I was sixteen when Robin Williams killed himself. I had spent the hot summer day in August swimming with my friends, followed by getting food at a friends’ family restaurant. It was there that the waitress, Linda, ran up to our table and asked us,
“Did you guys hear about Robin Williams?? He killed himself!”
I denied it immediately. There was no way that Robin Williams, one of the main faces in comedy for me and so many others, had done this. I looked it up, and low and behold, it was the truth. The time following the news is blurry for me. I fell into a slump, binge watched all of his movies, and bawled my eyes out to them. How could a man that seemed so happy even fathom with having the thought of ending his own life?
This is where many of us learned that happiness can easily be faked.
As his career began to take off, his drug addiction got out of control. In a recent HBO documentary, Come Inside My Mind, he discusses how there are days he would stay up all night, then go to work and he couldn’t remember any of his lines and his anger would increase over time as the bags under his eyes became more prominent.
According to Robin’s widow, he struggled nearly his entire life with drugs, but was clean for at least six years prior to his death. Not only drugs, she says he did struggle with depression for most of his life, but also claimed that depression did not kill him. In her own words, “Depression was one of let’s call it 50 symptoms, and it was a small one.”
Robin was also misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He instead was battling Lewy Body Dementia, which in certain areas can have symptoms more severe than Alzheimer’s. Lewy Body Dementia occurs when protein deposits affect brain chemicals, making things like memory and behavior change over time. He struggled to learn his lines for roles and was extremely paranoid. He felt himself deteriorating before his own eyes.
This was a man that made a gorilla laugh.
The man that sent another man to the ER because he was laughing so hard, he got a hernia.
It wakes you up and forces us to realize that happiness on the outside isn’t happiness on the inside. Robin left behind him a legacy as one of comedy’s brightest and most talented faces. Movie after movie, classic after classic, Robin Williams has had a place in my heart since I would rewatch the VHS tapes of Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Jack as a kid, a place that can never be replaced.
(Me at sixteen on Halloween night…No one knew who I was.)
Comedy has a way of involving the complicated battles that people can go through every day. Robin was just better at hiding it.