When I found out yesterday I just couldn’t process. It wasn’t until I got home that it hit me. I fell against the wall and bawlled as if I’d lost my favorite uncle. I never met Robin Williams but my whole life is entangled with his work. Short, funny, & furry.. from a very early age I identified with him and my family did as well. Maybe it was my hyperactive energy or maybe they realized in my still moments I also was held by a gravity that I had little control of.
I don’t think I realized I have severe chronic depression until even a few years ago. How am I supposed to know not everyone walks around with a charming lil black hole constantly taunting you to jump? Its always been there for me, that’s just the way things are, right? Most of the time I’ve seen people get depressed for a few month or years but life changes or they find short term meds that get them back on track. I never associated any of that with the doom and gloom that hovers next to me. This is pervasive, it hangs out even in your most glorious moments. I’ve learned to manage it by teasing it, disempowering it. My humor has to be merciless to cut it down to size. It’s effective but I dare not forget the power it’s had over me in the past. Even when it looks dormant it’s really there, watching, waiting for a moment of vulnerability to kill its host.
I am so thankful to be here, to have survived myself, to finally understand what’s going on with me. But I know its something I always have to be mindful of, I have to be consciously aware of its potential to harm. Its not all bad.. that lil black hole is really fucking funny! I couldn’t share half the shit that flies through my brain! It at least keeps me entertained.
A dear friend of mine just had a close one commit suicide just a few weeks ago. I barely knew him, but the waves of his suffering ripple out to even the furthest edges. One of my most influential creative mentors surprised us all a few years ago. I still had SO MUCH TO SAY!! It’s happening right now, every day, all over the world.
It. Is. Devastating. It leaves you feeling so much more unresolved than when people die of natural causes. There’s an innate sense of responsibility. We all wish we could have done something to prevent it. While I always initially feel these same tugs to to the heart, I strongly feel this anguish is a waste of time. I hope survivors can understand that there isn’t enough strength in the world you can share to directly interfere. This is a private war, the best anyone can do is provide a lil ammunition along the way. Sometimes people lose to this, with even the greatest resources. When someone has really made the decision you’ll never even know. We win Oscars with our ability to hide our true needs. It’s hard to accept but there’s nothing you could have done. Please find peace with that.
It’s not all bad news, there is something you can do, but so often it’s not for the closest people in your lives. Sometimes you do prevent it but you don’t know it. Conversations with strangers have often been life saving for me. When everything in your brain is telling you it’s the end of the world, sometimes you need a healthy reminder that it’s always been weird and will continue to be weird long after your story ends. I don’t think they knew how on the edge I was but the perspective I’ve gained from other’s suffering and triumphs has the only force powerful enough to pull away from the yawning chasm of the event horizon. Empathy and love are the weapons you must wield, but you have to hold them in your hands.. no one can do it for you.
I write all this to say..this beautiful man’s journey is a reminder that suicide is not always preventable. We have still got a long way to go to fully understand it. Be mindful and supportive because you never know when someone needs your help, but when it happens accept that it was always out of your hands..
I often fantasized as a child that I’d one day meet Robin and make him proud of my talents as surely as if we were kin. I hope that he truly understood his influence. I hope that he recognized and took pride in his enduring contributions to the world. I’m so thankful that he shared his darkness as much as his light. He’s left us a filmography and discography full of wisdom, joy, and vulnerability. Few artists have so thoroughly explored the complexity of the human condition. It’s a strange comfort to know that someone so self aware and so strong struggled with it as much as anyone else.
Goodbye Mr. Williams, we’ll never stop learning a thing or two from you..