Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Goodbye, Robin Williams

When I heard about the death of the actor and comedian Robin Williams I was grief stricken. How is it even possible to be upset by the death of a person you never met, never knew in any way whatsoever, other than by virtue of their screen presence? I don’t know, but I felt a jolt of genuine grief for the passing of this man I never knew.  I read report after report about his death, and I cried. I cried for a man I never knew in any capacity whatsoever, except by virtue of his presence on the screen.

I loved Robin William’s work as an actor and comedian. I loved his films and his stand up routines, his appearances on chat shows. He made me laugh, but more often, when the laughter stopped, I felt sad. News of his apparent suicide made me cry, but I wasn’t surprised by it or shocked. To me there was a sense of inevitability about it. I always thought that even at his funniest, even when he was making an audience split their sides with laughter that there was something achingly sad about him. There was always a shadow of loneliness in his eyes. All his voices and characters, all his manic, witty, insightful and observant outpourings were covering a terrible, innate loneliness and fear. He was, I think, a man who never really felt at ease with who he was, who never really knew who he was, and that is a tragedy. 

Depression such as he suffered from never really goes away. It's a constant battle. Oh yes, sometimes there’s a ceasefire and people think you’ve beaten it, but it’s still there and you know it’s going to come back, and keep coming back. When you’re young you have the hope, if you fight hard enough, that you will win, and you really will find whatever the hell you think you’re looking for. As you get older you realise that the thing you are looking for isn't a 'thing' after all, it's a who and that who is you, and always, always out of reach. It's a fearful thing, never to be at ease with yourself. You get tired. The battles with depression get harder and harder to fight.

I think he just got tired.

Goodbye, Robin Williams. You were a beautiful, talented, funny and compassionate human being who brought happiness to so many people. If there is a God and you do meet him I hope he will give you what I think you probably longed for all your life - a clear sense of self, a sense of worth, and most of all, freedom from that soul sapping inner loneliness and fear. Be at peace. 

The one hope that all who suffer from depression must hold onto is this -  one day, someone, somewhere, will open the window that truly sheds light on the painful mystery of mental illness.  In the meantime, keep battling that mean old bastard, Depression. Don't let it win.

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