Robin Williams is gone. Another hero of mine now gone, this one by his own hand, and my heart breaks for him. He wasn’t just a hero because I grew up with him watching Mork and Mindy, Hook and Dead Poets Society. He was somebody I admired because he suffered and struggled from many of the same things I do. The demons that haunted him also haunt me. Demons by the names of mental disorders, depression, suicidal thoughts and addiction, and from the outside it looked like he had battled through so many of them so well. But these things are a lifelong war that you can lose at any given time, and it grieves me that he finally lost his fight.
It also scares me. Because I know the struggles and if he couldn’t do it with all the resources at his disposal (top notch doctors, the best rehabs etc…) then what hope do I really have?
Some people see this as another tragic Hollywood story, that it is lonely at the top. Others openly wonder how a person who seemingly had so much to live for could possibly end it all. Both of those views are extremely naïve in my opinion. The simple fact is that this is not a Hollywood story. It is a human story. Life isn’t just lonely at the top, it is lonely period. There are millions of people who suffer from the same darkness that he suffered from (about 18% of the population according to the National Institute of Mental Health) and according to the CDC one person dies of suicide every 13 minutes, making it the 10th leading cause of death in America. I am not stating these stats to trivialize Robin Williams death. I am simply listing them to show this is much more than a Hollywood tragedy. It’s a life tragedy.
There are many who question how he could do this to his family and friends. That wonder how a person with so much going for him could end it all. And that is the point people don’t understand. When you are caught up in depression, there is absolutely nothing that feels like it’s worth living for. Not your family, not your career, not even God himself.
I have heard some Christians say that he only needed Jesus in his life. This is also incredibly naïve. I myself am a devout Christian, and there are numerous times I have struggled with suicidal thoughts. Look at Rick Warren’s son, who took his own life awhile back. In a weird way, being a Christian might make it more tempting. If I know I’m going to be in heaven, free from this pain and suffering, then why not go ahead and get there now? I have found myself thinking that numerous times. The Christian community in particular needs to learn to have a very real and honest discussion about mental disorders and suicide.
There are also those incredibly asinine individuals who claim that Robin Williams took the easy way out. Let me tell you this. Taking his own life was probably the hardest thing he ever did. After all, do you think you could take your own life? Let me assure you, reaching that point is no easy thing.
While most people won’t understand it, to be fair, how could they? Unless you suffer from these things, or are close to those who do, then can you truly understand it? Probably not. The best analogy I can think of is to tie a large anchor and heavy chains around your neck and walk around all day wearing them. Even better, try swimming in them. Now picture that attached to your soul and maybe you can begin to imagine what it is like.
I admired Robin Williams and grieve for him. Not just because he was a hero of mine. Not just because he successfully pursued his dreams (which I still struggle with). I admired him because for so long he overcame so much. I grieve for him because I know the living hell he went through and it is more than anyone should have to endure.
Much like his character from Dead Poets Society he seized his day and lived to the fullest. Oh Captain, my Captain, how you will be missed! And know despite your tragic fate, you still encourage me to seize the day, pursue my dreams and struggle well no matter how hopeless it may seem. And for that I will always be grateful to you.
I hope you have finally found your peace.