I had planned to blog about a photography exhibit I saw in NYC this week but on my way home from vacation today, I learned of the suicide of Actor Robin Williams. My intention was not for this blog to be so heavy week after week but I do mean for it to be current and this subject certainly deserves some light shined and air time.
I have only had depression once for a few weeks after a miscarriage, before my Son was born. That itty bitty post-partum hormonal shift was awful. I felt dead inside. People around me would complain about whatever and I felt angry and resentful towards their seemingly trivial concerns. People would try and cheer me up, make suggestions on how I could feel better. Tell me things would be better soon. I felt nothing. Like I was in a bubble, unable to connect. And then it passed.
That one itty bitty experience with depression gave me the utmost compassion for people who suffer from it regularly. I would never again offer a platitude to someone suffering. It just doesn’t help.
I have been around people and lived with people with depression many times in my life. I have been around and lived with people in and out of 12-Step Programs my whole life as well and I know first hand how close the connection is between addiction and depression. I have also been around and lived with many Artists and Musicians and Actors, many of which suffered from depression and addiction. There is no coincidence in these connections.
Whenever anyone dies, either by their own hand or by an overdose, I retreat to the same place in my heart and soul. I always think about that last moment for them and how lonely it must be to really believe this life isn’t worth living. And wondering, had they just known that that feeling of futility would pass maybe they wouldn’t have done it?
When a celebrity dies, either by their own hand or by an overdose, I am reminded that there is no amount of money or fame, power or recognition that cures inner suffering. Our own happiness is something we must work at regardless of circumstance. Any illusion of happiness coming from outer circumstances is just that-an illusion. I have been guilty many times over of assuming that “if I had what they had” (money/fame) I would be happy. And maybe I would be a little happier than I am now being that I do stress about money. But the truth is, I can be happy right here right now. I insist on it. The allegory of the person who has it all and is still suffering is my teacher and reminder of gratitude for what is right here, right now.
Most Marin kids have a Robin Williams story. We grew up with him around us downtown Mill Valley, in San Francisco, showing up at night clubs, comedy clubs, trying out his jokes on strangers. My Facebook feed is filled with fellow Marin kids sharing beautiful and funny Robin stories today with his passing. He was a true genius and a kind soul.
I remember seeing him in his red suspenders telling jokes and stories to a group downtown Mill Valley. I remember what a presence he had 100 feet away. This was in the Mork and Mindy days, a show I loved.
The first movie my Son really loved was Jumanji. I can’t possibly quantify how many times we watched that movie. So silly but Robin, as always, brought his soul and humor to his role making him utterly lovable. He was a raw performer, a true Artist and I am sure that the intensity of his own gifts were a source of torture for him. Like many of the greats.
I hope that, if nothing else, his passing can shed light on the seriousness of depression and addiction and the urgency for help, support and treatment. There is no shame too great to keep silent. There is no need to go like this.