When I read the tragic news that Robin Williams had passed away, there was an immediate feeling of devastation. I’ve never met the man, so one might think I’m a little too emotional, but he’s been making me smile since I was a child. The first “Nanu-Nanu” I ever heard hooked me. There was just something about his voice.
When Robin Williams spoke, his voice wafted across the airwaves as a funny, yet somehow calming feeling that washed me like a fresh morning rain. I always felt renewed after listening to him. The belly-rolling laughter he brought with his comedy filled many an empty night for me. Celebrity crush? Not so much because he was far too much like home for that. He was more of a best friend—a brother, maybe, who could always comfort me and make me smile. I love so much of his work that it’s impossible to list everything. In fact, I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t have at least one favorite Robin Williams performance. I revisited some of those tonight, just to celebrate his life.
Watching Dead Poet’s Society and Mork and Mindy, I noticed something I’d never really seen before: His serious scenes were equally as serious as his funny scenes were funny. After what’s come to pass in the last couple days, perhaps that’s because the pain he portrayed wasn’t a performance. Williams was able to convey deep emotion because he lived it, which is, apparently, difficult for some people to understand.
Most of us would like to believe that once a person has found success or fame and fortune, there is no cause for unhappiness. The truth is, celebrities are human. They have emotions and issues just like the rest of us—fully proving the point that money cannot buy happiness. Unlike some reports I’ve read concerning Mr. Williams’s death, I won’t delve into the whys. To be quite frank, that’s no one’s business but his family’s. What I will say, though, is depression is horribly misunderstood, and the stigma surrounding both depression and suicide is overwhelming.
There exists this misconception that anyone suffering from depression should reach down, grab their bootstraps, and simply move along. Unfortunately, that scenario rarely works. As a person who has suffered from depression for many years I have been able to pick myself back up most of the time, but other times I’ve required assistance—both professional and from my friends and family.
Depression is not make-believe. It is not a tool to manipulate folks into giving in or feeling guilty. It’s not an escape mechanism, and it’s not a cry for attention. Rather, depression is a disease—a disease that takes over both the body and the mind, and in some cases, incapacitates the sufferer to the point of wanting to take his/her own life. Depression is serious business, not to be joked about or dealt with lightly. It can, and often does, end tragically.
For those who have never experienced more than a little sadness in their lives, understanding depression as a disease is difficult. Depression is more than just feeling blue. It’s more like feeling as though the entire world is sitting on your chest and nothing will ever be okay again. It hurts not only mentally, but physically as well. Depression causes extreme fatigue and anxiety.
When people say “Didn’t they think of how final suicide is?” when speaking of someone who has taken their own life, the truth is that that may be all that person was thinking of. Finality seems so comforting when all one feels twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week is pain—debilitating mental and physical anguish. Depression feels like drowning in a sea most people call life, and it seems like there is no lifeboat. Suicide is not an easy way out. It’s not a coward’s way out. It simply seems like the only way out for those who aren’t successful in battling this disease. The only way to help those with this disease is to erase the ugly stigma and judgment attached, so we can progress with better treatment.
The family of Robin Williams has publicly voiced their desire for all of us to focus on the beauty of his life rather than the ugly details of his death. Personally, I don’t feel a need to know anything more involved than I already do concerning his passing. His death is tragic, and the world will feel his loss. More importantly, his life was, indeed, beautiful. Thank you, Mr. Keating, for the smiles and comfort you gave to us. May words and ideas truly change the world.
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, don’t wait. Seek help!
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline-1-800-273-8255
Tammie Niewedde shares her life with 24, 21, and 16 year old sons. She also has a 2 year old grandson whose energy level reminds her exactly how old she is (40, and she owns that proudly!). In her home, you will find a 120 pound fur factory named Dexter and a few cats whom have decided that she is merely their staff. The root of her love for books, writing, and animals comes from being a child whose only siblings were books and her animals. She is a full-time student, mother, coordinator of all that is chaos, and a hopeless list maker. Most of her writing is creative non-fiction that describes her real life adventures. Her acerbic, biting sense of humor may capture your heart, or it may induce rage. Nonetheless what she writes is true to life. You can often find her hanging out with the kiddos, studying, reading, writing, and making lists…of everything! You can find her on Facebook!