I can’t read a story about Robin Williams without tears welling up in my eyes. Reading celebrity tweets moved me to actual, uncontrollable tears. If you must know, I was almost sobbing in my cubicle at work.
It took a few of the messages to realize why I was so emotional.
Yes, I’m a human being and I love the work of Robin Williams. My Flubber VHS was practically worn out from constant watching and Hook is an amazing take on my favorite story. But it’s more than him dying.
Death is inevitable for all of us. At some point, it will happen. It makes life more beautiful realizing we have a finite amount of time to make a difference in this world.
We will all die, but some exit by choice. At least, that’s how I used to feel. I believed suicide was an act of selfishness, completely ignoring those around you who love and cannot live without you. In fact, I used to resent my father for his attempts.
My dad is bipolar, and not the kind where people assume you’re very emotional and call you bipolar. The kind where he goes from manic to depressive, riding a roller coaster of conflicting attitudes and medications trying to reach a ‘normal’ level that is challenging to obtain.
Several times he’s threatened or attempted suicide. I never understood how my father, this wonderful man everyone loved, could do that to me and my family. I spent nights praying to God and asking why I wasn’t enough to keep my father here. After more than a decade, I’ve finally learned this man isn’t my dad, not anymore. His disease has convinced him we don’t love him or want to be near him, that he’s a failure who’s worth more dead than alive. None of our words or actions can convince him otherwise, which is the hardest part.
My sister and I discuss how much Robin Williams reminded us of our father. Not just his looks (which are also eerily similar), but his demeanor. The twinkle in his eye and love you could feel radiating out of him reminds me of a time when my dad’s eyes weren’t filled with a darkness I couldn’t brighten.
Part of my comparison grew from Williams’ role in Mrs. Doubtfire. As a child, I loved this movie. It was hilarious. A man dresses like an old woman to nanny his children? Classic. A viewing with my father changed my opinion and understanding of his struggle, even early in my life.
On the surface, Mrs. Doubtfire is a story about a dad who can’t keep it together, but loves his children more than anything. His extreme process to see them after a custody battle helps him find his passion and eventually win them back in a small way. Happy ending, right?
I think when my dad watched Mrs. Doubtfire, he saw himself. A man believed to be a screw up (in his mind) who loved his children and wanted to do everything he could for them. He understood the harsh reality of shared custody and weekly visits. The movie was a representation of a man who lost his family due to his actions.
What my dad never learned, though, was Williams fought to get them back. I pray for redemption for my father, that he will rise to the top and be the best version of himself and love us and see us and find his passion. The problem is he never sees this for himself.
People discuss Williams’ passing with disbelief, citing how funny and kind he was, completely confused by his decision to end his life. That’s the nature of mental illness. It’s a silent killer, poisoning the mind of its victim and forbidding them to see the light at the end of their pain. You can fight it, but in the end it takes so many.
The mind is warped to believe you won’t be missed, things won’t get better and people are better off without you. It’s tragic. People with a mental disease don’t think like those without, they can’t rationalize with the voices. The brain betrays its body.
Even now, I sit here thinking and praying for the right words to say to those struggling, but I know my words hold no value against the inner war. I used to beg God to give me the right words to fix my father, but that’s not how it works.
Jim Gaffigan and Jimmy Kimmel mentioned mental illness in their tweets, and I’m happy to see people acknowledging this larger issue. There’s a social stigma that believes if you’re depressed you probably walk around moping all the time. Not always the case.
My prayer is and will always remain the world stops treating people with mental disease as ‘crazy’ and informs those who struggle it’s ok to get help. It’s the same as having a disease of the body, like cancer, only no one else can see the problems.
My heart breaks thinking of the dark thoughts that run through the minds of those affected. The sadness and hopelessness they feel that leads them to such drastic decisions.
I’m so sorry Robin Williams lost his battle. No amount of success, fame or money can keep disease at bay. There is no formula to happiness.
Dad, I know we aren’t speaking, but know always I love you and you’re important to me. I still believe you can be redeemed and come back to us.
To all those still in pain, seek help whenever it’s needed. Never lose hope.
We love you more than you know.