Last year, I thought I was in for just another routine morning at the gym. I walked into the place I'd been working out at since I was seventeen years old. The faces are so familiar. It's my neighborhood; my space. But on this day, before I even entered, I knew something was wrong.
A woman I knew had tears in her eyes. Her face was white with shock. She stood in between me and the door -- desperate to share what left her so obviously devastated. She blurted: "Did you hear about Patricia?" I was confused.
She went on: "You know, the beautiful blonde woman -- she looked like a Barbie doll." Suddenly my brain focused. "Oh yes, of course -- she's so sweet. What happened?"
"She hung herself last night."
My heart dropped. I stood away from the woman who shared this news with me in utter shock -- unable to compute. I walked into the gym not even aware of my own body, thinking about Patricia and the last time I saw her. I knew her for years. Years. She was drop dead gorgeous, successful, and had a kind personality. On the outside, it appeared she had it all. It always does, doesn't it? Yet, I always saw the deep insecurity behind those bright blue, carefully made up eyes. Since we weren't close, I never probed. The last time I saw her at the gym was weeks before but that fact didn't register with me until I found out she died. Apparently, she sunk into a deep abyss of depression and never came out of it alive.
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I tried so hard to process it -- to understand. But there was no way I could figure out her pain. I didn't endure it. I remembered how many times we exchanged casual gym conversation in the locker room. She always asked about my kids. Always. We would talk about my failed marriage, her failed engagements and our mutual frustration with men. She reached out to me once -- asking about astrology and the deeper potential but I didn't see it as a cry for help at the time. I missed the signal...and every time I think about that I am overwhelmed with guilt. What if I could have helped her? What if I invited her into my kitchen and talked about her charts and cycles and life? Would it have made a difference?
I'll never know.
When I woke up on the morning of August 11 to hear the news that comedic genius and brilliant actor Robin Williams hung himself all of those raw feelings rushed back -- and hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn't know Williams personally but it didn't matter. We all know people just like him -- people who hide every day behind a smokescreen.
Patricia fooled everyone in my neighborhood. Robin Williams fooled everyone in the world.
The sad thing is that we wonder; is it because they tried to fool us or is it because we just didn't want to see their pain? The answer is different in every situation. Mental illness is a tricky, slippery disease. It hurts behind closed doors. The suffering is deceptively silent for so many.
Could Robin Williams' birth chart provide clues to his despair? To that split between the funny man he showed the world and the inner depths of agony that he privately struggled with? Yes, I think so. But could it have predicted that he would have certainly taken his own life? I'm not so sure about that. Astrologers have already dissected the tumultuous cycles happening at the time of his death. Yes, they were difficult. But we all experience hardship, rough patches... dark nights of the soul. Choosing to end it all is not something anyone could ever predict with certainty. Needing significant emotional support however, IS something an astrologer can see.
As far as natal potential goes, a person's birth chart does reveal levels of sensitivity and tendencies towards suffering in certain, specific ways. Just as much, in fact, as you can see prospective for wealth or musical talent or domestic strife in a horoscope, you can see indicators of a person who FEELS with greater depth than the average person. Emotional understanding increases our potential to feel the pain of others and to heal it. It also enhances our tendency to be overwhelmed by our own suffering.
What grabbed me right away about his chart was all of the water. Water signs are the most emotional of the zodiac. Sensitive, intuitive, moody, empathic. They are the psychic sponges who feel their way through the world. That might be deep, but it's certainly not without its share of sting potential. With this much water you can cut into anyone's soul -- including your own.
Williams was born with the Sun in Cancer, Moon in Pisces and Scorpio rising. Here we see the energy for emotional security (Sun in Cancer) along with the need to escape boundaries and connect with the imperceptible (Moon in Pisces). Add in the cover of his book -- his Ascendant in Scorpio -- and we have a man who instantly probes into the depth of anyone's psyche... like it or not. With the ruler of his rising sign being Pluto in Leo conjunct communication Mercury he did this through his powerful ability to communicate as an entertainer. It's no accident that this conjunction sits on top of his Midheaven (career, fame, honors).
But what about his private life? The Moon in Pisces sits in his home and family sector and suggests a man who might have struggled with plenty of guilt and feelings of sadness. He possessed an overwhelming awareness into the family anger issues (Moon is trine a Mars-Uranus conjunction in Cancer in the 8th) that he yearned to escape from. It is all too easy for a Neptunian person (heavy Pisces, strong Neptune in the chart) to lean towards unhealthy escapist patterns like drug and alcohol addiction in an attempt to numb the feelings. After all, Williams felt TOO much at times. When he directed it into his imagination and art he was golden, but anytime he had a family situation arise, suddenly he was lost, sad... and guilty.
The degree of his Moon in Pisces, Mars-Uranus in Cancer and Scorpio rising gives Williams a pattern called a Grand Trine in water signs. This is a gift in one sense because if you contain a planet in each sign of an element you're endowed with special depth and abilities within that element. In this case, water…emotion. But there is also a curse with a Grand Trine. You can have too much of a good thing you know -- and not be able to deal with it. Williams suffered with his emotional containment. He internalized his pain and suffered through many years of addiction, depression and ultimately with his own suicide. He may have hung himself but I'm sure that he drowned inside long before his physical death.
We'll never know why one person decides to take his or her own life while another person continues on. What we can learn, however, about souls like my gym friend Patricia and the amazing Robin Williams is that none of us is immune from potential depression. At its core depression has to do with a separation from relationship that creates or triggers an already existing separation from our SELF worth. The situation is different for everyone who is depressed but the common theme is low self-worth that arises from feeling unworthy of connection, leading to self-deprecation and for some, suicide.
Astrology cannot predict who will commit suicide but it can help us understand the specific patterns of tension within each individual that challenge the healthy development of self. I salute astrologers and mental health professionals with the expertise and knowledge to then help counsel someone back to a place of wholeness and self-love.
That's how you save a life.