My Sunday morning writing ritual came to a sudden halt when I heard the shocking news of the untimely death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Although I did not know him personally, I became besieged with disbelief, sadness and dismay, causing me to stop penning my weekly blog and shut down my computer. At the time, the cause of death was unknown, however it was reported that he was found with a needle in his arm.
This tragedy is another harsh reminder that drug addiction and mental illness do not discriminate. Fame and fortune do not protect the human brain from disease. Telling someone with an addiction to “just stop using” is on par with advising a person in the throes of severe depression to “think happy thoughts” – no matter their status in life. Addiction and mental illness are equal opportunists, and anyone who has one or the other, or both, will tell you that every day is a battle against their respective afflictions.
In the days to come, we’ll learn more details surrounding Hoffman’s passing and his personal struggles. Yet whatever information arises, it won’t take away the fact that he is gone. Some will say that he will live on forever through his work, and of course there is truth in that. I don’t know if my reaction to his death is extreme, or why I’m identifying so closely with a person’s fatality – especially a man I’ve never even met. Maybe it’s because Hoffman and I were born in the same year and it’s forcing me to face my own mortality. It’s too soon to tell, my emotions are still raw.
Not surprising, the initial reactions on Twitter to Hoffman’s sudden and final departure from this world were mostly focused on his great achievements as an actor and the devastating loss for his family. In my opinion, Jim Carrey, who supposedly had depression as a child, said it best: Dear Philip, a beautiful, beautiful soul. For the most sensitive among us the noise can be too much. Bless your heart.
We are all fighting something, and when the noise in our head gets too loud, there’s no shame in reaching out for some help to turn down the volume, just a notch, if even for one moment.