It’s now 5:20 a.m. and I’ve been awake for nearly an hour. Like most who heard or read the news yesterday that one of the most prolific actors and comedians ‘left the building’ by his own hand, I have experienced a myriad of emotions. My initial reaction- as my father always uttered when a loved one died, was “Ah, no.” It was as if someone had reached in and twisted my gut. Although I had never met the man in person, he seemed familiar since he initially entered my home in the form of a loveable, quirky space dude named Mork. Perhaps I felt a kinship with the character as someone who told her parents that she was ‘an alien baby left on their doorstep.’
His movies never failed to move me. Although I likely have watched most of them and enjoyed those that were Hollywood hits such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook, Good Morning, Vietnam, The Dead Poet’s Society and Patch Adams, it was the more esoteric that really touched me: Moscow on The Hudson, Toys, What Dreams May Come and Bicentennial Man. Each of those roles showed a different side of the man; his depth and range as an actor.
I remember watching an HBO special many years ago in which he flipped and flitted from one character to the next while guzzling bottle after bottle of water as sweat poured forth from him. He must have had a dozen of them on a table next to him. I wondered if he really did have that many characters within him and if he could truly tell who the real Robin was.
Last week, he came to mind and I told that story and commented that he likely experienced the symptoms of bi-polar disorder as had his mentor, Jonathan Winters. When I heard that he had voluntarily re-entered treatment for substance abuse, I cheered for him, since he said that he did it to avoid relapse. From an article in the Huffington Post:
Williams has struggled with substance abuse since the 1980s. He previously admitted to cocaine and alcohol addiction and entered rehab in 2006 for alcoholism after 20 years of sobriety. He later told ABC’s Diane Sawyer that his falling off the wagon was “very gradual.”
“It’s [addiction] — not caused by anything, it’s just there,” he said in a 2006 interview. “It waits. It lays in wait for the time when you think, ‘It’s fine now, I’m OK.’ Then, the next thing you know, it’s not OK. Then you realize, ‘Where am I? I didn’t realize I was in Cleveland.’”
Depression and addiction can be among the most insidious diseases, confounding those who experience them and even those of us who are trained to treat them. They are masters of illusion, convincing those who live with the symptoms, that reality is one way when it is indeed, another.
Who knows what went through Robin’s mind when he made the decision to end his life? Was it a sense of darkness so profound that no amount of levity could burst its way through? Had he simply been a witness to all the joy he brought others throughout his career and not absorbed enough of it to sustain his own life force energy? Did he not know how loved he was by his family, friends and fans?
“Death is nature’s way of saying, “Your table’s ready.” May you eat, drink and be merry, Robin and may your cup always overflow with love.
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