Robin Williams 1951-2014
While in the midst of writing another blog piece on a suicide, the news of Robin Williams arrived upon my computer screen. The first column will come later because everyone’s mind is on this man who by so many accounts was a gentle, compassionate, sensitive soul. August 11, 2014 will be remembered as the day that laughter died.
The shock of William’s death is that we thought we knew him and discovered we did not. That is always the shock of suicide. It leaves so many questions. However, in Williams’ case the initial shock was compounded by the undisputable reality that he brought so much joy and insight into our lives. He lightened our journey by sharing his gifts. How could one with so much life choose to die? Questions – So many questions?
Robin Williams was not alone in his suffering – in his despair – in his disease of depression. There are Robin Williams’ all around us. We should not be as surprised as we are when something like Williams’ death occurs. The truth is none of us are truly known to any other. We have become a society of mask wearers, and a large portion of those masks are worn to hide mental illness.
I have no idea why there is such a stigma to diseases of the mind. I have no idea why we spiritualize depression, but not cancer or why we believe depression can be cured with a motivational speech, but cancer needs millions of dollars in research along with months, perhaps even years, of treatment.
There are those in your life whom you love deeply, but they hide their biggest struggle from you. They have fought it for years. At times it has taken every ounce of courage and fortitude, character and spirit, strength and guts just to survive the day. Social interactions can drain them and send them deeper into despair. Once or twice in your relationship with them they have been so desperate that they have decided to share their lifelong secret with you. When they began to broach the outer crust of what they suffer from, more likely than not, your response sent them back into their closet. Next time, if they are brave enough to try again, stay quiet, will compassion into your eyes and listen. When they have finished their confession just do one thing – love them.
Most who suffer from serious depression have done so for many years – perhaps their entire lives. By Robin William’s age they are exhausted beyond understanding. They have fought a battle that has never ended. It rages within them each day. When you rise to the sunrise – they have arisen to battle, and they are tired, so very very tired. Is it really that surprising that some give up? How much easier it would be to not be alone and know that they are one of many.
My heart is broken for the loss of this talented and generous man. The pain and loss of his family and friends are unimaginable. But I feel most for those that Robin has left behind who suffer from the same sickness and likely feel a tad more hopeless and alone than they did two days ago. Go to someone today and ask them, “Do you suffer from depression and, if so, can I hear your story and love you?” Love can roll stones away from tombs of darkness. I believe that. Do you?