There is never enough. Never enough time, never enough money, never enough success, never enough praise, never enough sales. Never enough. That’s part of the life I’ve chosen. We struggle to find that thing that makes us feel satisfied, that gives us joy, but, the truth is that the joy is fleeting. The feeling of being ‘full’ only lasts for a few moments before the hunger returns.
This is the life of an artist. This is the life of anyone who aspires to be greater than they are.
This is unattainable. This is the bottom line to life, from top to bottom from the most successful man on earth to the weakest child on the playground. Nothing you ever do will be enough.
Robin Williams. I got to spend an afternoon with him a few years ago because he had read Elk’s Run and Tumor and wanted to meet me. Please note, that was a surreal phone call.
We talked about what I do for a living, we talked about what he does for a living, we talked about our families, and we talked about our hopes and dreams. He was alive, sparkling, and, while still inherently himself, he was grounded. Also, we talked about Popeye for about a half hour.
We parted that day with both of us considering a way to put together a feature version of Tumor, with him in the lead, that never made it past that room. I called my parents, they were duly impressed. And I went back to my regular life.
I was at JFK coming home from New York Comic Con later that year, and I’d had a particularly tough go of it. I was particularly frustrated with a publisher who had hired me. I, Vampire had come out to critical acclaim, but, nobody was reading it, and I’d been particularly demeaned by the folks at DC that trip. My wife was in the throes of her cancer treatment, and I just wanted to be there with her and my kid. As I sat in the airport, a ball of tension and stress and nerves, a voice said, “You’re Josh, right?”
It’s surreal to hear a voice that you listened to on an old cassette tape talking about the Throbbing Python of Love, or reporting back to Orson, or, yes, dressing up like an elderly woman for little apparent reason. But there he was. Robin Williams.
"I hope I’m not bothering you-"
"No, of course not."
He introduce me to his companion by saying, “This is one of the best writers in comics.”
We caught up a bit, and then parted as he went back to talking to his companion, and I boarded my flight.
I sat on that plane smiling for the first time in what felt like a year or more.
So, now, all of this. Robin Williams committed suicide. I look at him, at the man I met, at the man who’s work I admired… I don’t see a drug addict or a manic depressive or a crazy person… I see me. I see all of the things that run through my head day in and day out. That nothing is good enough. Nobody really cares about what I do. Nothing I’ve ever done is worthwhile. No one reads my books. No one cares about what I do. Nobody loves me.
Suicide is not something I’ve ever really had to deal with in the ways most people do. I’m certainly depressive at times, I’m certainly manic at times. I have fairly crippling blue periods. But mental halth’s not what gets me there. What does it, is the migraines.
The migraines themselves are severe to say the least. I lose the use of speech, my motorskills retard to the point of uselessness. I become depressed and lethargic, and the pain could easily be described as getting a lemon juice tinged needle through one eye and out the other.
These migraines can only be treated via injection. None of the other drugs work, just a double dose of Imitrex. Self injected in between throwing up and crying. And the way it works is you take one shot, then you wait for two long hours. Two painful, aching hours of debating whether it isn’t just better to crawl to the kitchen and reach for the knife drawer. Questioning if maybe there’d be a way to throw the radio in the bathtub. Trying to figure out a way for my family to go on without me. And the two hours are up, I take the second shot, I throw up, and then I pass out.
Usually this happens monthly, but, I’ve had periods (the past three months in fact) where they were weekly and they’re overwhelming and I feel hopeless. I don’t say it often, but, I know that it’s a good thing that I can barely walk when I have one.
Almost everyone of these headaches, at their root, is because I want more. My own standards drive me to stress levels that ultimately cripple me.
Then I think about him. Beloved. Wealthy. Spectacularly talented. And it wasn’t enough.
When I heard the news yesterday, that’s the sentence that reverberated through my head. It wasn’t enough.
I couldn’t sleep last night, because those words echoed through my head. I’m standing on the precipice of working on projects that I have literally dreamed of doing for a decade or more. I stand poised to make enough money to be comfortable for a large stretch of time. And I delude myself into thinking that it’ll be enough.
But it never will. It’ll never be enough. No matter what I do, it won’t be good enough, it won’t be successful enough.
Except for one thing. My family. My wife. My kid. My big dumb dogs. My irritated as hell cat. The love they give me. The support and care and comfort. That is enough.
When I’m shaking and crying and stuck curled up in a ball, it’s the gentle kiss from my daughter and my wife’s hand on back that gives me the strength. It’s their love.
And I’m so goddamn lucky to have it.
The Life After, which if you haven’t read it, is about a guy living in the afterlife for suicides, has touched a lot of nerves with a lot of people. Not even in ways I intended, and the reaction has been overwhelming and humbling.
At its core is the idea that suicide is wrongly looked at as a sin. As the greatest crime one can commit against oneself. But that’s not true.
The greatest sin is not accepting the love around you. Not allowing yourself to be fed with it when you’re starving, and wrapped in it when you’re cold.
I’m going to spoil the ending of The Life After. Right here. Right now. Love. Love is the answer. Love is the wick which burns so brightly in the darkness of life.
The hardest thing in the world is accepting that. And letting it light your way.
If you are having trouble and need someone to talk to, call your loved ones. If you feel like you have no one, than call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (here: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/). And if you really can’t cope. And if you really can’t cope. If everything has come apart, then, please reach out to me right here on Tumblr.