Ave Atque Vale, Robin Williams

Friends, we’ve lost another one. It’s been ten minutes since I heard about the death of Robin Williams, and I’m starting this with the tears still on my face because I have to begin expressing it.

Robin…oh, God damn it, Robin, not you. Please let it not really be you. You know I’d never judge you for doing it, but could you please just sit up and tell us it was all a colossal joke?

Depression gets mentioned a lot in the articles about this, but I know your picture was broader than this–you lived with bipolar disorder and a decades-long history of addiction, making you dual diagnosis like me. Although I feel kinship with every addict and everyone battling mental health issues, I can’t help but feel a special empathy for those who live with the intertwined duality as I do.

The circumstances of your death are going to be rehashed a lot in the upcoming weeks–and as I wrote about your fellow actor Philip Seymour Hoffman in Goodbye Again, there’s going to be a lot of shock that doesn’t really belong. What’s happened to you isn’t that shocking, because it’s happening all over the world to others with these conditions. Your talent, imagination, resources and incredible spirit bought you time, but they didn’t make you immune.

Others will list and praise the diverse elements of your awesome body of work, as well they should. But I want to praise the work nobody saw.

Robin, I know–someone knows–what you had to do to stick around as long as you did. Some of that journey got expressed in your art, but much of it was solitary. Some of it happened in the dark watches of the night, or rang in a piece of music you listened to over and over again, or got traced in invisible lines on the places you may have thought of cutting but didn’t, day after day and year after year. Signatures on admission papers, choosing life over pride several times. Drugs untaken, drinks unpoured. Hours with family and friends, setting aside panic or despair to try to interact for a while.

You inspire me (present tense) to continue trying to release my creativity and my weirdness in recovery. You remind me to value passion above propriety.

Many are grieving over you today, and I believe some of them will come away with more of a gut-deep comprehension of the nature of depression and other issues. They might grasp the contradiction for a moment, and see that someone can be all of the things you were and be this too. Maybe they’ll remember it if they ever need some help.

You’re my hero, Robin. I hope you knew some people who identified with you and made you feel less alone. I wish I could have been one. I wish I’d been famous, or published, or something, so that maybe you could have seen something I wrote. Don’t judge yourself for what’s happened. Don’t belittle what you achieved. Don’t you dare.

5 responses to “Ave Atque Vale, Robin Williams

  1. Reblogged this on Musings Along the Way and commented:
    I know I haven’t posted for quite a while, but the passing of Robin Williams and especially this blog response definitely warrants a repost.

  2. Hi Lori, thank you so much for what you wrote! I think it expresses beautifully a side of dealing with non-physical health issues (ie, mental health, emotional trauma, psychological issues, addiction issues, etc.) that maybe many don’t understand: all the lonely nights, the internal fights, the struggle just to interact with the world. I’m so deeply saddened that love lost out, and that despite Mr. Williams having loved ones supporting him, he believed that there was no hope left.

  3. Brilliant, gut wrenching, bittersweet, beautiful…moved me to tears again. Thank you for putting to words what I could not say this eloquently.

  4. Very well said. Hopefully his death will help to decrease the stima and not sensationalize

  5. You’ve managed to write what I feel.

    Thank you.

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