When you have to say goodbye too early: Robin Williams

I found Robin so sensitive and so perceptive, and so gentle. He was the first comedian I noticed. He influenced me deeply: My sense of what someone cultured and funny might sound like, think about, care about. How to be honest about life on this planet without giving up altogether. His death has made me profoundly sad. I’m trying to work around it, with it, through it, sideways. Trying to celebrate my memories of his beautiful soul, trying to see more clearly the deep sadness he held (maybe because of his kindness). I make no judgment on his choice, though I hope that going forward anyone feeling that sad, lonely and desperate will reach out and give those around them one more chance to help. I’m just sorry the now obvious overwhelming love we had for him was not loud enough when he needed it–or maybe that would never have been enough. Depression is tricky; it is exceptionally good at blurring the ability to think critically, or to think beyond the moment. I have found a few things healing, or helpful in this moment of grief and I wanted to share them, because they offer both real sadness and real humor/insight/humanity/hope.

Anne Lamott wrote a really touching tribute to pain, mental health, addiction and recovery. Here’s a snippet: “If you have a genetic predisposition towards mental problems and addiction, as Robin and I did, life here feels like you were just left off here one day, with no instruction manual, and no idea of what you were supposed to do; how to fit in; how to find a day’s relief from the anxiety, how to keep your beloved alive; how to stay one step ahead of abyss…

Gravity yanks us down, even a man as stunning in every way as Robin. We need a lot of help getting back up. And even with our battered banged up tool boxes and aching backs, we can help others get up, even when for them to do so seems impossible or at least beyond imagining. Or if it can’t be done, we can sit with them on the ground, in the abyss, in solidarity. You know how I always say that laughter is carbonated holiness? Well, Robin was the ultimate proof of that, and bubbles are spirit made visible.”

I got amazing comfort out of hearing Marc Maron’s wonderful reflection of Robin and his 2010 hour-long interview with Robin Williams, which gives us a really nuanced, textured sense of him as a very vulnerable man. The podcast is currently available on Marc’s WTF home page.

Resources:

For those who aren’t familiar with the impact of severe depression, I recommend these two short articles for perspective: Andrew Solomon wrote a useful piece for the New Yorker about the loneliness of depression, and the incomprehensibility of suicide from the outside.  He reminds us wisely that trying to find reasons makes no sense. This couples nicely with Kay Redfield Jamison’s piece in the New York Times. “How can you say what it feels like to go from being someone who loves life to wishing only to die? Suicidal depression is a state of cold, agitated horror and relentless despair. The things that you most love in life leach away. Everything is an effort, all day and throughout the night.” She ends the article by taking stock of options those struggling with depression can put in place with their doctors and loved ones when they have a respite from their symptoms.

If you are thinking about suicide, the Mayo Clinic has good information.

If someone you love has committed suicide, Victoria Hospice has a good guide.

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