The death of Robin Williams has shocked an entire nation; a nation that is overcome with the wide-spread disease of depression. Stricken with grief, some say it’s so hard to picture Williams as a sad soul, but truth be told, comedy comes from a dark place. For comediennes, and even writers like myself, it’s a way to find relief in the things that plague our minds. After all, laughter really is the best medicine.
Growing up, watching a Robin Williams movie felt comforting. Even to this day, when Mrs. Doubtfire or Aladdin are on TV, there’s no escaping that feel-good energy that a movie of the 90’s brought into our homes. The pains of growing older only make these emotions more apparent as we reminisce on a time when things were much simpler. Little did we know that our loving genie needed three wishes for himself: more time, hope and a shoulder.
Through all of the media coverage on Williams’ death, all I keep thinking about is his wife, Susan Schneider. Loving someone who’s battling depression is a lonely road. I’ve been there myself. We all like to say that if we had others on our side, everything will be fine, but I know firsthand that is not the case. You can have an army of supporters, as Williams did, but depression has no mercy. It shapes them into a stranger and ultimately kills not only it’s victims but their loved ones as well.
For four years, I was in a relationship with a man who found it so hard to be happy. For so long, I thought it was me making him unhappy and no matter what I did, I couldn’t make it better. On our two-month anniversary, he tried to take his own life. Frantic doesn’t even begin to describe my state. Due to long-distance circumstances, I had to call his parents to check up on him before he did anything reckless. Not being able to be there was like torture and I couldn’t wrap my head around what was making him so miserable. I felt helpless. I kept blaming myself, not sure what to do. I tried desperately to save him, but looking back, I realize that he needed to save himself. I’d like to think that call ultimately saved his life. I’m not even entirely sure if he intended on committing suicide that night, but intention does not matter in situations like these. Knowing is the trigger; not doing anything is the bullet. Years after that incident, I felt like there was this huge weight sitting on our relationship, and the problems just kept on piling up. We were doomed from the start, but luckily he’s still alive today.
I’ve been thinking about what’s been going through Schneider’s head these past couple of days. I can’t imagine what losing your best friend must be like, but then again, I don’t know what their relationship was like. There are so many sides to a person battling depression that it makes me wonder if I ever really knew my ex-boyfriend at all. All of this has been weighing heavy on our hearts as we mourn the loss of an icon, but it has also brought up a lot of valuable lessons we can all try to keep as we move forward on this journey.
Williams’ death has taught me to be still; to take better care of myself before I lead myself into oblivion. I battled depression in high school, and like most things I’d like to leave in the past, it occasionally comes back, uninvited. There are definitely still times when I get so overwhelmed that I think about how much better off the world would be without me and vise-versa. I don’t want to get so caught up in it that I find myself in a place I never wanted to reach. By taking better care of ourselves, we’re allowing what we deserve to take flight. Our souls need to be nurtured, not beaten, especially by our own minds. Be your own support system and your own hero.
If the death of loved ones teaches us anything, especially in this case, it’s that we need to wake up and start caring about something. Society makes the art of actually caring look like a fool’s paradise. But I respect fools over cowards. Be selfless. Love someone who probably doesn’t deserve it; they need it the most. Check up on your loved ones. Don’t hide when they’re hurting. There’s a lyric from a Kye Kye song that resonates with me deeply: “They see my heart. They keep away.”
Anytime we wear our heart on our sleeve, we’re always reminded that it can come back to bite us in the ass. I am so sick of that notion! If you don’t care, who will? When I was depressed, I watched every “friend” of mine disappear while they bad-mouthed me to each other. It created a barrier that can never be mended. Don’t let that happen to you. I think it is so rare and beautiful when somebody isn’t afraid to be open and honest with you, despite how long you’ve known each other. If we all opened up to people like that, imagine what our relationships would be like! Of course, there’s always the possibility of getting hurt, but in my experience, that’s how you sort out who’s meant to take up room in your heart.
Even though Williams carried a heavy heart, he sure knew how to create a legacy. The overwhelming amount of love and support has been bittersweet to read as I think about what could have been done to prevent this tragedy – not just for Robin’s sake, but for every soul we lost due to depression. I’ve seen nothing but articles on how to notice signs of depression, suicide hotline numbers, and ways to combat the disease. These are all wonderful, but is it too little too late? They say it takes a tragedy to bring upon an awakening – maybe Williams’ death is a sign that we need to pay more attention to depression and its repercussions. It just hurts that we had to lose a good one in order to figure all of this out.
If you know someone who is hurting or if you knew someone who was, take the time to help them. Apologize. Let them know that they don’t have to fight this world alone. Hearing those words and having someone stand by them is the most priceless gift anyone could ever receive. I wonder if Robin’s wife told him these things and if it would have made a difference. I guess we’ll never know. All we can do now is pay attention. Use this loss as a wake up call to stop hiding from anything uncomfortable and be present for those in need.