I was asleep when I found out about the death of beloved comic genius Robin Williams. Well, not asleep exactly. Just coming out of slumber, the sound of my alarm pulling me from the warm, comfortable expanse of darkness. Each morning, as my phone rings a gentle but insistent tune, my clock radio fills my bedroom with the sounds of my favorite morning show. The voices are usually chipper and light and rouse me from my slumber with a laugh or a joke.
The host of the show made the announcement about Mr. Williams, his uncharacteristically somber words filtering through my muddled brain. My eyes shot open, heart pounding, unsure what I had just heard. I reached for my cell phone, silenced the noise coming from it and ran a quick Google search, sinking into the awful truth. Words like suicide, depression, addiction stared up at me from the brightly lit screen in the darkened room.
How can this be? How could Genie and Mrs. Doubtfire and Patch Adams be gone? How could Mork and Adrian Cronauer and John Keating be wiped from this earthly plane, a victim to a devastating illness that claims the humanity, if not the lives of millions?
I know, of course, that characters are separate from the man, whose life was riddled with depression, alcoholism, addiction, loss, and pain. I feel at the same time anger, pity, sadness, and love for this man. This man who made me laugh and made me think and brought characters to life with such stunning beauty and joie de vivre. This man whose kindness lives on in the stories from former friends, family members, and industry peers.
My mind still wonders: how could this man, with such talent and adoration, feel so alone in his world that he felt it better to end his life than continue living it? Moreover, in such an advanced society as we have crafted for ourselves, why do we still treat mental illness as if it were an imaginary condition, a fantasy construct instead of a physiological disease? How many people have to suffer before the tide of ignorance turns?
I ask these questions too often these days. I don’t have the answers, which frustrates me exceedingly.
I hope you found what you were looking for, Mr. Williams. Thanks for the laughs.