Dancing With Death: Our Toxic Relationship With Suicide

August 20, 2014 Mike Ehrmantrout

The past week has been quite an emotional one for many, especially many in the mental health community. The death of beloved actor Robin Williams by suicide on August 11, has shaken our community to the core.

Why? What is it about Williams and his manner of death that touched so many of us? Many of us understand depression. We get being suicidal. We understand what it’s like when our kids or grandkids ask us to play and we must say, “No, I’m sorry honey. I just don’t feel up to it right now.”

That terrible mix of guilt and fear, blended with the self-loathing because we feel like we have no energy, yet refuse to stop beating ourselves up over the very depression that is making us feel that way.

Suicide is Like a Dance Partner

Many do the macabre dance with suicide that Williams no doubt was very familiar with. We see her sitting alone, just waiting for someone to ask her to dance. She is oddly homely but at the same time beautiful, and we feel drawn to her.

We gulp and swallow and our hearts beat quickly as we gather up the courage to invite her onto the dance floor. She warmly accepts. Somehow we find ourselves talking to her like we’d known each other for years.

We feel so comfortable with her, we begin to tell her about our illness and how it makes things difficult for us.

She gives us a knowing look and her face turns sympathetic. She whispers soothingly into our ear. “I know what would make things better for you.” We look at her with a puzzled look. “The dead feel nothing,” she exclaims mysteriously. And so goes the ongoing flirtation with death, but more than death, the back and forth conversation with death’s representative. The arguing. The obsessing. The planning. The shrinking away. The hiding. The returning to start the cycle all over again.

Our Relationship With Suicide is a Toxic One

It’s one of those relationships. Toxic. No good. Unhealthy. And yet, we can’t get enough. She is trying to kill us and we love her so. Why do we love her? She promises us an escape from our perpetual suffering. We believe her when she tells us death is the answer to our torment. She provides us with an odd comfort in the midst of our misery.

Suicide is an ever present temptation for some who suffer from mental illnesses. Suicide is a temptress the mentally ill are constantly flirting with.

Like all abusers, she can be so charming. “Your suffering will end,” she tells us. “You won’t have to feel the pain anymore.” And even though we know down deep that she doesn’t have our best interests at heart, her message of instant relief is so appealing, we somehow suspend reality in order to accept her reasoning.

And she is frighteningly patient. She waits as we go back and forth, turning away from her and ignoring her for long periods of time, yet seemingly always returning again to her dark counsel.

What are we to do? Like the abuser in the toxic relationship, she must be removed from our sphere of existence completely, and it must be done immediately.

And, also like the one we’ve left in the old relationship, we will be tempted to return to her, to let her return to us. But we must remind ourselves of what we know to be true: suicide does not deserve to occupy space in our minds, because she only wants to do us harm by causing us to harm ourselves. She is a liar, even if she is a most enchanting one.

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APA Reference
Ehrmantrout, M. (2014, August 20). Dancing With Death: Our Toxic Relationship With Suicide, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Author: Mike Ehrmantrout

Deborah Amazon
August, 25 2014 at 5:37 am

Robin Williams' death couldn't have coe at worse time for me along with Tony Stewart's tragedy because for four months I have been dealing with severe depression because this is the 2nd time my husband has been arrested for Domestic Battery on me and I hate him every day for it and then I had to have a tooh pulled then lost my job. I ave moments I think about it yes.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Mike Ehrmantrout
August, 26 2014 at 8:42 am

Yeah, as I said in the piece, his death really has struck a major chord in our community. It's almost like we had a "mass triggering" (made that up). But really, with the situation you described in your abusive situation, hopefully that came across what I was trying to say there. I wish you the very best. Remember, if you are having suicidal thoughts, please reach out to someone.

August, 25 2014 at 7:37 am

Amazing, inspiring and insightful read!I loved the analogy to bits!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Mike Ehrmantrout
August, 26 2014 at 8:46 am

Haha Melissa, you made my day! I'm so glad the analogy/metaphors helped to make it just a bit more understandable on a deeper level than just an intellectual one. I wish you the best!

August, 27 2014 at 8:05 am

It's also triggered a lot in me. Hit me at a bad time as well. I'm a Christian and that voice whispering is the devil. Jesus is my rescuer. God bless!

August, 27 2014 at 4:56 pm

I had a old boyfriend who I never got over and hadn't talked to since 2007. He killed himself by hanging in a drunken incident. I was diagnosed bipolar in 1994 and quit alcohol in 2002 and quit pot early this year. I try to be good about taking my prescribed psyche meds. I am in a lot of physical pain. I spend a lot of time a lone and in that loneliness I entertain suicide a lot. Since my friend died and then with the death of Robin Williams I have acquired about five books on life after death and mostly after suicide. Its a lie that suffering ends if you kill yourself. Your soul will still suffer, with the help of our spirit guides we are helped to understand what has happened. But we must also be aware that we have these same spirit guides with us here while we are alive and they are a resource to us and we are never really alone. Spirituality helps me make it through one day at a time. And I reach out to my friend you killed himself and send him love and wish him peace and tell him he is forgiven. I hope to be able to connect with him. I have a lot to learn, these books are fascinating and encouraging and are helping to keep alive and to send love to loved ones that have left this earth school.

August, 28 2014 at 1:16 am

I feel so angry at Robin Williams wife. I didn't even know he had divorced his wife and was on to number 3. According to news reports RW was extremely depressed when his TV show was cancelled "The Crazy Ones." He was in good spirits around his family but if left alone in that loneliness and we know what that feels like; that's when he got into trouble. If he was in such a depressed state as reports state, he had been in bed for days, sleeping a lot, not talking to anyone, his wife should have had him on suicide watch. Instead, it's the middle of the day, she assumes he's still asleep, they slept in separate rooms, and she leaves the house without checking in on him. Really! He needed a caretaker in his condition, they could certainly afford one, not to mention ppl all over the place are claiming they were such great friends, they should have been there sitting with him. And his gold digger wife leaves the house and leaves him alone while he takes his life. Where were all these so called friends who loved him so much. When a man like Robin Williams goes off the radar and you know he suffers from depression you don't just let him go. You put your friendship into action and you go to him, and if all you can do is sit with him like you sit with someone in a coma, that's what you do. I think people throw around the word "friend" more as noun when it should be an action verb. Any body can say they are my friend, but when I am at my lowest point and they respond and do anything and everything they can to help me through that rough patch. They have earned to be called my friend. Instead it's been my experience, ppl tell me I'm being negative, they suggest and have tried to physically force me out of bed to do something. They suggest a trip when they know I do not have the means. And mostly they just are frustrated and say call me when you feel better. Depression and anxiety are very misunderstood. they are not sexy or pretty. People don't want to talk about it. But suicide is not the answer. The soul will continue to suffer after death, and then on top you will have the guilt of what you has done to yourself and how you have hurt the ones you left on Earth. We are on Earth school and there is no dropping out. It is not an option. Don't lie to yourself even in that darkest moment, killing yourself doesn't end your pain, it's the beginning of your soul dealing with the pain. Call on your spirit guides, we all have them. We are never alone. We must live out our lives until our natural end time.
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August, 23 2018 at 3:22 am

Dancing close when I am tired, overwhelmed, feeling isolated and alone, feeling tired... no respite.. no point.. reminding me my thoughts and actions will make no difference...reminding me I am completely insignificant... inviting me to no more suffering

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