A few of my thoughts about Robin Williams
I was out for wings with friends from work, as has become my usual Monday night routine, and while waiting for our food to arrive, we received word that Robin Williams had passed away from an apparent suicide. At first none of us could really believe it, but living in this digital and connected age that we do, all phones at the table jumped to Twitter and other social networks to sadly confirm what we had been told.
The first time I “met” Robin Williams was in my school gymnasium. It was probably 1982 or 1983, and it was either raining or snowing heavily, and instead of classwork most of the school went to the gym where the giant old film projector has been pulled out for us to watch Popeye. Everyone had a good time, probably because we were watching a movie and not in class. Through the years, I’ve seen many more of Williams’ films of course; I remember going to the theatre to watch Good Morning Vietnam with my brothers. Hook, Jumanji, Dead Poets Society, Jack (I think I saw that in theatres too…it may have even been one of the first “date” movies with my ex-wife), Aladdin (of course), Mrs. Doubtfire, Cadillac Man, Club Paradise, The Survivors, Best of Times, Man of the Year; yes I’ve seen quite a few, now of course people are rushing to the few video stores that remain to catch up and reminisce about the man who brought them so many great performances and so many laughs. I haven’t seen all 0f his movies, not by a long shot, but it seems that one thing remains true in all that I have seen, not just the laughs, but there was always a touching bit of heart in each of his characters and his performances, even his latest film Angriest Man in Brooklyn, that I watched only a few weeks ago . This element of “heart” may not ring as true in some of his more serious films like Insomnia or One Hour Photo, but I haven’t seen those, and probably won’t for a long while. I prefer to remember him as just fun and funny and warm for now.
I was shocked but not incredibly surprised to hear Robin had committed suicide, and that reads and sounds worse than I mean it. It was fairly common knowledge that Williams had a history with substance abuse and from simply watching some of his performances or interviews his manic depression or bi-polar disorder becomes obvious too. A lot of people are in disbelief that someone who was so funny, even the funniest man on the planet to some, could take their own life. But many people who are funny in the company of others can be going through difficult times in private. I’ve been there before, and probably still am there, from time to time. My own depression is partially why I started this blog. So many people still don’t understand what it means to be depressed. There is no cure, only temporary relief. Somebody once compared it to “arthritis of the soul” which explains so much. It never really goes away, it’s physically painful and exhausting, it’s often invisible, and it’s not the fault of the person who has it.
If there is any positive that comes from Robin Williams’ death, it is the hope that it brings awareness to mental health issues and suicide. Suicide happens when someone loses a battle with mental illness, not because they are weak. Those who can’t understand that should consider themselves fortunate that they’ve never had to deal with depression themselves. #SickNotWeak