Robin Williams was an amazingly gifted man. His joys and his sorrows were palpable to the audience- whether he was performing stand-up or acting. He made all of us feel: laughter, elation, sadness and pain.
His manic style and twinkling eyes were a part of my childhood- and when I heard of his suicide- I cried. I was surprised by how hard it hit me, but I believe it is also a testament to his gifts as an entertainer that I felt so connected to a man I never met.
I also cried because it always devastates me when I hear that someone who has battled depression has lost their fight. The joy and laughter that Robin Williams gave to so many was not available to him when he needed it on Monday. And the world is surely a less joyous place as a result.
Robin Williams was always very open about his demons- his struggles with depression and addiction were quite public. His larger than life joy came with a larger than life sadness. His battles with addiction and depression were violent and on Monday he lost his fight.
And this is what is tragic about depression. At 63, Robin Williams had many previous battles with depression. There were, I am sure, many days where he felt the urge to end it all. But every other day he was able to fight. For whatever reason, he did not have enough fight left in him on Monday. And tragically, that means he will never have another day, another chance to fight again.
Depression robs you of perspective- blocking out the joys of the past and the promise of tomorrow. It is a total eclipse- one that feels like it will last forever and in its darkest moments, makes you believe that it is not worth living in a world without light.
But depression can lift. And the darkness of the eclipse, if given the opportunity, will lighten- maybe not to noon day sun right away – but at least to the misty promise of dawn. If you can hold on through that darkest hour, the light does return.
Too often our society asks people to battle alone. We stigmatize depression, mental illness and addiction. We offer callous advice- telling people to cheer up or suck it up. We call those who suffer weak when in fact; fighting depression requires Herculean levels of strength. There is help for those who have depression; therapy, medication, and even meditation. But clinical depression sometimes is resistant to treatment, just as some cancers do not respond to chemo and radiation. Still- it is important to keep fighting.
I don’t know what Robin Williams was thinking on Monday. But I don’t think he could have anticipated the way the world would grieve for him. I don’t think he knew the sorrow his death would cause. I don’t think he knew or felt how deeply he was loved. I wish he had because maybe, just maybe, that knowledge could have helped him to hold on just a little longer.
So to those who are struggling- hold on til the dawn. Reach out for help. Call a therapist or a friend. You do not need to battle alone. The sun will re-emerge and so will you. Live to fight again tomorrow. The dawn will be better for having you in it.