Why Robin Williams’ Death Has Shaken Me

Of course it is sad when a legendary actor dies.  When one dies at a “ripe old age” we all pause for a moment and think about their amazing career, and roles that resonated with us.  When they die young, we think about what could have been, not just on the screen, but a life they don’t get to live, families they don’t get to have.  Mostly though, it is only a blip on the radar.  Their own families and friends mourn them.  We know deep down that the part of them that we knew was fictional.  We carry on.

And yet, I find myself shedding tears for Robin Williams.  Not because I admired him, though I did.  Not because I’ll personally miss him.  I didn’t know him.  In fact, unlike other celebrities who appear on  interviews and talk shows and give the public a glimpse of what they are like when someone isn’t writing their lines, Robin Williams always seemed to be in character.  He never stopped flapping and hopping and making funny faces and goofy voices.

It was rare to see the calm, tender side in the photo below that showed up in my newsfeed this morning.  I think seeing this photo is what shook me, seeing him as a human being instead of an entertainer, and realizing that he experienced the world through the dark filter that is depression.  I couldn’t just carry on.

RIP Robin Williams.
You were a mad genius, and brought so much joy and laughter to the world.


Photo Source
Depression + Suicide

Two terrible things that have touched my family.  We don’t talk about my Uncle Zeke.  Perhaps because we worry about upsetting those who were closest to him.  Or maybe because it’s scary to think about someone who appeared to be normal and happy taking their own life.  It’s hard to fathom that kind of desperation.  The thought that another day of existence would be unbearable.  I’ve never felt it, and it breaks my heart that anyone does.  I remember Zeke’s smile, and his glasses.  I remember his pet skunk being the coolest thing ever.  I think her name was Angel.  I was just a kid, but I don’t remember him appearing to be unhappy.  Depression is sneaky that way.

I get frustrated when I hear people ask, “What would so and so have to be depressed about?”  Are so many people still unaware of the difference between sadness and depression?  The National Institute of Mental Health calls major depression “one of the most common mental disorders in the United States.”

Depression is often missed in men because, NEWSFLASH, men are stubborn and less likely to talk to a doctor about it.  If they go undiagnosed and untreated for long periods of time, they are much more likely to commit suicide.  The Mayo Clinic’s website lists the following symptoms to look for that you may not think of as depression related:

  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, such as sex
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so that even small tasks take extra effort
  • Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness — for example, excessive worrying, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

So, while I’m sad that the world has lost an iconic comedian, I’m sadder that depression has taken a man from his loved ones.

12 thoughts on “Why Robin Williams’ Death Has Shaken Me”

  1. Thank you! I was really surprised by the symptoms even though people close to me suffer from depression. We have to keep talking about it so more people learn the signs and get help or support their loved ones in getting help.

  2. Thank you! I was just on your blog and read your post "What Depression Looks Like". I was very touched by the story and the photos. I also love the 3 part "Abusive Husband" series. It is nothing short of amazing that your husband was able to hear and understand what you were saying, get therapy, and talk openly about the journey. Bravo! I followed on bloglovin.

  3. Thank you! It's so true that while you are in it you may not be aware of what is going on, and that the people around you will misunderstand and may not know how to effectively support you. In the wake of Robin Williams' suicide, I'd love to see more high profile people talking about depression.

  4. Thanks for stopping by. It is scary that depression goes unnoticed and undiagnosed in so many. Here's hoping that awareness has been raised and that we continue to talk about it. I fear that we are being programmed to just move on to the next big news story.

  5. Thank you! You're right, it's sad that we are only talking about it because someone famous died. Just like ALS needs funding even when people aren't pouring ice water over their heads on facebook. I'm heading over to your blog now.

  6. Thank you! After doing a bit of research I realized that a lot of those symptoms, especially the first three, sound very familiar and explain the behavior of someone who was very close to me. It's awful to think back and realize that I assumed he was simply being a jerk.

  7. I'm so glad you listed those symptoms. I actually exhibit ALL of those and sometimes it's really hard to manage, even now that I know what I have is depression and have support in place to deal with it. Sometimes you don't even realize that the symptoms are there, especially if you've been living with them for so long. They're just part of your existence. It breaks my heart that there are people out there living with all that and don't realize they can get help. But it gives me so much hope that there are so many people speaking out and making this an issue that we can really talk about, and not one that we feel we need to hide.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your story. His death has hit me harder than any other celebrity as well. I hope we don't waste this moment. I hope, as a society, that we learn from this terrible moment we're sharing. I hope we are finally able to get rid of the stigma of mental health issues.

    I've fought depression for thirty years. I've tried many antidepressants and they either do nothing for me or make me suicidal. Not what we're looking for. But I have been lucky to have the resources for therapy. And I've been able to build a strong support system. So many others haven't been as lucky.

    For them I will continue to write and speak openly about my mental health issues. I will speak for those who can't. Because it matters. Thank you for speaking for them.

    Stopping by from the SITS Sharefest.

  9. I was so grieved to hear of Robin William's death. Depression is a real, dark force in many people's lives. While it may be hard for "outsiders" to see it – it's sometimes even challenging for an individual to identify they are depressed. I've had two very serious bouts of depression in my life… both of which took time for even myself to identify that something was actually "wrong" with me.

    Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop)!

    Wishing you a lovely day.

  10. Depression is an illness that needs to be taken seriously, but it's an invisible illness that people don't notice in others or choose not to notice, because they don't understand.

    To think that people end their lives because they feel like they can't go on is so, so sad, but the mind is complex and all too often these people are putting on brave faces.

    Suicide devastates lives and is happening on a daily basis. The least we can hope for is that the death of Robin Williams helps to raise awareness about depression and what people go through.

  11. Thanks for sharing this today. It is something that so badly needs to be talked about longer than the news stories carry it.

  12. So beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your story; it will help many, and gently touch those who share your life experience, with a reaffirming reminded that they need not mourn alone. Your information on men and depression is very useful. I am going to included it in a blog post, getting credit to you.

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