I realize, with this post I probably won’t say anything more or different from everyone else who is remembering Robin Williams (who sadly took his own life). What I believe is so difficult to comprehend is how a man who brought us so much laughter and happiness, was himself in so much hopeless pain.
I am surrounded by comics. I love my artists. We are sincerely like family. And I have had some deep, personal conversations with a few of them who have shared that what we see on stage, on t.v., in the public eye, is only an escape. One artist told me “Ironically, comics are probably some of the most tortured souls you will ever meet”. Another explained, “It’s like I am in this constant fight with my flawed brain, and some days I’m afraid my brain will win”. I share this to say, I am not speaking as some distant, uninformed outside observer. I know what it is like to love people with this illness. There is no greater pain.
The chapter on depression was one of the most difficult for me to write in Life Is Not Complicated. I thought about this excerpt when news of Robin Williams’ death crossed, and I realized, depression knows no bounds. Athletes, politicians, actors, teachers; no one is immune to this oppressive illness. So many lose the fight.
Depression hit very close to home for me:
“If we fail to look beyond what is right under our nose we may miss an opportunity to understand and help someone whose pain lies beneath the surface.
Case in point: a stunning revelation from one of my best friends unleashed a reality check so powerful, it sent shock waves through my emotions, and I am not an emotional person. The epiphany redefined our friendship.
It occurred about a time that I noticed he was just not himself. Typically gregarious and affable, there was something a little off about his behavior. He seemed disconnected and uncharacteristically sad. I had not seen him in some time and just assumed he just had a lot on his mind. He was just promoted to a management position, recently bought a new house and was just promoted to a management position, recently bought a new house and had been blessed with a new child. That’s enough to make anyone a little stressed out. One evening, I received a disturbing phone call. The bartender at a local spot my buddy and I frequented, especially during football season, urged me to come immediately because my friend was dangerously intoxicated and insisted on driving home. I promptly beat a path to our hangout, confused and concerned that someone I would trust with my life, had obviously lost all regard for his own. Back in college, if anyone had exhibited this kind of behavior, this guy would have read them the riot act. Recklessness was never part of his repertoire. When I arrived, I pressed him for an explanation. I was hoping it was something as simple as stress from work or a misunderstanding at home. I could not have been more mistaken. He sobered up a bit, and we talked. I found out why his behavior had become so erratic. The revelation hit me like a freight train. He admitted that for much of his adult life, he suffered from clinical depression, and the illness had become unmanageable. The blank stare on my face clearly said it all. I had my very first, personal introduction to this crippling illness.
It was important for me to write about this experience, because I now know depression is a very common form of mental illness. You never know who may be suffering with the condition. Because of the stigma attached, you may never realize that mood swings, constant unhappiness and feelings of despair belie a very serious chemical imbalance. By not telling me right away, he did not give me the information I needed to understand or help him. I could not have his back because I did not know what he was facing. As it turns out, we helped each other. I took a step back and admitted I needed to be a more understanding person; I needed to be less “black and white” in my approach to life and people”. ~Life Is Not Complicated, You Are: Deliverance
All I ask is that if you feel you are falling into the darkness please find someone, anyone who wants nothing more than to show you light! Rest in peace Robin Williams, I pray you have found the peace that eluded you so mercilessly in life.