Last night, social media and news outlets were flooded with the tragic death of comedian Robin Williams and we were all once again reminded of just how fragile people are. Williams was public about his struggles with drugs and alcohol abuse, often times spiraling out of control and disappearing for months at a time to enter rehab facilities to address the issue. In a statement issued last night, his wife admitted that he had been battling severe depression and that it had been difficult which lead everyone to naturally speculate, “but he was so happy?”
The happiest people are fighting the hardest battles.
The word “depression” is thrown around so casually in our daily interactions that we fail to understand what it really means. When you can’t understand why the Cronut place keeps selling out of Cronuts, you text a friend and say “that’s depressing” but it really isn’t. When you try to understand why hip-hop is letting Bobby Shmurda prosper, people will say “I’m depressed by the state of hip hop.” but you’re not. Those aren’t reasons to be depressed, those are first world problems that are irritating as hell and belittle the real feeling that depression brings.
When you can’t get out of bed no matter how often you tell yourself it’s just another manic Monday, when you don’t even know if you’ve brushed your teeth or if you’re hungry or just tired, when your entire body aches like you’ve been putting hours at the gym but you’ve been sitting down or wrapped up in bed for hours, curled up in a ball and crying because of everything at once that is depressing. That is depression. You don’t see the joy in anything, you don’t see the value in anything, you don’t understand why everyone else is can get things done while you’re still struggling to get out of bed and tackle another day. It’s darkness, punctuated by shots of light that come from unexpected places. It can be maintained, it can be diagnosed but it can never be cured. Depression and anxiety are debilitating mental diseases. They take people out of themselves and replace them with sand and rocks, they are sluggish and they are empty shells. Things are hard but they work through, they have to, society tells them that it’s wrong for them to feel so badly, it’s wrong for them to be weak. So they make themselves stronger with something that gives them a sense of purpose, or a something that allows them to build up their armor and protect themselves from the world.
Robin Williams gave us comedy.
Even in his darkest moments, which upon reflection seemed to be often, he couldn’t be in the room and not make them laugh, not make them feel. The problem with depression is that you can’t feel anything or you feel everything and the beauty of comedy, especially when it came from him, was that you replaced a negative feeling with a good feeling and anyone who suffers from depression knows that when you have a beautiful moment, a beautiful day, a lll you want to do is bottle it and keep it safe because those moments come so few and far between, you want to save the light for when it gets dark again. In many ways, his darkness was our light. The Genie in Aladdin is probably one of his deepest roles simply because Genie believed that he was running from something and wouldn’t ever find freedom but while he was there, he would make the most of it. Much of the dialogue from that film was improvised by Williams, so much so that the script was almost tossed because it was just that damn funny. Think about how often you quote Genie as an adult and think about how that wisdom has carried you through.
He gave a generation of kids hope, laughs and a sense of wonderment that comes from being raw and open about everything we can feel in the span of our lifetimes. To think that it just got too dark too quickly is a shock because when you think it’s going right outside, inside, it’s a nightmare and all those jars of light that you stored for yourself to remind you of your better days get smashed just so you can get all the light in the room to keep you safe. Then when that light goes, that’s often when tragedy strikes. That’s when you ask what could’ve been done better, what should’ve been done and how do we keep that from happening? We become aware of our own emotions and wrongfully diagnose ourselves with depression and sadness and are overly sensitive to everything but when the emotion goes, so does the sympathy, the only people who don’t get a break are those still living in that world of confusing darkness.
It’s jarring to think that someone can do it and how often the thought crosses the mind as easily as the thought that you want a burger and a Coke which is why talking is so important. Asking is so important. Caring is crucial to protecting the ones we know and love. We lose so many to suicide, preventable suicide because we’re wrapped up in the silly things that keep us ‘sane’ but forget that there are other people who are suffering in silence.
It’s important to not focus on the how we lost him but on how we remember him because when someone wants to be remembered, it’s as they were, not what makes you think of them in the first place.
We can speculate, we can guess, we can assume but we shouldn’t become numb to the fact that people are suffering and they won’t ask for help. If anything, we should be more aware and kinder. We shouldn’t become immune to death in all its forms because while we know death will come for us, how it comes and when no one knows but we should also keep each other safe from harm. We should be responsible for each other because there will come a day where we will wonder what could’ve been done differently if someone slips through the cracks.
Please make sure to check on everyone you know, everyone you love and remind them every day that a day without them is a day you don’t want to ever experience.