Today, the world lost one of the most beloved celebrities of all time. Someone who’s career spanned decades, crafting movies, tv shows, stage products, and comedy albums that spanned from hilarious to profound and dramatic. Someone who was not only a beloved member of the comedy community, the actor community, but the video game community as well.
Robin Williams has always had his own unique style. Maintaining a child-like energy and excitement from the early days of his career to his recent role on the tv show The Crazy Ones. He was a one-of-a-kind performer who put everything into his work. An improvisational genius, he often came up with a lot of his stuff on the spot. His stand up shows would vary from show to show due to a lot of the jokes being thought up instantly. He even stopped by Who’s Line Is It Anyway? to lend his improve talents.
His Live On Broadway special ranks in my Top 5 favorite stand up comedy specials of all time, and he was one of my big influences in comedy writing. What Dreams May Come is one of my absolute favorite movies, and it is in part due to his genuine and heartfelt performance. He was a true talent, and the impact he’s left on generations is astonishing. May he rest in peace.
With the memorial out of the way, I want to focus on the sad parts of this: that it was depression and substance abuse issues that led to this. Moments like this need to not be mourned, but to be learned from. I’m still struggling to wrap my head around all of this, but here are a few things of note I want people to learn and take away from this horrible loss.
1 – People who suffer from mental health issues or addiction can smile. They can laugh. They can be productive and successful. They can have wonderful, loving relationships with family and friends. They can make huge impacts on people’s lives. Even the most boisterous laugh or widest smile can still mask unimaginable pain and fear. Depression, struggles, addiction can all hide behind energy and the appearance of perfect happiness. Appearances can be deceiving, and depression is even more deceiving.
2 - Seeking help is not the ONLY part of getting better – Robin had been through treatment. In fact, only a month or two ago, it was reported that he was here in Minnesota seeking treatment. He even stopped by a local Dairy Queen and surprised the staff and took pictures with fans on his way in to get help. But help is not the ONLY step to recovery. While therapy or treatment can be a positive part of the recovery process, it is not a instant fix. It also doesn’t always work for everyone, nor can it always help with every aspect of what is troubling you. Please know that getting help is a resource that should be readily available for all, but that it is not the final solution. It requires love, support, and lifestyle work as well as professional help to even begin to get a handle on something so unknown and powerful as mental illness and addiction.
3 – It can happen to ANYONE – It doesn’t matter how successful you are. How many loved ones you have. How much money you make. How much you get to express yourself – things like depression and addiction can still leave a mark on your life. NO ONE is safe from something that does not discriminate. That does not pick and choose. That isn’t just fixed by having positive things around you. It can hit at any time, and it can get anyone regardless of who they are or where they come from. Do not ever believe that someone is free from struggle just because they’re successful or appear happy.
4 – Every moment is the right moment to spread awareness and words of encouragement – Something that troubled me was people sending out words of encouragement and links to support for people suffering from mental health issues and addiction. This is a wonderful, hugely important thing… that we just don’t do often enough. We can’t always wait for a tragedy to strike to do this. These are things we need to talk about often, with love and understanding. Just getting the word out that people don’t have to be alone, that we all care and understand and want to fight for them. That they’re not broken or stupid or beyond our reach. Getting that word out, providing the help and the support, needs to be more frequent. We need to be willing to speak up at all times, not just when it claims a life. Because it claims lives every day. And it will continue to do so. We must not hold back on how hard and how frequent we fight.
These are just a few thoughts on my mind as I struggle against my own mental health being negatively effected by losing such a wonderfully inspirational person. I hope people can consider these thoughts and learn as they mourn. We can’t let mental health and addiction defeat us. For every single person that fights against these demons, we have to learn and understand and move all of us forward.
To everyone who is suffering from these problems: you aren’t alone, even when you feel it. You can come to me, or many supportive people and places, and seek help. You are not broken. You are not stupid.
You are not alone.
RIP Robin Williams. The infectious laughs will be missed. But they will not be forgotten.