Before I start the more serious part of this article, I want to write a personal note about how big of an impact Robin Williams had on my (and I’m sure many others’) life. The first movie I ever remembered loving was Aladdin. I had a princess Jasmine dress that I wore everywhere; to grocery stores, to preschool, even to bed. At that time, I didn’t understand that actual people voiced the characters, so there’s truth in the statement that Robin Williams was able to make me laugh before I even knew who he was. And he continued to make me laugh and inspire me throughout my life, whether he was the zany cross-dressing, yet loving father in Mrs. Doubtfire or the unconventional english teacher in Dead Poets Society. He was one of the unique few who could make every generation smile, and the world is better to have had him as a part of it.
Now, for the heavier stuff.
As it has been made clear by now, Robin Williams took his own life. There’s not a nice way of saying what happened and trying to sugarcoat it would lessen the seriousness anyways. Many different claims about why he chose to end his life have surfaced– his career wasn’t taking off, he was having financial troubles, he was relapsing into drug or alcohol addiction. While the main reason behind his suicide is unclear, it’s evident that this man was unhappy.
The irony is sad and terrible. Robin Williams is a name that’s associated with laughter and joy. Many people have been saying things such as “He seemed like such a happy guy, how could he be so sad?” and “How could he have killed himself when he was so loved?” I’ll try to make a little bit more sense of the situation but before I continue, think about this.
Why would someone want to end their life?
When many people talk about suicide, they try to keep an emotional distance from the real issue, because it’s so incredibly unpleasant to think of as a bone-chilling reality. Death is something that so many people are terrified of; why would somebody intentionally face it at their own hands? The simplest answer is that, to people who are suffering so severely, this seems like the only option.
It’s been reported that Robin Williams was suffering from depression, which is one of the leading causes of suicide. It’s an illness that isn’t often talked about due to stigma, but is still extremely prevalent and devastating. When you’re depressed, you don’t see anything except the dark. There’s no bright side to any situation and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. The crippling sadness feels like swallowing acid and rotting from the inside out day after day. You have to muster up all your strength to do even the most menial of tasks (like brushing your teeth or showering). Your appetite is non-existent and there’s a million voices in your head perpetually screaming that you’d be better off dead. Sometimes, it seems like it will never end.
But depression is an illness and it is treatable.
It may not seem like it, and it may take a while to get the right combination of medicine and therapy, but it ends. Life becomes worth living again and happiness resurfaces. It’s important to remember that melancholy, lethargy and pessimism are symptoms of depression rather than personal characteristics of those suffering. Depression is a disease, it’s not a lifestyle. The best way to honor Robin Williams is to remember him as he lived; full of energy, quick with a joke and full of liveliness. He should be remembered by the laughter he brought to those who he never even met and the love he had for making the world smile.