August 11, 2014

Joy and Sorrow, Hope and Despair - Wavering Between Light and Dark

I had just opened the door after work and had taken one step across the threshold when The Boy rushed up to tell me this sad news: "Mom, Robin Williams hanged himself today! I can't believe he would do that. It's so sad."

Like most of the world, I am shocked and saddened by the death of Robin Williams. Though I never met him, I've gotten to know a little about him (as we all have) over his four decades in the entertainment industry.

I am touched by this actor's absence with an intensity I wouldn't have anticipated. 

Comic genius. Kind friend. Charitable human being. Loving father. Drug user. Alcoholic.

And role model for The (bipolar) Boy.

For the past 13 years, I've held Robin Williams up as an example of a man who has lived a wonderful and successful life despite his many challenges with his mental health.

There have been many studies about the connection between mental illness and creativity...and many more about creative people who take their life to end the struggle with their demons.

And I can't help but think what would become of me if The Boy decided to end his life. His first attempt was when he was six - that's when we found out he had bipolar disorder, in all of its highs and lows.

Robin also served us as an example of the negative behaviors that can occur (and the consequences that inevitably follow) when caught in the hypnotic grasp of mania. From the safety of our home, we could watch him rev up and get going - and wonder when his whirling dervish of a mind would stop. 

We've had many conversations - no, strike that. I've lectured The Boy incessantly about the many reasons he can never use drugs (that haven't been prescribed for him), or drink alcohol. He is aware that his prescribed medications would not serve him well when combined with other mind-altering substances. He may never forget the horrible experience with hydrocodone after his wisdom teeth extraction, when he became combative and violent and stabbed me in the hand with an ink pen.

Far removed from the turmoil Robin Williams experienced, The Boy and I often talked about how important it is for him to take his medication and to let me know when he feels, in his words, "a little too happy".

Now who will The Boy look up to (and get courage from) when he's in the throes of a deep depression?

Who will be his beacon? Until we find one for him, we'll work together (with his doctor) to keep him on an even keel.

This quote, from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran, describes why Robin Williams' death makes me sad:

"When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight."

You can read the entire reading here.


  1. It IS such a horrible tragedy. When I told my husband (he hadn't been online and it wasn't on the news at that point yet) he didn't believe me, and it WAS unbelievable--a man who brought such joy to the world, a man who had such genius--could have taken his own life. We talked about Williams' tough childhood (rich parents who didn't spend time with him--he was alone with a nanny most of the time). I remember an appearance Jonathan Winters (another comic genius) made with him--I think Robin Williams got him out of a mental institution on a temporary basis for the show--and thinking about that fine line that runs between the stability and the instability of people who are geniuses.

    I hope your son finds a new beacon soon. We all need role models to move towards...

  2. I've been sad all day about this. Not in a sad-sad way, but a little overwhelmed, remembering everything Robin Williams gave the world. I'm trying to get back on the blogging train, and I'm happy that you haven't yet left the station. Hugs to you and to The Boy.


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