I remember the first time I watched Robin Williams on TV, it was in 1974 and I was just ten years old, it was an episode of Happy Day. Na nu, Na nu! His career had set sail. Some how, and I was not alone in this thought, I had just seen the future of comedy and it was going to be a rocket ride and very hilarious.
His energy wasn’t only new but it was electrifying, he had an effect on your most inner funny bone, a place few comics could actually reach you. There was something almost primordial about his impromptu antics that seemed almost out of control yet always one step ahead of his next gag that came at you like a Gatling gun.
So I, like a lot of us, followed his career, an entertainer with the magnitude of success that he enjoyed rarely makes it through the years without some sort of controversy or scandal. That alone would be a marked measure of his success. He won an Oscar for his role in ‘Good Will Hunting’ and nominated in three other roles, and awarded six Golden Globes and nominated for three Emmy Awards. I can only guess at the Millions upon Millions of dollars he earned in his storied career. He appeared to have it all yet he chose to end his life yesterday. Right now I feel like I lost an old friend.
The media reports it was due to his battle with depression, this is something I knew about Robin Williams hearing him admit it in past interviews. Knowing this made me feel an even closer bond with the famous funny man because I too have battled that same nemesis my whole life. I recognized it in his humor, in his physical shtick as his gags would unfold on stage or the big screen, I could see the pain just below the surface of every gag. You see I too hide my affliction by making others laugh, it is like a tonic that can only be absorbed not ingested like most drugs. I call laughter a drug because it is truly that, a drug that is very addicting. Once you make someone laugh uncontrollably you too get this infusion of endorphins from the sensation of happiness that now YOU can control. It was the pain in his deep behind his eyes that always reminded me that this is not just humor to him but a strategy for survival. Behind the sparkle in his eyes was a distant seeking that was always there, I always seen his eyes searching for the end of the race to happiness behind every gag. I seen myself looking back though the television, it was hard not to feel a connection to him.
Depression is something most people may feel from time to time but to really understand it you need to understand just how debilitating it can be. For me just going to sleep is a point of tension, I can wake up in the middle of the night with panicking thoughts of impending financial dome even though there is nothing to panic about. Sometimes I go home and watch a movie just to remove myself from reality. I will ignore phone calls because I don’t want to have my ‘quiet time’ interrupted, even when it is someone I really want to talk to. I go to bed early just to wrap up in blankets because it is a comforting sensation. Most of all I will let all my responsibilities fall to the way side knowing I am getting farther and father behind everyday because I would rather sit and do nothing at all in my quiet apartment away from the world. I too also think of ending it all, I don’t usually think of the actual deed but mostly I think of how nice it would be to just stop living. This is what depression is, a constant struggle to maintain your happiness.
I too find comfort in humor, humor is what makes life bearable and worth living for me. If I could not make people laugh or have someone make me laugh I really think I would die. It is what keeps me afloat, it keeps me from slipping into the abyss. Robin Williams humor is a staple to which I turn to for my fix of laughter when I really can’t do it my self. Robin Williams was and will always be one of my drugs of choice for my survival.
I know they have all kinds of medicines they can prescribe to stave off the symptoms but I choose not to indulge them, I have tried them but they leave me half the person I truly am. So I have found activities that aide in my equilibrium, exercise, sunshine, writing and my art all of these either sustain me or bring me out of the pits of despair. But of all these humor is by far the best medicine and an absolute necessity to keeping my ‘demons’ at bay.
As for my old ‘friend’ Robin Williams he simple could not find the tools to continue his good fight any longer. So for that I am saddened to the deepest of my sole. Perhaps we all will learn from this tragedy that anyone can suffer from depression even though they never seemed to be sad or appear to have anything to be sad about.
Please remember this, you can not scold someone out of a depression, you can only encourage them to keep fighting… and try to make them laugh.