the ear. The window in an airless room. I survived decades without help, and I'm not entirely sure how.

The songwriter John Prine sang, "Two men were standing upon a bridge/ one jumped and screamed 'You lose!'" Johnny Cash wrote about driving out to some caves, crawling inside one, and waiting there to die. At my worst - and that was hanging out on the Panther Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh, looking down to the shallow, filthy pond hundreds of feet below -- I berated myself for my cowardice. Come on, pussy - up and over and you don't even have to walk home.

It took a few days to figure out where the creeping dread was coming from, like a rotten potato behind the fridge. Any kind of habitual self-destruction cuts a deep rut in the brain, and I felt the wheels jerk between its walls before I knew what was going on.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with my life - I'm not Robin Williams, but I have a book deal and a good job. I'm happily married and live at the beach. That doesn't matter. While some people might be able to process a news cycle full of suicide, racial violence, and apocalyptic climate change with analytical distance, I've felt personally overwhelmed with hopelessness and shame. And most of all, the constant, graphic reports about Robin Williams' death have haunted me.

For about three days, I'd been exposed to hundreds of news stories, social media posts, eulogies, obituaries, memes, appeals for mental health care, hotlines, media insensitivity and testimonials. Suicide, suicide, suicide, suicide, suicide, like a crossword puzzle with dozens of clues and only one answer, repeated over and over. Until the wheel spins and digs.

Shrinks always ask if I have ever made an "attempt," meaning something that led to hospitalization. I never have. That would have put me in a position where I couldn't do it if I wanted to. There was a time when killing myself seemed the only way I could imagine having control of my life, my mind, myself.



In college I bought a rifle, thinking I would take up hunting with some of the guys. I tried out the steel barrel, to see how it felt under my chin. I got rid of it.

Now, I'm not in any danger. I've responded well to medication and therapy, and eventually Robin Williams and his suffering and his tragic final choice will cycle out of the news, and I'll stop feeling crushing doom every time I read the goddamned word. My suicidal ideations will hang in the doorway, but they won't get in. I've trained like an athlete to fill in that rut. I laugh and say, "I hate my brain!" to avoid thinking "I hate myself." But our media's relentless fixation on Williams' suicide -- not just on the fact that it happened, but on hashing out the gruesome specifics -- has felt deeply inappropriate and misguided to me.

Personally, the only way I've ever been able to process death is through humor. My mother scolded me for cracking jokes at my grandmother's funeral when I was 11. When my friend Aimee was in the hospital to have her gall bladder removed, I drew her a diagram of her intestines populated by spermatozoa, chicken wings and worms.

And in this situation, as hard as it may be, perhaps we should all be cracking jokes ─ memorializing Williams in the way he lived instead of ruthlessly publicizing the terrible way he died. After all, Robin Williams ran from the sounds of mourning; he wanted, profoundly, to hear laughter.

* Michael Gerhard Martin originally published this post on Salon.com on Aug. 23, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman's Final Secret

Posted on February 5, 2014 2:06 AM in ,

WordPress site  You can find this post in italian in the archived site lgiustini.wordpress.com.

I've read with the deepest sadness about the cold death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, that I loved in his severe actorship's ability to render the suffering of men throughout different movies. Here's a memory article that I found really special and toughtful about the actor, from the Esquire magazine by the editor Tom Junod.

Just a note. One of the best films I've ever seen is Before the devil knows you're dead, (2007), where the filmmaker, the amazing Sidney Lumet, has directed his last film (and last for Hoffman too): the exceptional character of the protagonist (the other one is Ethan Hawke) makes this movie really special, and through the story and the perception it leaves.

philip-seymour-hoffman.jpg

I had two contradictory but complementary responses to the news that Philip Seymour Hoffman had died of a drug overdose at the suddenly tender age of 46 -- two responses, that is, beyond how terrible and damn, he was great.

The first was that there was no way Hoffman had died with a syringe still in his arm -- no way that an actor who brought such finicky dignity to his portrayal of the most desperate characters had permitted himself to die so ruthlessly unmasked.

The second was that of course he had died in such a sordid manner -- how else was Philip Seymour Hoffman supposed to die? There was no actor, in our time, who more ably suggested that each of us is the sum of our secrets...no actor who better let us know what he knew, which is that when each of us returns alone to our room, all bets are off. He used his approachability to play people who are unacceptable, especially to themselves; indeed, his whole career might be construed as a pre-emptive plea for forgiveness to those with the unfortunate job of cleaning up what he -- and we -- might leave behind. The only way that Philip Seymour Hoffman could have died in a manner more consistent with the characters he created would have been if he had died by auto-erotic asphyxiation.

And in the extermity of these two responses was, I think, the essence of Hoffman's art.

He often played creeps, but he rarely played them creepily. His metier was human loneliness -- the terrible uncinematic kind that has very little to do with high-noon heroism and everything to do with everyday empathy -- and the necessary curse of human self-knowledge. He held up a mirror to those who could barely stand to look at themselves and invited us not only to take a peek but to see someone we recognized. He played frauds who knew they were frauds, schemers who knew they were schemers, closeted men who could only groan with frustrated love, heavy breathers dignified by impeccable manners, and angels who could withstand the worst that life could hand out because they seemed to know the worst was just the beginning. And what united all his roles was the stoic calm he brought to them, the stately concentration that assured us that no matter whom Philip Seymour Hoffman played, Philip Seymour Hoffman himself was protected.

That's what I thought, anyway -- in reading the early reports of his death, I was surprised that he'd battled the demon of addiction, because I'd always confused Hoffman's mastery with detachment, and assumed that he had lived by Flaubert's charge to live an orderly life so that he could be violent and original in his work. But I shouldn't have been surprised, and -- here's that contradictory and complementary response again -- I wasn't. I'd never met Philip Seymour Hoffman, never knew anyone who knew him, never even read a passably revealing magazine profile of him. All I really knew was that he was a character actor who came as close to being a movie star as character actors ever get, and that he played the lead in more Hollywood movies than any other portly, freckly, gingery man in human history. And that, in its way, is all I, or anyone else, needs to know.

We live in the golden age of character actors -- in an age when actors who have done their time in character roles are frequently asked to carry dark movies and complicated television dramas. The line between character actors and movie stars is being erased -- in art, anyway, if not in life. In life, it's different, because the "movie star" remains not just the product of looks and charm, but also a kind of social construct, with very distinct social obligations. Character actors like Philip Seymour Hoffman and James Gandolfini have found themselves getting more and more leading roles because they are permitted to behave onscreen in ways that George Clooney and Matt Damon never could. But the same permission extends offscreen, and that's where we see the cost; indeed, we pay to look at men who look like us only when they convince us that that they live in psychic spaces that we could never endure...unless, of course, we happen to be enduring them.

Would Matt Damon ever be found dead, with a syringe still hanging from his arm? Would George Clooney essentially eat himself to death? No, for the simple fact they both have way too much to lose. But neither would they permit themselves to be weepily jerked off by Amy Adams, as Philip Seymour Hoffman was, in The Master, or to crawl as far into his own dead eyes as James Gandolfini regularly did in The Sopranos. The great character actors are now the actors whose work has the element of ritual sacrifice once claimed by the DeNiros of the world, as well as the element of danger-- the actors who thrill us by going for broke. It should be no surprise when, occasionally, they break, or turn out to be broken. RIP.

Sick (along the lines of Aaron...)

Posted on January 28, 2013 4:15 AM in

WordPress site  You can find this post in italian in the archived site lgiustini.wordpress.com.

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I write this post some days after knowing that Aaron Swartz, the genius behind Commons and Reddit, decided to end his life at 26. I was shocked to read some of his blog posts, in particular the "Sick" one, because almost all of the synthomps are mine too.

I don't know if he was thinking at suicide, at the time he posted that. It's a thing which some of us must live with. So here's the three-quarters of the problems I share.

Cold. I always feel cold; It 'something that annihilates you, makes you feel old and weak. Eventually prevent you from doing even the most ordinary, like exiting from the home. it's almost like the stomach problems in terms of effects (see below). Also in this case, it's a new that came in the last 2 or 3 years. I don't know if it's something related to a metabolism changing, but I think yes.

Stomach. Yes, here I can use almost the same words as Aaron. "Huge pains grind through my stomach". All started in this way for me too, later in 2007, and still I'm struggling with this problem, aparently without a cause (not organic, at least). Food is always followed by pain, and often I can't sleep at night, waiting for stomach to calm down. From that moment, i've never been at the restaurant with the same mood nevermore. I'm afraid to go out for dinner because I already know that it will be a problem, with the friends or colleagues. I've experimented this particular problem in my last job. And this makes me angry and confused. At times the pain is excruciating and even after it goes I spend some time just reeling from it.

Depressed mood: Here I can find adherently words to my mood and to some situations I've felt in some way similar to Aaron. "Surely there have been times when you've been sad. Perhaps a loved one has abandoned you or a plan has gone horribly awry. Your face falls. Perhaps you cry. You feel worthless. You wonder whether it's worth going on. Everything you think about seems bleak -- the things you've done, the things you hope to do, the people around you. You want to lie in bed and keep the lights off. Depressed mood is like that, only it doesn't come for any reason and it doesn't go for any either. Go outside and get some fresh air or cuddle with a loved one and you don't feel any better, only more upset at being unable to feel the joy that everyone else seems to feel. Everything gets colored by the sadness."

Depression is not the main problem in my case, not as the sadness. In some cases I've heard the word "Adaptive depression". But the stomach problems sometimes fall me down to a state of idleness, as I have only to wait, and wait, that all passes away, meanwhile I can't do none of my things..

Real Love

Posted on May 26, 2005 9:42 PM in

WordPress site  You can find this post in italian in the archived site lgiustini.wordpress.com.

A friend: "You've a lot of good friends that love you, you at 35 have had beautiful women that an average man can wait for a life. You've persons that trust in you, you have true faith in God, you've love of parents, you have proposals for important projects and your future as well, you have the higher level of study, fine taste and education, international relationships, you're well known on the Internet, and..."

"You're kidding? I don't have love".

"You will find...".

"I'm not. I would leave all this out, for real love."

Safeguard Code

Posted on May 17, 2005 11:56 PM in

WordPress site  You can find this post in italian in the archived site lgiustini.wordpress.com.

Sometimes, in our bloggers' life, private matters enter in some way that force us to some changes in our public sphere.

This is, sadly, one of those moments.

Who reads me from time to time, together, obviously, with whom knows me in real life, knows this is a real difficult period of my life, due to some events that happens one more other from more than a year, not only for the loss of my beloved father.

To contact me via internet is even more difficult. I know it, and I really apologize with all. Some private blogs appear too..

I hope all will be soon as good as..

One year ago

Posted on April 14, 2005 1:11 AM in

WordPress site  You can find this post in italian in the archived site lgiustini.wordpress.com.

First. This is a bit strange post, just to say it before you read. It's sad, given the argument, it's intimistic, and I hope not so dark, a bit unbearable, absolutely personal, of no interest except for those good friends who read me in the net, with whom I have a relationship of continuous astonishment ("You truly you read me? Ah.").

Today it's one year since my father disappeared. Therefore, cold, I write it so I then say the same to me and to you. His memory in my heart is always alive, and always suffers everier time that I rethink to how much I could be better, with him, when he was here.

I do not know which type of purgatory he is doing now, but surely all that problems that I have made to him while he was still alive, will be very useful now. On the other side, I think by now he has finally understood that I wanted so much love to him, although I never succeeded to say it to him. And this, sincerely, is Bad.

In kind, each time it happens something important, there's an anecdote to tell. In effect, I don't have so much wish to tell now, but... the anecdote is much simple.

Yesterday I was in phone with a dear friend of mine, and I was remembering to him 'You know, tomorrow is a year that...'. Then he says 'It's already passed a year.' a bit darkened. So he asked me: 'You have felt this year?'

I obviously answered yes. For me this has been a year lived intensely, much difficult, much dense and... a lot suffered. Before the passing of my father, then a sentimental story that I was living so much. Nevertheless, this question has made me reflecting.

One year is gone. And, apart from the suffering, the pain for the beloved persons, what has happened in me?

In the conversations between Morpheus and Neo, in the interesting "Matrix" movie (the first one), there's this phrase that's one of most hitting me: "It's all the life that you have the feeling that is something not quadrant in the world. You do not know well what it's about, but you perceive it".

How many of us have thought the same things, and continue to having this same feelings, as I have had.
We perceive when we see the suffering on the face of the others, when we see a unjustice on a brother, when we think to the outrages but also when we feel ourselves in guilt, for having more than it's up to us, and we ask ourselves which sense has this disparity.
We perceive when we read the history books, when we assist to the natural catastrophes, when we endure twisting, when, in bottom, we do not succeed to understand the logic that there is behind all this.

Nevertheless we know already the answer: just like in Matrix, the problem is the question. Everyone gives the own answer, the own life key, the way in order to go ahead: who tries to believe in the immutable laws of the universe, like if were one that is there from eternity, who believes in religious kinds...
We have the religions, yes, that they supply the answers. But Jesus, in particular, was much precise one and revealed, something of disturbing on that Jewish one (but he is not about that I wanted to speak now).

When we try to make ourself that question, we always end in the order to deceive to discover some new illusions. In the film Keanu Reeves will ask "What is the Matrix" and the illusion will be that it's a machine, even a bit mystical, but always bad.

In the question there is therefore the paradox of knowing that often the answer is within of us.

Well, if I can say to have made something in this year, this is the inner search. To face ourselves, believe to me, is the more difficult thing. Often we fight against us, and obviously, we are our worst enemy. I'm still searching..

I like to have discovered this phrase just yesterday, reading for case one of Hermann Hesse.
'If you hate a person,
you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us.'

Goodbye Holy Father

Posted on April 8, 2005 3:22 PM in

WordPress site  You can find this post in italian in the archived site lgiustini.wordpress.com.

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We are all sad for the lost of John Paul II, the Holy Father returned to the house of Father in 2 April, 2005.

Here an handy link to the Special on Pontificate that is on the Vatican website, very impressive and hopeful.

I will post soon some of my strong feelings in S.Peter these days. (You can see some photos in flickr, since I was very long time here, it's near my house).

Suffering for Love

Posted on February 27, 2005 6:16 PM in

WordPress site  You can find this post in italian in the archived site lgiustini.wordpress.com.

When you love a person, you just would do all for this person.
When you love a person, you ask what happen to the other person.
When you love a person, you see love, dependent from the other person.
When you love a person, you need love, you wish love, from this person.
When you love a person, you think each second of your life to her.
When you love a person, you pray for this person.

When you know the most beautiful and clever girl on the earth.

How strong is suffering for love, LK

In "Memory and Identity":
And, [says Giovanni Reale], in his last book «the Pope Johannes Paulus II explains well how exists "a suffering without guilty, lived only for love, that bursts and consumes the evil" (...)

Footprints

Posted on February 23, 2005 1:16 AM in

WordPress site  You can find this post in italian in the archived site lgiustini.wordpress.com.

(Margaret Fishback Powers)

One night I dreamed a dream.
I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene,
I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and
One to my Lord.

When the last scene of my life shot before me
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
There was only one set of footprints.
I realized that this was at the lowest
And saddest times of my life.
This always bothered me
And I questioned the Lord
about my dilemma.

"Lord, You told me when i decided to follow You,
You would walk and talk with me all the way.
But i'm aware that during the most troublesome
Times of my life there is only one set of footprints.
I just don't understand why, when I need You most,
You leave me."

He whispered, "My precious child,
I love you and will never leave you,
never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you say only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you."

All that Beings

Posted on November 21, 2004 2:57 AM in

WordPress site  You can find this post in italian in the archived site lgiustini.wordpress.com.

Welcome 54.198.221.13!
Graduated in Computer science engineering and Information and Communication science (LM-19), I do research on Digital media processes, teaching in higher courses about Communication and New media at the Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and the University of Tor Vergata. I founded the BETA magazine and the IT News agency; I've been technology visionary for the TEDxViadellaConciliazione, I do consultancy with LG Studio. Contact me, or follow me on Twitter @lucianog!
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