|Midnight, in the graveyard at Bruton Parish Church in Virginia|
It's easy to start feeling we have nothing to look forward too except more psychic pain, and if we feel that way suicide may seem like a good choice. I do not feel that way right now, but I have been there before, and I can't think of anything that magically "snapped me out of it. From my experience, I can see how this state of mind would become unsustainable after a certain period of time. Yet it's a quiet despair, and I don't think most people noticed when I was feeling that way.
That's the danger of those kind of feelings - no one knows. We don't show much outward sign, and if we don't get better on our own . . .
When I was alone as a young adult I used to feel terrible pain and despair, almost every night. I'm all too aware that those feelings can return any time, should something bad enough happen. We're a vulnerable population in that respect. Some people say sadness strengthens and shapes us; others say it kills us. I guess it's situational.
I know many writers and artists who seem to experience greater highs and lows than the average person. Maybe the highs bring us our gifts, but the lows can take us out. That's another unanswered question.
As a person who is often out there before the public, I know well the pressure to put on a happy face even when I'm crying inside. That puts a tremendous strain on the psyche, and it sometimes hammers you hard when you're alone after the show. When people look to you with certain expectations - whether you're a comedian like Robin, or a singer, or a speaker on disability - you are always feeling you must live up to an imaginary standard and it can be very hard. At the same time, you offer your inner thoughts - even if couched as comedy - and it stings when they're rejected. Is too much of that the straw that breaks the camel's back? Those of us who are living may never learn that particular answer.
I don't feel sad today - I am not writing from a place of despair - but I am well familiar with how that feels. It's heartbreaking to read stories like this one, and realize it could be any of us, tomorrow, with a few little disasters to put us over the edge.
John Elder Robison is an autistic adult and advocate for people with neurological differences. He's the author of Look Me in the Eye, Be Different, Raising Cubby, and the forthcoming Switched On. He's co-founder of the TCS Auto Program high school in Springfield, MA and Neurodiversity Scholar in Residence at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA.