Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,
Monday evening I learned that Robin Williams died, apparently because he decided it was time to go. Newspaper articles state he suffered from severe depression and had, on and off, been more than a dabbler in the use of drugs and alcohol.
I felt numb when I found out. I wasn't without feelings, uncaring. I felt as if I were in a bubble and nothing could touch me.
You see, it could have been me––except I wouldn't get all this publicity, thank God.
I started to feel the loss on Tuesday when I read a headline that said something to the effect of the following: Robin Williams needed to know that depression is temporary and that people who are suicidal should ask for help.
The problem with all these platitudes and "it's gonna be okay if you ask for help," is that depression isn't necessarily temporary. I've been depressed for as long as I can remember. Yes, I truly think I was depressed even when I was a small child.
As for asking for help, let's not go there because I don't want to discourage anyone from asking for help. And by writing those words I've probably just discouraged someone, so I'm going to go ahead and say that asking for help isn't easy and that people who ask for help don't always get it.
I wasn't a big Robin Williams fan when I was young. I never watched Mork and Mindy. I think it was on at the same time as The Waltons, and I was a John-boy fan. Loved the whole family. I didn't want a boatload of kids, but I knew I wanted my family to be close and loving.
So I pretty much ignored Robin Williams. In about 1984 or so, we watched a Robin Williams stand-up comedy show. I'm pretty sure we saw it on videocassette because we didn't have cable TV. It was a miracle we had a VCR.
X thought that Robin Williams impersonating Nadia Comaneci with a high voice and silly accent was hilarious. Robin Williams moved from one character or joke to the next without stopping to catch his breath. I didn't think he was that funny. I wondered what was on the other side of that mania. He had to come down sooner or later.
Then he started making movies. Some of the movies were silly, but some of the movies were lovely. I don't know how many times my kids and I watched Dead Poets Society. I discovered I liked Robin Williams, the actor playing the part of a teacher who inspired his students. I especially liked the quieter moments in the film, when he quoted poetry.
And then along came Good Will Hunting. Robin Williams won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, and he deserved it. Every time The Hurricane came home from college on break, she watched Good Will Hunting. I don't think she watched it to see Robin Williams. She watched because of the relationship between the professor and Will, and because of the math. But we didn't have any complaints about Robin Williams. He was great.
I know I've seen him in movies since then, but none of them thrilled me. It's enough for me that he made Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting because those were two heartbreakingly beautiful parts.
It was good knowing you, Robin. I don't know why I'm here, and you aren't. It's not because I'm a stronger person than you are. I'm sorry you're gone.
Infinities of love,
I like your comments re depression, suicide, and Robin Williams.Your words are wise, and should be heard by all. Am sorry that you've suffered from depression as long as you have. Is it by chance the dysthymia form— less debilitating than major or serious depression?ReplyDelete
My guess from afar—tho we SF Bay Areans saw Williams often cuz he lived here—is that he was bipolar. While we all knew about his manic phases, his depressive ones (if he had 'em) were kept under wraps until recently. Self-medicating may be the tip off in this regard.
I saw his name on a list of celebs who have bipolar. That doesn't mean he was diagnosed or treated. My depression varies. Most of the time I'm functioning, obviously, or I wouldn't get anything done. Sometimes I need a break from the world, though. When I was married, it gradually became more horrible, until at times I would get up to walk across a room and end up lying on the floor, unable to move. Divorce has been good for me.Delete
I have been reading some news online. One article said that Robin Williams stated he did not have bipolar disorder.Delete
This depression stuff is complex, especially the self-awareness part of it. That's why shrinks are necessary beyond just their Rx prescribing abilities.Delete
When mania's added (even if it's just crazy spending and not speed talking,etc), things get more complex. I've heard some ppl "forget" they've had a down period as soon as their mood stabilizes. Not sure, but I think many bipolars go off lithium for this reason.
X has bipolar disorder. Eventually, he denied that anything was wrong with him, and he stopped his medication. I'm sure he missed the mania and his belief that he had supernatural powers. He also decided that he had never been depressed.Delete
Although I enjoyed his Mork and standup, I was also a fan of his dramatic acting, like you. Around the internetz, some folks are bad-mouthing his lesser known movies, but I think folks need to realize that some of them were for kids. One of my daughter's favorite movies is "Old Dogs," a Disney flick he did with John Travolta. The only time I've ever seen my husband outwardly cry over a movie is when we watched "Patch Adams."ReplyDelete
He certainly was an amazing talent, and I miss him already.
It's a shame that some say his career had gone downhill and he was no good anymore. That's ridiculous. A lot of people loved every movie he made. Just because some of them weren't my cup of tea doesn't make them bad, and he remained very popular. If we didn't care about him as a person and appreciate what he did, we wouldn't care so much about his death.Delete
Like you I know a lot about long term depression. For a while I felt okay, now the black dog is back again, on and off. Dying isn’t such a terrible thing when you’re stuck in the downward spiral.ReplyDelete
I enjoyed Robin Williams’ films, definitely the two you mentioned; I too am sorry that he’s gone but it was his choice to make.
Sometimes the depression isn't so bad, and then all of a sudden it feels as if it's the end of the world. He reached the end of his rope, so God bless him and take care of him.Delete
That was a lovely post.ReplyDelete
There has been a lot of media coverage on how Robin Williams “lost his battle with depression”. This idea that people battle depression and lose really bothers me. Depression is not a game of winners and losers. If you can live with it, you “win” and if you can’t, you “lose”. How fucking inappropriate is that?
I am not emphatically saying that depression is not a battle. Those of us who live with depression every day are kicking and fighting and scratching and it is a battle. It’s not the “battle” part that bothers me – it’s the “losing” part. “Losing” their battle implies to me that if they had just done something different, or tried harder, then maybe they might have “won”. Sorry, but that just doesn’t sit right with me.
The use of the word “lose” is like a zero-sum game to me: if someone or something “loses” then that means that someone or something else “wins”. You can’t have a loser if you don’t have winner and I refute the idea that if someone takes their own life - depression “wins”.
Robin Williams did not “lose his battle against depression”. Depression stole his life.
Thank you for this excellent, intelligent comment. I wrote a post quite some time ago about people "losing the battle against cancer." Dying doesn't make a person a loser. It means that part of the person's life ended and he has gone into the continuum.Delete
Excellent post. Robin's suicide has hit me hard. Probably because of the suicide, more than anything. I enjoyed him and will miss him terribly. The bay area won't be the same without him.ReplyDelete
I didn't realize he had moved to the Bay Area until I learned of his death. Was he able to go out and about, or did people hound him?Delete
From what I've heard, people here treated him with respect. Of course, at comedy clubs, they pulled him on stage for some jokes, but mostly people exchanged smiles and a quick word with him as he went about his business. In Tiberon where he died, he'd ride his bike here n there in an unassuming manner. Kids n others would trade waves.Delete
Can't remember how San Franciscans treated him when he lived in his Pacific Hts (I think) mansion. Probably with a laissez faire attitude.
Thanks for the additional information, Karl.Delete
I was sad to hear that he committed suicide. Not a big fan of him either but just to think someone so popular committed suicide. We always assume someone famous has no reason to be depressed.ReplyDelete
It's sad. It hurts to know that he was in so much pain.Delete
Depression is a tough battle to fight. I hope somehow he knows he made a lot of people laugh and that he will be missed by many.ReplyDelete
And I hope you know how special you are! I'm so glad we met in this blog world!
I hope you know how dear you are to me, Mama.Delete
You know the lesson we took away from it is that no one is immune. No matter how much success, fame, or notoriety you have, we're all still human and need the basic love and support of real and close relationships.ReplyDelete
Yes, but sometimes relationships aren't even enough.Delete
I also believe I've heard that Jim Carrey suffers from depression--he admitted it once, then later said his was only brief--but some of his posts on Twitter at times make it seem like something's going on there. I've been saying that of all of these people who are commenting, "He should have sought treatment." He could have been in counseling, taking medication...all of these things. Some people have tried all of the medications and none of it works. Not all cases of depression are treatable by medication. That's one thing people don't understand. Nobody would tell someone, "oh, you'll get over it" if they have cancer or a heart condition, but depression, a "brain condition," as Dr. Drew called it, is seen as something people can control?ReplyDelete
Interesting, I think back to what I read in Shania Twain's bio about fame/success and depression. She was going through a rough time when her career was at its peak, even thinking about suicide. I don't think it was clinical depression as much as just complete panic and anxiety about everything that was riding on her. She said when you're depressed and famous, it's even worse because you aren't ALLOWED to be depressed. If you try to talk about it, people just roll their eyes and say, "Oh, poor little rich girl. Has it all, and it still isn't enough."
I've seen Jim Carrey included, as Robin Williams was, on the list of celebrities who have bipolar disorder. I don't know who creates these lists and on what they base their beliefs. I thought that Robin Williams had bipolar, but I found an article in which he denied having it. Maybe he did and didn't want to admit it. Who knows? You're right: too many people believe mental illness can be controlled. Good comment about Shania Twain. Money buys things, but it doesn't pay for happiness and contentment.Delete
As a kid I fell in love with Popeye thanks to him. Then as an adult, his dramatic roles were inspiring and spectacular performances. He wanted to give the joy and love he couldn't feel to the rest of the world. He gave without receiving and that is what really touched me about his story.ReplyDelete
That's lovely, Pickleope.Delete
Glad nobody's made mention of suicide being "selfish" because I just might want to have words ...ReplyDelete
Depression is no different from any other ailment/disease. It happens. It's not abnormal to feel down. We just cant 'see' it that's all. Perhaps if we wrapped band-aids around our heads there would be less stigma.
I'm heartbroken about Robin Williams death. A man who spent his whole life making us laugh, died alone and in pain.
I would have something to say, too, if anyone commented that he was selfish. I might like to put a very large bandage around my head and write all my ailments on it.Delete
You clever bandage ppl might be on to something. However, everyday life suggests that we discriminate more around things we can see (eg, different race, facial appearance, status clothing) than things we can't (eg, one's religious beliefs).Delete
There're exceptions outside the US (witness all the religious wars), and maybe head bandages might be an exception.
I was surprised at how sad I felt when I heard the news.ReplyDelete
One of the best compliments I ever received a few years back was when someone said I reminded them of Robin Williams whenever I went off on one of my tangents (yeah, seeing me in person is scarier than just the written form).
I wish I was nearly as talented.
I would like to see you in person, then. Don't tell Mrs. Penwusser. I used to work with someone who told me I looked like Olive Oyl. Because I'm skinny or I'm ugly? I asked.ReplyDelete
Both, she said.
You have to watch Jacob The Liar, Patch Adams, The Fisher King, Being Human, Bicentennial Man, What Dreams May Come, and One Hour Photo to see other sides of Robin. I preferred him as a serious actor, but I noticed that he hadn't been doing more serious roles for some time. There was always a sadness in his eyes. I didn't much care for that manic side of him, either.ReplyDelete
Depression is so much more serious than people give credence to. It alters your life's path, affects all the people around you, and takes the color from your world...let alone occasionally leads to suicide. Poor Robin. And I hate to hear that you have been dealing with that sadness, too. :(
I've seen Patch Adams, The Fisher King, What Dreams May Come, and One Hour Photo. I especially like The Fisher King.Delete
I wonder if they will reveal what meds he was on. I highly doubt they will find mood stabilizers in his system. That will really be sad . . . that it could have been prevented.ReplyDelete
Now that we know he had Parkinson's, it's possible that he went through a bad medication interaction or reaction. Maybe it couldn't have been prevented.Delete
My daughter has suffered from depression most of her life, she is on medication for it and needs it her partner told her not long after they got together that she really didn't need medication she just thought she did, so she went off it and wow he changed his mind pretty damn quick Kathy without medication is not a very nice Kathy. My sister has come close to thinking about suicide by that I mean she often wants to go to sleep for a very long time with the home that things would be different when she woke up. I liked the funny Robin more than the serious Robin but he was one actor who could do both really well. I am not a fan of stand up usually I don't find them funnyReplyDelete
I was much angrier before I took antidepressants.Delete
When I came downstairs the other day I saw my wife crying. She asked me if I knew who died. I hadn't heard yet. I hope Robin knew how much people loved him.ReplyDelete
We'll never know what was in his head.Delete
That was a lovely post, dear Janie. We have more things in common; I've often thought that I spend more time depressed than not; it's not easy to find a solution, no matter what anyone says.ReplyDelete
Boy,I'll miss Robin. His wife came out today and said he had been diagnosed with Parkinsons. Poor guy.
It was just too much for him. I know how he felt.Delete
People loved him and admired him. He paved the way for comedians and humor. Nobody could play the roles that he did and I will always admire his talents. My future children will know who he was and they will know that his life was stolen from him far too soon. He was a wonderful actor, comedian, but most importantly, he was a great man who changed lives for the better with his charity work and his ability to make people smile. I feel like I lost a friend when I think of a man I never even met.ReplyDelete
That's a beautiful comment, Rachel.Delete
Hi Janie - depression is such a terrible disease, and worse we don't understand .. and often don't see behind that glass held up in front... before it's too late and they've had the courage to go ... with thoughts - he had so much to offer in life, and now in death as we search for an understanding ... HilaryReplyDelete
It's very difficult for people to comprehend depression when they haven't experienced it. They can accept that a person has cancer although they've never had it themselves. But mental illness? Too many people think it can be banished by keeping busy or deciding to make it go away.Delete
My Granny loved the Waltons. I preferred Mindy. Sure, Mork too. My favorite Robin Williams movie is THIS one. I can't believe he's gone.ReplyDelete
Moscow On The Hudson is a charming movie. I haven't seen it in years.Delete
Awakenings was a beautiful movie.....I need to watch it again...it's a feel good movie for sure...I've always loved Robin Williams. Breaks the heart.ReplyDelete
Yes, Awakenings had that touch of magic that Good Will Hunting has.Delete
I haven't seen DPS in a long time, but it is a wonderful movie. I've always loved Robin Williams. He will be terribly missed.ReplyDelete