Death of a Smart, Funny Man

I wasn’t a rabid fan of Robin Williams but in the wake of his death I am reminded of many roles in movies in which he was fantastic–Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society in particular.  Now a bit haunted, I’ve watched some of his stand up on youtube and was struck also by how damn smart he was.

I’m pained by the type of torture that must have attended his last hours or days, the same empathy I feel when I hear of someone trapped in a years-long battle with bone cancer who might decide to end life rather than face more pain.

This is the time in a semi-fan’s eulogy to mention his mental health, maybe his addiction problems, and bemoan the fact that he should have gotten help.

However,while the media are PC enough to say that there should be no stigma to getting mental health help, while they claim we feel mental illness is really no different from physical illness– FAIL.

If Mr. Williams had had bone cancer, if he was known to have tried painkillers, morphine, marijuana, meditation, prayer, exercise, a macro diet, positive thinking– everything, to combat it, and had he found out despite all effort and repeated attempts and devout earnest wishing or prayer that the cancer had in fact returned, and had he known from experience that it just meant another uphill battle and more pain and had as a result killed himself– would there be this same reaction?

No.  Because at the root of it we minimize the pain of mental illness.  We do not give it the respect it deserves.

I assume that at 63 years old Mr. Williams had gotten help.  Dozens of times.  Had tried antidepressants, and TM and exercise and talk talk talk therapy.  Had long been intimate with what another depression meant.  I imagine him just tired, like, I can’t do this again, put my family through this, walk through this darkness.  I want to lay down, I want this over.

The guy was wicked smart, sensitive, intuitive.  When people say oh he should have gotten help, to whom should he have gone?  Who was as smart, as intuitive?  People think, oh, he should have told someone– but who?  I imagine few grasped how deep and broad his mind was.  Friends were astounded at his ability, how quickly his mind worked.  Few therapists or psychiatrists, I imagine, could stay with him to travel through the intricacies of that mind and light a way for him.

Suicide is not the answer for the vast vast majority of people,especially for people younger than 30.  But for Mr. Williams, I think it may have been.  To say he had so much to live for is to ignore his profound pain.

His family is devastated, of course, but they don’t seem shocked.  This did not come out of nowhere, it came out of a life sometimes in torment.  He knew well how vast that torment could be, and decided he would not suffer it again.

I respect his decision.





One thought on “Death of a Smart, Funny Man

  1. The saddest part for me is the “mask” we wear when in pain to hide our sorrow because we believe to be open and honest about how much we hurt would be a burden to others. We suffer silently because a “mental illness” is a weakness, spiritual, mental, physical as opposed to a illness like cancer. Brain science hopefully will spare my grandchildren and great grandchildren from the torment that their ancestors suffered without understanding or support.

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