Two posts in one this month as I missed July completely. My eldest son was ill so I spent most of July being Mom and nurse. It was worth it! It is with heavy heart that I write this post as I am still reeling from the sudden death of Robin Williams. We have lost many in show biz this year, but this one touches me deeper than I ever thought possible. Therefore the choice of “kaleidoscope – anything that constantly changes” and “joy – delight, mirth, pleasure, diversion, revelry, frolic, playfulness, gaiety, merriment, levity, exhilaration”
for the topic. Both words describe Robin Williams as the world saw him, as I saw him. From amazing free-style stand-up (nothing was safe on stage or in the audience when he improvised) to Mork (who knew when he appeared on Happy Days, he would have his own show) to so many movies ranging from comedy to drama to animation. Robin Williams’ laugh was infectious. He brought so much joy into his work and into people’s lives. When he was with people, he was “on”. Even during serious interviews, there was a twinkle in his eyes that made the interviewer realize that a little mayhem would soon ensue.
Somehow, though, that love of mirth and revelry didn’t sustain him when he was alone. Thus there were addictions and depression leading to his “possible” suicide. I have battled one form or another of depression my entire adult life. I didn’t seek help until I was in my 40’s when my job was on the line. Mental illness of any kind was a stigma then and still is today. I’m not sure it’s getting the correct attention that it deserves alongside other illnesses. I do know that my treatment was not up for discussion at work and actually was detrimental in my standing there. However, I cannot imagine feeling so bad inside, so alone, so devastated by life that I would give up living and fighting to get better. My sister felt that way, and I was clueless. Unlike Robin Williams, she never seemed to have any joy in her life except her cats. I often joked that she was a recluse or hermit never realizing that she was ill or how serious that illness was. Several states separated us so all I had were letters – few and far between. She never reached out and I never invaded her life beyond words of love. Her life ended last July from an “accidental alcohol abuse”. In other words, she gave up on life and drank herself to death. In my mind, that was a form of suicide. I don’t know if I or anyone else could have helped her. Perhaps no one would have been able to help Robin Williams either. When this form of mental illness consumes someone you care about so completely, what can you do? We’ve been told to listen, not judge, get them into therapy or rehabilitation, just be available, but that person will be alone at some time. The kaleidoscope of joy that was Robin Williams didn’t sustain him. How do we help someone who doesn’t even have an ounce of mirth in their life?
That whirling dervish known as Robin Williams is not on this earth any more to continue adding to the amazing kaleidoscope of entertainment he has created, but each time we watch one of his movies, TV episodes or interviews, joy will return to our beings and we will laugh or cry with him. Is it possible that the loss of such an icon to depression can further the research and discussion of mental illness so that the many who suffer today in silence can come out of that darkness, to find joy in life, to want to live?
“You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.” “Our job is improving the quality of life, not just delaying death.” Patch Adams, Patch Adams