I’m still working through Robin Williams’ death, and these are some things that stick out for me.
— Radio talk show host: “How can someone so loved around the world feel badly enough to do that?” Answer: It’s not about the love of others, it’s about the love of self and one’s feelings of self-worth.
— Asphyxiation with a belt as it was described says much about how depressed he was – what a deep, deep emotional pain he must have been feeling.
— To anyone who would say that suicide is a meaningless gesture, only the person committing it needs to see the meaning or purpose. Our judgments are useless and, at times, insulting to the deceased. How dare we try to understand what they were feeling? This doesn’t justify the act, merely adds understanding.
— Overheard at a fast food place: “Well, if he was a real Christian, Williams’d know the consequences and wouldn’t a done it.” That comment shows a total ignorance of mental health and, worse, indicates that they presume to know what would or wouldn’t have prevented his death. (I left at that point knowing my anger was rising and my appetite was gone.) When someone is in that much pain, to think that the afterlife is the deciding factor is just plain wrong.
— While the death of some celebrities elicits a few comments, Williams’ death has really hit me for some reason. He was one of my all-time favorites and I know my reaction is a combination of shock, dismay, disappointment, sorrow, pity and the reality that anyone can become a statistic.
My lovely wife, Deborah, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and has been for over 25 years. In that time, although I do not know her clients nor their names, I’ve learned two things from their stories:
A. Nothing is more subjective than reality: If someone hears voices, they are real to them and no amount of saying there are no voices will dissuade them. Williams’ version of reality was dark indeed.
B. We are who we are and none of us is born physically or mentally perfect. Our brain is an electro-chemical vat that we barely understand. Some of us have wiring that is different and, in his case, tragically wired with a tremendous negative energy. That angst is, I believe, where he got much of his boundless comic energy – making people laugh was a way to dull his pain and establish his purpose in this world. In a way, perhaps the laughter of others is what kept him alive during his adult life. Sadly, it seems that wasn’t enough in the end.
—Update: Since this was posted, it was revealed that Williams had very recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. There have also been reports that the depression he felt after his heart surgery in 2009 remained pervasive. Depression after cardiac surgery is fairly common but, unlike most folks and unfortunately for Williams, it remained with him to some degree. While knowing these things is cold comfort, it helps understand his actions a bit better.