I remember the first time I saw Robin Williams. Everyone was talking about this maniac who was on this new TV show “Mork and Mindy” about an alien who lives in Boulder, Colo. Not really my cup of tea, but, as I said, everyone was talking about this show.
So I tune in and the first thing I see is Mork vacuuming Mindy’s apartment and he is singing, “One bottle of beer on the wall, one bottle of beer, if that bottle should happen to fall, no bottles of beer on the wall. ONE MORE TIME! A million bottles of beer on the wall, a million bottles of beer …”
I thought, okay, I like this guy already.
He had it all. A comedic genius, he was successful on TV, movies, animation and recordings. I’m going to guess he had more money than he knew what to do with. Or, as he would say, he was comfortable. He once said cocaine was God’s way of telling you, you had too much money. He and Robert DeNiro were in the room with John Belushi the night he overdosed and died. What I would give to have been in the room with those two. Robin said he cleaned up after that night, but he struggled for years. Maybe he was self-medicating.
Here was a guy who could take any serious subject and make it seem ridiculous, who brought joy and laughter to millions of people for over 30 years. He was successful in all areas of entertainment and yet it appears he killed himself. How is that possible? “They” say that he had been treated for depression and was suffering again. Sure, it’s easy now to look at recent pictures and see that the sparkle was gone from his eyes. His joy of living was no longer worn on his face. If a guy who had all that going for him was depressed, what chance do we have?
I have a friend who was hospitalized for clinical depression. He told me that without the medication, you can be fine for a while and then this heavy weight sets itself on your shoulders. And you get depressed. And you think, “Here it comes again.”
Then you get depressed about being depressed. Then you get depressed about being depressed about being depressed. And you get into this loop and there is no way out, and everything is so hopeless and you know the only thing that will change is that things are only going to get worse. It is nothing that you can snap out of it.
It is a chemical imbalance and can only be treated with offsetting chemicals, but you have to seek help. You have to admit to yourself that you have a problem and you need help.
There is such a stigma in our society about mental health that you do not want to admit to yourself, or anyone else, that you may be crazy. But you are not crazy, you have a disease. Good news, it’s a treatable disease. Doctors know what it is and they can treat it. But you have to admit you have a problem. You don’t have to suffer. Needlessly. Endlessly. There is help.
If a close friend or a relative starts showing signs of anger, substance abuse, excessive sleeping and thinks about suicide, these may be signs of depression. You and I don’t go around telling people how sad we are. We get sad and then something happens or someone says something and you snap out of it. But what if you couldn’t snap out of it? It would be scary and you would have to tell someone and see what they think.
Hopefully, the person you are talking to is wise enough and loves you enough to recognize what is happening and recommend that you see a doctor. If you had cancer or multiple sclerosis, you would go to doctor. This is the same thing. It is an insidious disease that will wrap its arms around you and drag you down to the deepest depths of despair. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is medicine to make you better. It won’t cure you, but you will be able to live with your disease. And that’s the next best thing to being cured.
Right now, it is sad to think about Robin Williams. But one day, soon, you will think of him and smile. Na nu, na, nu, sweet prince of comedy.
JohN Wallace is a resident of Leesburg.