Robin: I think we get it

youngRobinNow that the shock of it has passed, I’m left with a fog of sadness and anxiety, a sense of things being wrong in the world — more wrong than usual. Everyone loved Robin Williams. He gave so much of himself in his films and on-stage that we felt we knew him intimately. He was easy to connect with. He became part of our personal worlds.

A few people have asked me what I think happened. Was his addiction to alcohol the problem, was it the inadequacy of his AA and other treatment choices, was it the shame he still carried during his dry periods, or his yearning to go back to booze and coke?

I think these are the wrong places to look for an explanation. In a somewhat bizarre interview with Decca Aitkenhead at The Guardian, published four years ago, Robin shifted the flow of dialogue directly to his personal problems.

Robin.beardAfter 20 years of abstinence, Robin started drinking again while shooting a film in Alaska in 2003. Here’s what he said about that moment in his life, quoted from the Guardian article:

“I was in a small town where it’s not the edge of the world, but you can see it from there, and then I thought: drinking. I just thought, hey, maybe drinking will help. Because I felt alone and afraid. It was that thing of working so much, and going fuck, maybe that will help. And it was the worst thing in the world.”

So why did he start drinking again?

[From the same article:] Some have suggested it was Reeve’s death that turned him back to drink. “No,” he says quietly, “it’s more selfish than that. It’s just literally being afraid. And you think, oh, this will ease the fear. And it doesn’t.” What was he afraid of? “Everything. It’s just a general all-round arggghhh. It’s fearfulness and anxiety.”

He continued drinking for about three years, then stopped. A residential rehab seemed to have helped, and he attended AA meetings about once a week since then.

He did not go back to drinking after that, as far as I know. But he must have been unable to deal with the anxiety that drove him to drink in the first place.

Those of us who’ve been through addiction know all about that fearfulness, that anxiety, that arggghhh. And the depression that is closely linked with it, and that reportedly engulfed Robin Williams in the last month of his life. Of those I’ve talked with, most have seen it up close, a jungle beast staring them eye to eye. I still feel it often. But I don’t use anymore, chiefly because that just makes things worse. Then the fear becomes concrete: this is what’s going to get me.

Otherwise, it’s just anxiety.

Just?!

We live in a dangerous world. The love and protection we got as children (whether we were smothered in it or had more occasional helpings) is gone. We realize that was a childhood gift. The world is a dangerous place. Everything is uncertain. We cannot control the threats of loneliness, loss of loved ones, the onset of disease or disability, the vice-like grip of sadness, and eventually old age (if you’re lucky) and death. We cannot even control our desperate deeds aimed at self-protection, harbingers of shame and self-loathing. At least not always.

We live in a time dominated by an existential view of reality. Few of us feel buoyed up by religion or hope of a pleasant afterlife. And yet we’re not very good at being here now. It’s not something we’re taught, and it doesn’t come naturally.

BusyRobinI think the fear, anxiety, the depression, the arggghh that became unbearable to Robin Williams is something we also know well. His death disturbs us so much, not only because we will miss him, not only because we feel for him, but because it reminds us of the brutality of that incessant uncertainty, that desolate isolation, which can turn into terror.

Of course we hear about the casualties. Philip Seymour Hoffman, and now Robin Williams. Yet most of us endure. We’ve learned something that Robin may have been too busy to learn. How to love ourselves a little. How to accept helplessness and keep going. How to absorb some degree of warmth and wonder from the universe, the same universe that refuses to grant us safety or permanence. Maybe battling our addictions supineRobinhas made us stronger, more open, more accepting.

 

I’m sorry that wasn’t true for you, Robin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

38 thoughts on “Robin: I think we get it

  1. Shaun Shelly August 14, 2014 at 4:29 am #

    Hey Marc

    I have avoided commenting on anything to do with Williams’ death. Mainly because in most forums there is little point, but on your site there is a level of intelligence and compassion seldom seen on the internet. I think you are touching on what my own thoughts are – life long addictive disorders, where there is a constant battle against relapse – are usually the sign of something severe that underlies the SUD.

    In this case, it seems, the monster below the surface was unresolved pathological depression. Of course, that mixed with an alcohol use disorder is a recipe for disaster. But the alcohol is an adjunct – it is both the (temporary) solution, and the (long-term) catalyst. It is not the primary disease.

    I often see how by focusing on the SUD the real pathology is missed. Each relapse brings around renewed focus on the SUD rather than sparking the question: ” Well, we know that SUDs die a natural death in most cases, unless there is a contributing factor, this person is not getting better, so what is the contributing factor, and how do we solve that?”

    It is sad that complex problems get reduced to the simple statement “Oh, he was an alcoholic”.

    • mimisis August 14, 2014 at 5:02 am #

      This is (thankfully) not facebook, but if it were i would be pressing a “like” button on the post and this comment.

    • Marc August 14, 2014 at 7:10 am #

      Thank you, Shaun. Your comment got me thinking about depression vs. anxiety. Was it one more than the other? I don’t know about his last years well enough to say. But I do know that anxiety and depression are often highly related. In fact both are mediated by the same part of the brain, as far as we know: the ventral surface of the posterior frontal lobe, especially where it intersects with the ventral ACC. Well, whatever. In childhood and adolescence, there is often no attempt at a clinical distinction. I think depression is the implosion (and self-blame) that comes with one’s desperation at not overcoming the fear, and sensing there is no one who can (or will) possibly help.

      But in any case. Yes, it’s not the addiction that destroys us, it’s what the addiction was intended to remedy.

      • Cheryl August 14, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

        “But in any case. Yes, it’s not the addiction that destroys us, it’s what the addiction was intended to remedy.” I believe this is the case for most labeled as addicts.

    • Ron Freilich August 14, 2014 at 6:10 pm #

      I compliment you on your profound observation.. Beyond being sad, a potentially lethal disservice is oftentimes disseminated in 12 step meetings through emphasis on,and all inclusive labeling of the “Disease” of addiction or alcoholism, thereby de-emphasisizing the true disease, the insidious but potentially manageable comormidity.
      Point is, in the non clinical non professional setting of the “Rooms” only the most visible manifestation of the dual diagnosis is addressed (the self medication) leaving the 800 lb. gorilla ignored to run rampant.

      • Shaun Shelly August 15, 2014 at 2:00 am #

        Thanks for these responses. What really upsets me is when 12-step programs are brought into the treatment setting – a setting that is supposed to be clinical and professional. Williams was recently admitted to Hazeldon, where they have co-opted what is supposed to be a free and peer run voluntary support group and turned it into a for-profit pseudo-scienctific “treatment” based on folk-law and absolutes.

        • CA Edington August 16, 2014 at 7:16 am #

          Thank you for this, Shaun. One can only wonder how it might have been different for Robin if he found the kind of alternative support that I had the fortune of doing.

    • Dave August 15, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

      Shaun,

      Well said and I couldn’t agree more.

  2. mimisis August 14, 2014 at 4:55 am #

    I am really glad that you wrote this post, and “a fog of sadness and anxiety” captures everything I felt as well. My bathroom has never been as clean as it was by 4am on Tuesday morning. i paniced.I never knew Robin Williams obviously – though i watched the clip from dead poet’s society “conformity” on repeat at one time in my life when i was breaking down, and i did not know it.

    A year ago i turned up to see my therapist in hysterics – an ambulance had been trying to get through traffic and was delayed. She is pretty good and without saying much, she made me realise that the anxiety and panic that i had experienced was not about the ambulance at all.

    I agree that recovery from addiction and all that it entails makes you stronger – and i know that my experiences havemade me more accepting, but to keep going at times requires the same stealy thread and the relentless desire to live that I had as a functioning addict. This scares me, and the thing that never leaves completely is that other fear, THe knowledge of what you have seen, what you have felt, what you have been able to put yourself and others through, And it is terrifying.

    I come from a different perspective from you in terms of the brain chemistry of it all, but i find it astonishing still that addiction is not viewed as symptomatic of a mental health problem, and that when clean you are “cured”, when in fact it is when clean you are most vulnerable as everything you ran from and wanted to hide becomes so visceral and suddenly you have to cope with blunt reality. This not something that as addicts we like; it is why we got there in the first place. Let alone dealing with the desire to polarise between everything is great and everything is rubbish, being not so brilliant at “life is ok”. And the guilt and shame that builds up can be devestating in recovery for you and everyone around you.

    I go to a LOT of funerals at the moment, and they are funerals of people who were in recovery.

    The wonder of the world is a bitter pill – i guess the point is that i would rather have it with all the hiccups than not. I have been very lucky with the people around me to help me through things though, and people that realised that this kicks off one year into your new life or less. And i cannot as a result think the above as a failure as it could well have been mine.

    So yup Dead Poets Society is my all time favourite and I would still stand on the table and say “captain my captain”. As i could not pretend to be anything more than him, or even close. .

    • Marc August 14, 2014 at 7:22 am #

      Mimisis, I added a line to the post after reading your reply, because I’d neglected to say how substance use not only hides but also compounds the underlying anxiety. The fear, as you say, includes the uncertainty (and then the horror and shame) generated by our own addictive behaviors.

      I also agree that we are most vulnerable in recovery, without our precious barrier, our weapon used to fight back against everything that’s not right. And the “relentless desire to live” — yes, that shows up in high relief during those years of addiction.

      Those of us who make it through (and that is still the majority) can look back and take some satisfaction, as you have. With determination, love from self and others, we find a way to choose the world with all its dangers and disappointments.

  3. mimisis August 14, 2014 at 5:14 am #

    Marc, i dont think there are any coyright issues about it, but please take it down if you prefer. but this was the scene i kept on watching from what is an astonishingly pertinent film to it all in retrospect https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnAyr0kWRGE

  4. Matt August 14, 2014 at 5:38 am #

    When I heard the news of Robin Williams’ death it sickened me. Not because of the tragedy and the loss, but my reaction to it. It didn’t surprise me at all. I have been in the place he probably was that night. It’s deep dark, and impenetrable and it seems like there is no way out. I tried his method, was in a coma for days and just barely survived. But the greatest gift came to me after the childish disappointment of not succeeding subsided. I saw the incredible damage I would have left behind. I now have a “scar” in my brain and my compassion that prevents me from ever attempting it again.

    The combination of severe, intractable depression and addiction is lethal. The medical establishment has even refined methods that were once thought to be inhuman— ECT, and brain surgery— to some success. But that won’t stop this kind of thing from happening.

    What will stop it is our forthright and unconditional acceptance of one another. It’s not hard to see the results of the opposite. If as a person, a community, a global population we could make it our goal to incorporate a little loving kindness into our day, we might be able to stop this kind of thing. If I sound like an unrealistic bliss ninny, then so be it. I’m not naïve anymore.

    If we could summon the amity and intimacy to touch boundaries, drop defenses, and let our feelings, worries and desires express themselves, the world might be a better place. If I had been able to use my intuition that sensed how distraught my friends, my colleagues, my sister had been, they might still be with us. But we don’t learn this growing up. We learn to avoid danger, set limits, maintain “healthy” boundaries. We want to honor the memory of Robin Williams and everyone else who has suffered this affliction. Let’s start by dropping defenses, touching boundaries, and showing others we care about them. When we learn CPR, we’re instructed to first ask a plastic mannequin, “Are you okay?” We can do this for each other. What have we got to lose?

    • Marc August 14, 2014 at 7:36 am #

      What a beautiful and inspiring comment, Matt. Maybe you are a bliss ninny, but I’ll take your vision of the world and try to help make it happen. I’m in Toronto, visiting a lot of family and old friends. I spent all day yesterday with different people, and I kept noticing how much they needed to be heard. I kept listening. It wasn’t hard.

      I didn’t know you’d been so very low and desperate. That saddens me. But look what’s become of you. You devote your life to helping others reverse that trajectory. It can be done.

      Thank you for balancing the gloom and despair with hope and even a recipe for making things better.

    • janet August 14, 2014 at 9:41 am #

      Wow Matt… I read this twice and then read it to a friend. THIS is what matters. Beautifully expressed. Thank you.

  5. Gary August 14, 2014 at 7:14 am #

    It is truly sad to have lost someone with whom many felt connected, including me. In the line of work I have been doing, in the lives of many I have grew up with and including my own personal life there has been many who lost the battle with addiction and/or mental health problems. My opinion is that addiction is only a symptom of an underlying problem at the core or centre of a person.

    For each person I have known who lost their life as a result of thier addiction/mental health disorder is as though I lost a little of myself. The whisper in my ear of just how beautiful and delicate life is and how many in the world suffer in silence or hide their pain with humor, I can relate to that!~

    I have to say that I am not, by any means, what-so-ever, a religous person. However, I absolutely love this quote by Marianne Williamson… I think it is most appropriate, for me, in regards to this dialogue.

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

    The way out is by looking in, as change is an inside job. Jiddu Krishnamurti stated “Be A Light Unto Yourself”.

    In regards to the state of society in which we live here is another quote by Jiddu Krishnamurti that resonates in me “What Measure Of Health Is It To Be So Well Adjusted To A Profoundly Sick Society”?

    I too, at a time in my life, felt the darkness of depression and used alcohol and other drugs to cope. Although I never wanted to end my life I didn’t want to continue living the life I had which in the end became the catalyst for change.

    I’ve never completely shut the door on my past as it is a reminder of where I could end up. However, I do not dwell on the past and have finally “discovered” that I can live a life without the pursuit of happiness. As best I can I try to be aware of what is really going on inside of me and in the world in which I live.

    Upon closing I just want to reflect on the true meaning of the song by John Lennon “Imagine” because without it can we really embrace a sense of hope?

  6. Janet August 14, 2014 at 9:20 am #

    Thank you Marc. Once again you have helped to soften and to bring healing and understanding. It is so sad. My husband said, “I don’t want this to be.” when he heard about Robin Williams death. Grieving is painful, loss is painful. We need to lean on each other and keep the light on. Talking, connecting, and just being. And being able to sit with the pain. Ours and others. A friend of mine lost a son to suicide and my friend used to say to me, “I love the way you just sit with me and my pain.”
    Suicide isn’t about wanting to die…it is about not being able to live. The balance becomes impossible.
    Love heals our hurting hearts. Godspeed.

  7. Mark August 14, 2014 at 9:39 am #

    Jill Bolte Taylor has a wonderful account in her book, *My Stroke of Insight.* I loved it so much that I excerpted it, titled it “Don’t Believe What You Think When It Hurts” and posted it online here: http://thefloweringbrain.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/dont-believe-what-you-think-when-it-hurts/

    As a personal practice, based on Jill’s account, to combat my own disorganized brain states that show up as fear and anxiety I have developed a personal mantra that often seems to help: “In THIS moment, everything’s all right.” I combine it with a few extended exhales to help reduce my heart rate and most often that does the trick.

  8. Guy Lamunyon August 14, 2014 at 9:55 am #

    Robin Williams was reported to have been severely depressed at the time of his suicide. He is also reported to have suffered with bipolar disorder. The suicide rate in alcohol use disorder is 8 to 16 percent and for bipolar disorder the suicide rate ranges from 10 to 20 percent. Last month (July, 2014) the news reported Robin Williams was admitted to Hazelden, a very 12 step oriented rehab in Minnesota ‘to focus on his sobriety’ and ‘as a respite to recharge after more than 18 straight months of work’ according to his publicist.

    The average length of stay at a similar rehabs is 21 to 28 days. He cannot have been home to long when he took his life. Suicides within 30 days of discharge from alcohol, drug and mental health facilities usually trigger investigations. If his bipolar disorder was not addressed in treatment or his discharge plan did not include psychiatric followup a malpractice may be indicated. Due to his high profile we will probably never know the results of any investigations conducted by the Joint Commission or CARF (accreditation organization for rehabs).

    • Mikej77 August 14, 2014 at 10:47 am #

      Best post Guy,

      Marc, this is a nearly textbook case of Bipolar Disorder with comorbid substance abuse. The client has a high probability of making/completing a suicide attempt in a ‘bipolar mixed state’ or what is sometimes labeled as ‘agitated depression’ or ‘manic dysphoria’ where there are elements of clinical depression present along with elements of manic energy enhancing the potential to commit suicide.

      If such a person is discharged from care without substantial support including plenty of medication(s) such an outcome is only to be expected though the treatment details are not available.

      Given the age of 63 and a similar history planned addiction to opiates was the route to go if life has any value in and of itself to the caregiver. Dying ‘clean and sober’ has little meaning in a suicide driven by intolerable pain by an elderly, in this case, man.

      Beating people to death in old age trying to cure addiction is completely pointless unless such addiction is tangential to treatment to some trauma like a car crash, cancer treatment or other.

      Let us just give people some Peace in life if that is all we can do – some palliative care for what will be terminal brain disease, especially in Bipolar 1,2.

  9. Robin Roger August 14, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    I’d just like to touch on one aspect of Williams’ profile that seems glossed over but extremely significant to me, and that is that he was a neglected child. This is only mentioned in the first line of one obit I saw, which added that he had over 1000 toy soldiers. Neglect is not only one of the most damaging insults to children, it is also the most overlooked (neglected) and misunderstood. I am not an expert in it but what I’ve learned about it seems highly illuminating, and one aspect of it appears to be that the neglected child seldom develops much ability at self-care. I don’t want to overstate this in terms of Williams’ suffering, but it strikes me as terribly important that he put himself in an isolating place in Alaska to work, and that’s when he succumbed. Isolation is tough on all of us but if you can identify your own vulnerability to it due to other factors such as neglect you might just decide to avoid it. I’m over simplifying but I want to add a plea that we recognize the soul-murder of an *absence* of something–caring attention–as much as the problems of a substance. Not that I’m suggesting there are either/ors here.

  10. Richard Henry August 14, 2014 at 11:29 am #

    It’s always difficult for me when a fellow addict takes his or her own life, so many are so close to living that good life of sobriety, if they only took, or had the time to find out all their issues and underlying problems that caused them to escape in the first place. Today… each day is a love and a joy of the next to come. Forward motion for me is “Paying it forward” to myself, in that I don’t get stuck on the what if’s, the could haves, the why me… syndrome, life can through at us sometimes. Move ahead, go forward, get things straight, bring closer to the past and forgive yourself. Sure I have lost much on my road to recovery, but have gain so much more in the end.
    Happy thoughts, Happy Heart, Happy Life…
    I have been truly blessed with all three…

  11. Christine Walsh August 14, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    I think Robin was tired. So very tired.
    He did so much and reached so many people. The laughter and smiles and all the other emotions he brought out while he worked his craft. Amazing actor,amazing comedian, father, partner and friend to so many…
    Day to day life is exhasting when you suffer from depression and anxiety. Just try to imagine how tired Robin Williams must have been given all that he has maintained.
    He is now at peace to put it quite simply …and even in his final act he continues to reach so many by bringing to light an awareness of mental illness and how it can hit anyone at anytime.

    • Matt August 15, 2014 at 2:35 am #

      He was bone tired. He was in the autumn years of his life, he had accomplished much and helped many. He was facing grave uncertainties. The responsibilities of celebrity can become intolerable to someone who feels too much and tries to abide them.

      • Janet August 15, 2014 at 8:44 am #

        What an elegant, gracious, and generous expression of a life well-lived.
        May we all feel such grace in our hearts towards our fellow travellers.

  12. Julia August 14, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

    Marc, Thanks for offering this venue for expressing our grief and sharing thoughts on Robin’s death. If nothing else, I hope that a few people will find out they are not so alone, which is what I imagine Robin felt to the ultimate. I was glad to find Andrew Solomon’s piece on Robin’s suicide in the New Yorker. Solomon being my number one go-to person in regards to depression and other difficult emotional subjects. Here’s the piece: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/suicide-crime-loneliness

  13. Jaliya August 14, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

    “I felt alone and afraid.” ~ Says it all … along with Christine’s words, “I think Robin was tired. So very tired.”

    And Matt’s thoughts … Yes, to dust others’ lives with mercy … It’s everything. I recall receiving a hug from a camp director when I was seventeen and tarred with shame for having “snitched” on another camper who was so desolate with homesickness that she was vandalizing cabins — throwing sleeping bags into the lake, smashing objects, etc. I was a CIT (counselor-in-training), lying under a raised cabin adjacent to one that had been repeatedly hit; CITs were scouting in shifts, trying to locate who the culprit was. I was n my belly in the dirt, and the despairing girl showed up, went into the cabin next to mine, and emerged in a rage, arms full of other kids’ stuff. She hurled the it all into the lake, went back into the cabin, and started to kick at the walls. I went dead still until she left … and then found the director; we went through group photos, I identified the girl. She was sent home the next day. In the meantime, I thought I’d die of the shame of “snitching.” Went to the director’s cabin that evening and blurted out the shame. As we stood near her door before I left (unrelieved of shame, no matter her words and the kindness shown to the child who was in such distress — no punishment was given; her desperation was seen and understood), the director wrapped me in her arms and stood like a great tree, so strong and steady … and soft. She held and held me until I began to soften too. I’d never been held like that — with such acceptance and quietude.

    Jeanette Winterson wrote in one of her books, Art Objects, that “love changes molecular structure.” It does. Something fundamental shifted in me during that embrace, in its utter safety and mercy. Joan (the director) simply held me enfolded for several minutes, not saying a word. When we parted, I staggered out of her cabin … then started to skip. My whole being was changed — a warmth suffused me all through; a sense of boundedness, completeness, of being washed clean. The memory of that embrace is one of my touchstones, one of my lifesavers, and I’ve made it one of my core medicines — to embrace, embrace, embrace … to leave that depth of loving impression within others, and to do my best to embrace my own self with that depth of mercy. It is what saves us … if we can receive it.

    In my direst moments, when I feel desperately alone, I recall that embrace and several others that have saved me. When I feel like a shard, all bleeding edges, I save myself by softening through the memory of these embraces, and I’ll do something to embrace myself — wrap up in a soft wool blanket, take a warm and scented bath, cuddle with one of my cats, eat warming and nourishing food … and if there’s someone I can get in touch with for a spooning session or just some presence, I do it.

    Lately — seemingly paradoxically — I’ve found that crying also softens. I let myself cry. (Doing it right now.) Robin reminded me so much of my little brother who died in late 2012, of a heart attack — literally, a broken heart; he was addicted to alcohol, and like Robin, was a comic genius who could fell a roomful of people with mirth in ten seconds … but he couldn’t ease his own agony. I vow every day in his name to stay alive when the shard that I sometimes feel myself to be just wants to turn its point to my heart and shatter it.

    If any good can come of Robin’s manner of death, it’ll be to crack open the cask of shame and secrecy that so many of us (all of us?) are suffocating in. We so need to breathe … to reach out and let others reach us. To be bliss ninnies … to change one another’s molecular structure by loving.

    This morning a robin flew past my balcony while I was sitting there with my tea … and I thought, “Robin’s wing … Robin’s wing.” Maybe there’s something in that that we can do in honour of Robin … to keep our wings aloft, to keep one another aloft and alive. Bliss ninnies on the wing.

    Love to all … stay aloft, dear hearts.

    • janet August 14, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

      Hello Jaliya, I loved hearing your voice. Again. Thank you for being here and for your very very UP lifting words. And the warm embrace. Here I am feeling that love. Janet

      • Jaliya August 14, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

        Janet! Hello! So glad for your presence here. I think of you often — Sending an embrace!

  14. Peter Sheath August 14, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

    Hi Marc and everyone else
    Over the past few weeks I’ve lost two close friends and Mister Robin Williams. I’ve written several posts on Facebook about my thoughts and feelings and some of the questioning of our own mortality we inevitably find ourselves doing. I’ve liked most of what Robin has done starting off with his whirl wind introduction to the world as the Fonz’s alien friend in happy days. It was like he had this inexhaustible stream of comedy genius that he just had to turn on the tap and out it came. His observations were amazing and his ear for accents and ability to mimic we’re second to none.
    He was the classic man child and I, for one, really identified with him. We all tend to go to our default positions and try to put a label on him and maybe this helps us to think we understand. Was he bipolar? Depressed, schizo-affective? Borderline personality? Addict? I don’t know and I don’t really think it matters. Maybe, for Robin, just like in the song by Don McLean, “this world was never made for one so beautiful as you”. Maybe he had simply tried everything, drugs, alcohol, therapy, medication, making people laugh, etc. and had, at the age of 63, decided he’d had enough and just couldn’t live with himself any longer.
    Woody Allen once said that, “the only really important decision anyone has to make in any day is whether or not to kill themselves”. Perhaps, on Tuesday, this stark choice just came to Robin and he decided that today the answer is yes? I’ve worked I mental health for long enough to know that some people just can’t be saved no matter how we lable them or try to help them.

  15. Stephen Creagh Uys August 14, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    Thank you once again for your blog. I am slowly coming to accept the loss of this beautiful force of nature. My initial reaction was one of intense anxiety and fear, of grief. The fear was caused by the fact I understood too well how he felt, or at least believe I do. I am an artist myself and allow for the fact that there is no cure for the genius, the depth that some creative people are both and cursed with. (I in no way think of myself as possessing this ‘genius’ but do know how painful honest creation can be and how there is no way to adequately share or treat it). The only solution seems to be lucky enough to accept and endure it.

    We as those who suffer from addiction are often only trying a logical, yet disastrous, means by which to endure. It is by having safe places, such as the one you provide, that those of us who need to, can find solace.

    I now move forward, just a little bit, knowing that others feel the same way. I am about to move to Vermont, for a six-month residency at an artists retreat. I am hoping that the combination of isolation to write and the company of a group of other creative people will allow me to touch on this honesty which I saw in Mr. Williams, and to perhaps be there for the others.

    I apologize for rambling. Your forum inspires and heals. Thank you.

  16. Kiffin August 14, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    Like everyone else I was also very shocked to hear the news of his untimely death. Later, I learned that it was suicide that probably was triggered because of depression and alcoholism. How is this possible? Such a genius comedian and actor who appeared to have everything under control. Proof that the true measure of happiness is not defined by your surroundings and how popular you are, but rather it is measured from the inside. Inside thoughts and feelings that rarely reflect the way the outside world is. The inside world is all we have, and the thoughts about thoughts are what can confuse the spirit and disturb the true balance that we were born with. The good news is that he gave me so much enjoyment in life, and in the end sacrificed himself for the betterment of those around him.

  17. Dean Sunseri August 14, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

    You bring up some important points regarding Robin Williams death. Alcohol, anxiety, fear, depression all balled up in a cycle that spiraled down to suicide. Your perspective in enlightening, and does shed some light on the dark shadow of his death.

  18. Matt August 16, 2014 at 3:40 am #

    I think the words of another wistful wackjob— Russell Brand— captures this fading wakeup call best:

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/12/russell-brand-robin-williams-divine-madness-broken-world

  19. NN August 16, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    Depression is a many-headed protean beast.

    If a treatment addresses (and partly fixes) it, suicide may result. (Look at the warnings on Paxil, esp. for teens.) This is–I think–because of the uplift in energy.

    If a treatment does *not* address depression, suicide may result. The 12 Steps do not really address depression and, for example, Bill W reported continuing bouts of it. (The call to serve others is not necessarily a reason to live.)

    Robin was a brilliant and tortured soul who found no (previous) remedy for the pain.

  20. George Ferrick August 18, 2014 at 9:51 pm #

    It’s ironic how some die of their choosing, and others unexpectedly and suddenly of “natural causes.”A little less than 4 months before Robin’s departure, another notable person, from the realm of inspiration and wisdom, died unexpectedly, Angeles Arrien http://www.angelesarrien.com/

    Via James Barasz’ Awakening Joy website, commemorating Angeles, I viewed a short video clip

    http://awakeningjoy.info/blog/angeles-arrien/?utm_source=Blog+Subscribers&utm_campaign=dfc6e73b4c-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_89ac47c477-dfc6e73b4c-123714681

    in which Angeles speaks of life and death, quoting Jung that life is “that luminous pause between two great mysteries, birth and death.” Angeles goes on to say how each of us has two companions during our journey, one at each side. Death asks us every day “Are you using the great gifts of life well?” And the second companion Destiny continuously asks us “Are you doing what you’ve come here to do?”
    Very saddened at Robin’s departure and that he came to feel that moving on was necessary, a little relief came from recalling Angeles’ voice expressing Destiny’s question “Are you doing what you’ve come here to do?” and realizing that Robin could answer with a resounding “YES.” He certainly did in spades what he came here to do. The sadness I have is that perhaps with a step back to re-consider, like Matt describes in his post, Robin might have liked to have had a few more bike rides in Marin County, a few more coffees outside the book store, perhaps a future chance to joke with the Pope. But he certainly did, numerous times over, what he came here to do.

  21. Laura Judge September 2, 2014 at 10:21 am #

    We were all in shock when we found out about Robin Williams’ death, it is a shame that his addiction and his depression got the best of him. We can all learn from his death, we have to learn that at any moment we can fall victim and we have to keep active in our recovery. Remember to always ask for help when you need it, it could be the difference between life and death. Learn more about his death here Robin Williams Addiction

    Good luck,
    Laura Judge

  22. tom September 4, 2014 at 12:31 am #

    I am going to throw a few more things out here. I love the discussion and ever since I saw Robin in Mork and Mindy I was hooked. He expressed connections in the world that made sense to me. His death is tragic and I have felt it like others. Still.
    Yet I am struck by a detail that seemed to be relevant. He was diagnosed with a fatal, irreversible, debilitating disease: Parkinsons. He chose his exit. Perhaps a bit earlier than we or his family would have liked but he was done. The diagnosis and prognosis surely interacted with his depression, anxiety, and substance use, but is not entirely the result of it. Without the impending doom, he would have still had the same depression anxiety, and substance use problems. But he was extraordinarily generous and kind and connected to people. He had plenty of reason and opportunity to end his life before but he chose less ultimate self-destruction every time. this one was different.
    if he was 43 instead of 63, perhaps we would think differently. if he was 83 we would not even blink but rather just relish the loss and the gifts he gave. But he was 63. Old enough but not too old.
    I only add this to the discussion because I don’t want a special person like Robin to be lost in a unidimensional appraisal. He was complex and we loved him for it. His death is also complex and not simply an addiction or disorder played out to its inevitable fruition. It was not inevitable. He came to the end, or near the end, and chose to control his fate. I cannot day that I would not make the same choice as much as I cannot say that I would. I prefer to extend to Robin the dignity of not knowing but feeling his pain and humanity and plight as my own, as one of the ways it could be, as another variation of living and dying that might impart some wisdom.

  23. NN September 4, 2014 at 1:00 am #

    Nice post, Tom. Yes, he controlled his fate and we can’t say he ‘died young’ or was
    unfulfilled, even though we might have liked to see him for a few more years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current day month ye@r *