Depression and Robin Williams — A Remembrance
Folks, over the past day or so, I’ve seen many, many tributes to the late comedian/actor Robin Williams (1951-2014). Some were funny; some were touching; some were things that should’ve been said to Williams before he died.
One thing that’s been said, over and over, is that Williams suffered from severe and unremitting depression. This is alleged to be the main reason as to why he’d turned to substance abuse in the past (he was a recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict), but it’s also possible that the depression got much worse due to the heart issues Williams suffered in recent years (he had an aortic valve transplant in 2009).
The mind and the body are linked. We all know this. So when your body is not doing well, that feeling of illness can be reflected in your mind also.
And it’s just that much worse if you’re someone who fights depression and anxiety . . . I know this due to the struggles of my family and friends, past and present.
I’ve written about depression before (see this post about the late Mike Flanagan if you don’t believe me). It’s a difficult subject to discuss, because so many of us don’t want to talk about it. There is a stigma attached to depression, as if the person who’s feeling depressed actually wants to feel so bad . . . and treating a depressed person is so difficult, so challenging, that even if a patient fully cooperates in trying to get better, some of them just don’t.
Thus Robin Williams.
Ultimately, Williams will be remembered for his comedy, for his acting, and for his personal generosity. He was a brilliant, caring, kind-hearted, and generous soul who brought happiness to many despite his own struggles against depression and addiction.
But what I will remember most about Williams is how open he was about everything. His struggles. His joys. His failures. Williams was an American original, yes, and a genius, too. But he mostly was himself, and he owned up to his failures as easily as he talked about the much more fun stuff — his numerous successes.
Williams’ wife and family have asked that people do their best to remember Williams as the creative, funny and brilliant man he truly was. But I can’t do that — mostly because I think that leaves far too much of who Williams was on the table, unaddressed.
Instead, I’ll remember him as a complex, interesting, mercurial, honest, and compassionate creative artist, who lost his long battle with a pernicious disease — chronic, severe depression — after a valiant fight.
I hope that now that Williams is in the Afterlife, he’s getting caught up with his great friends, Christopher and Dana Reeve, and so many others who preceded him in death . . . and that he has found the peace he’d sought all his life at long last.