The Funny Ones Are Always the Sad Ones (RIP Robin Williams)

My first reaction upon learning that Robin Williams had died was initial shock. He was 63, so he was in that age where something like a heart attack could have killed him. In fact, he’d undergone bypass surgery some time ago.

When I learned he’d committed suicide, my own heart skipped a beat. I felt it stop. I read it over and over: Robin Williams committed suicide. He was only 63.

Seriously, I don’t want to write this blog post. Knowing that depression claimed another life makes me angry beyond reproach. Beyond FUCKING REPROACH.

To be honest, I hadn’t thought much of Robin Williams over the years. His creative output – with the exception of the criminally overlooked World’s Greatest Dad, one of the DARKEST comedies you will ever see (no, go ahead, watch it…I’ll wait…you tell me) – left me wondering if we’d seen the last of Williams’ legendary, risk-taking talent. His ability to mine every possible depth of humor imaginable was one thing, but to then see Williams willingly straight-jacket himself and perform so brilliantly in some of the most challenging dramatic roles – after all, he was a Julliard-trained actor, you know – was a testament to his skill to both put everything out there, but to also be incredibly open and willing to take himself out of his comfort zone.

The news of his suicide frankly makes me want to cry repeatedly, because, God fucking dammit, none of this is fair.

Robin Williams didn’t just make me laugh. He made me clutch my sides because I couldn’t catch my breath from laughing so hard, the tears running so hard and fast. I must have watched Robin Williams Live at the Met repeatedly, obsessively. “Cocaine, a drug that makes you paranoid AND impotent? GIVE ME SOME!”

That manic intensity, of being able to go from 100MPH to light speed in a nanosecond, and take risks, was exhilarating, for him as a performer and for us as the audience. But it must has been exhausting for him as well. Because to have that kind of manic intensity means you’re capable of extreme highs and extreme lows. (He must have been bipolar. MUST HAVE) I can’t presume to know about the severe depression that Robin Williams was for him, but I do know what depression can make you do. Or not do.

Some will say he made his choice to end his life, but those are the people who’ve never understood – or have never been under the throes of – depression. Depression doesn’t discriminate, and neither does suicide. Depression made that choice – the choice to end his life. Depression consumed him, in the way that depression consumes so many people, in the way that it’s consumed me in the past. In the way that it probably will consume me in the future.

The more I dwell on Williams’ suicide, the more it hits home: what if this is me 20 years from now? Hell, ten years from now? What if I’m at a point where I’m so low that I’m thinking of this ultimate long-term solution for my short-term problems? News reports say Williams had been “battling depression,” as if this were cancer. Sorry, but I’ve never “battled” depression. I’ve endured it, put up with it, shook my fist at it and cursed a thousand tiny deaths to it. No amount of medication or therapy can “combat” depression, and that’s something we need to understand. Williams was coping with depression, and inevitably he could no longer cope. “Battling” implies Robin Williams was waging a war against depression, and he lost the war. He committed suicide. He was “weak.” No he fucking wasn’t. Ernest Hemingway wasn’t “weak.” Hunter S. Thompson wasn’t weak. Virginia Woolf wasn’t “weak.” They couldn’t endure anymore. This wasn’t a battle for them. Depression is an ugly beast that haunts us and makes us do things we don’t want to do, and tell ourselves lies and half-truths we don’t deserve to hear, and ignore the love and hope that exists all around us. Robin Williams could not bear another day of depression telling him otherwise. So he opted out. And that’s what depression does in its finality. I fucking hate depression with every fiber of my body, because living with this motherfucker reminds me that someday I may be in the same shoes Robin Williams was the moments before he killed himself, and I ask to somehow find some tiny sliver of strength and courage to say, “Not today. And not tomorrow, either. I’m not dealing with your bullshit, depression.”

There is so much we don’t know about depression, and so many myths about depression. Of course we were surprised that Robin Williams would have committed suicide; he seemed so full of life, so joyous, yet he was at the right age when suicide is prevalent among men. How frightening.

This morning, I listened to Marc Maron repost his 2010 interview with Robin Williams. Fighting back tears, Maron expresses the same disbelief everyone feels: how could someone who just seemed so alive fall victim to the lowest depths of sadness and despair? The answer might be in the interview itself. With about ten minutes left in the interview, Williams talks frankly about his depression, and about having once ideated about suicide. He’s funny about this, of course, in his manic, off-the-cuff improvisational fashion, but it takes on a chilling poignancy. If somehow he’d listened to the very same advice he’d given himself during the interview. Give the interview a listen, I promise you, you will not have a dry eye when it’s over and done with.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance Robin Williams is seeing the immense outpouring of grief and love his death has elicited. But most tellingly, the Internet has collectively gathered to warmly remember him and his funniest jokes and his greatest scenes, and acknowledge both the actor, the comedian, the humanitarian, and the person.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams. Thank you for making us all laugh until we couldn’t breathe from laughing so hard. Thank you for remind us “It wasn’t your fault.” Thank you for being so alive.

And fuck you, depression. Fuck you for taking another life from us.

 

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24 thoughts on “The Funny Ones Are Always the Sad Ones (RIP Robin Williams)

  1. Not just the funny ones, the smart ones, the creative ones, the shy ones, the ordinary ones… let’s hope this opens some dialogue because the stigma is still so massive. I second your anger, rage and sense of loss. We have to keep shouting not just ta;king about what it is like to live with this illness. Great blog post.

    • There’s a lot of people talking, and the talk is good. Of course, there’s a smattering of idiots (I’m looking at you, Rush Limbaugh) who question what Robin Williams was so sad about. Fuck those idiots.

  2. Pingback: The Funny Ones Are Always the Sad Ones (RIP Robin Williams) | YES I AM CRAZY.

  3. Thank you for writing this…it was written well. You expressed the feelings that I didn’t know how to put into words. Depression sucks. Sometimes I don’t feel it as much…but it’s always lurking, sucking the life out of me. Robin Williams was an amazing human being & will be missed. Right now…if not for my kids…I think I would choose the same.

  4. Reblogged this on and commented:
    he was the very first actor I knew when I was a kid.. …..way before will smith. always called him bob from the movie baby steps up to date. will miss the guy a lot.

  5. I didn’t know how he died actually. That is.. wow. Perhaps it will, somehow, make it easier for someone, somewhere, to get the help they need. But, it’s… depressing, actually. Thanks for being brave and putting this out there. Poor Robin. I thought he was wonderful. Good post.

  6. My daughter’s first animated film obsession was Aladdin. Her favorite movie is The Fisher King. She said that having Robin Williams die was like losing a family member. As a fellow depression grappler, you stated what many of our tribe have said: “Holy crap, that could be me…in five years, a year, next week.” Depression makes you believe that those around you would be better off without your weak, whiny ass. It’s a horrible disease and, unfortunately, I CAN imagine how Robin Williams finally just had enough. It truly scares me.

    • “Everyone is better off without me.” Those are the words I think everyone who’s suffered from severe depression has uttered many a time. I know I have. And it’s frightening how easy it is to say those words.

      Thanks for reading, Laura. Nice to see you around here.

  7. In the end… it is a disease, is it not? I, like you, dispise the terms fight and battle. I’m not sure what I would use instead. I know I’m exhausted by the “dance” either way. I wonder… in the end, the disease still “wins”, doesn’t it? You write very well. I appreciate what you have spoken for “us”. But it is a battle, Gus. Just like any disease. I just took part in the ice-bucket challenge to supoort those battling/fighting ALS. I believe we all work very hard ever day to fight for another day. I am so sorry for Robin Williams. I can’t fathom the pain he was going through. But, he, like everyone fighting a disease fought hard… he just lost in the end. Thank you so much for writing!

    • It is a disease, and it’s exhausting. It’s just that when words like “battle” and “war” are used in the struggle against diseases, it suggests that some aren’t capable of “fighting” such a thing. I don’t know, I just find myself being sensitive to how some words are used, that’s all.

      Thanks for reading! Glad you agree with what I wrote.

  8. Great job here, my new friend. I think any of us who know this on some level get a hopeless feeling when something like this happens. Robin Williams was the first figure in my life that told me it was OK to be a little strange, be a little out there. I loved the spirit, even as a kid.

    As a man, I knew the fight he had on his hands. The quote about being alone among many people? that resonates so much, and it’s really the crux of what makes depression such a motherfucker of an opponent.

    • That’s the worst, when you’re alone with this depression and so many people want to help, yet you can’t find it in you to just push through and have someone just hold your hand and tell you it’s going to be alright. It’s the worst, but sometimes the breakthrough happens.

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