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Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams & Mental Illness

(Image source HERE)

I had originally planned on going to the movies after work today, but after three strikes of trying to get company, I was out.  Instead I opted for doing, well, basically nothing.  Well "nothing" consisted of watching various mindless YouTube clips about atheism.  Why atheism?  Well "why not?" is probably my best defense.  Anyway, it was during one such trolling expedition that I heard the news that Robin Williams had died.

You can read more HERE.

I've always enjoyed Robin Williams' work, especially the rapid fire extemporaneous stuff you would see him pull off while on a talk show.  Genius, pure genius.  I've read some criticisms of Mr Williams, namely that he liberally stole material from other comedians, but never the less the guy wasn't lifting jokes when he would (for example) have the crew on the Today show laughing out loud.

If news reports are correct, then Mr Williams apparently died at his own hands, having suffered from severe depression of late.  Now I've written about mental illness several times on this blog, as I've had family members and others close to me who have suffered, sometimes greatly, from similar challenges.  Words like "terror" come mind when you get the phone call telling you that someone close to you has just tried to commit suicide.  You don't forget it and you don't get over it.  Ever.  And it's times like this, for me, that dredge those feeling up again.  

I hate those feelings, for the record.  There is a dark complexity to mental illness that is both difficult for me to understand but yet familiar.  I need to be clear here:  Personally I think we all suffer, to one degree or another, from some mental illness.  Heck, there are things that I do which I know to be completely bat-crap crazy.  But those things are far different than the dark places where the life-ending mental illness, of the kind Mr Williams likely suffered from, reside.  I think those places are inside my head too, but they are way, way, in the background.  They are there, but yet far away.  This is one of the reasons why it has been extraordinarily difficult for me in dealing with family member who have suffered from severe depression, namely that for whatever reason I can always keep myself out of the dark places, yet while never understanding why others could not.  

Why me and why not Robin Williams?  I don't know.  It's certainly not a function of money, talent or intelligence.  I think the late Mr Williams probably had me beat in all three of those categories.  No, I just think that some of us just end up with this almost paradoxical mental health reaction to stresses in a way.  When those dark places rear their ugly heads, there is just something in me that instinctively knows how to push them back.  It's as if they are on a very tight leash.  Even in the darkest of hours.  Thinking back to late 2010 I was a wreck, in many, many ways, yet as bad as I was, the thought of falling into a one of  the dark places of depression was as unlikely as my learning to play the piano (or learning to speak French).  Again, why me?  I guess the short answer is "I don't really know".

Regardless of what I think, Robin Williams has hopefully arrived at a destination where there are no dark places.  

Rest in Peace O'Captain, My Captain!

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