What a shame! What a pity! Who would have guessed? What could he possibly have lacked in his life? He had a loving family. He was rich and famous and funny. His name was a household word and still, he suffered from depression and addictions.
How could he have been depressed when surrounded by so many people and shown so much love by his family and friends and co-workers? Why did he not seek out the clergy and convey his deepest and most darkest thoughts to an audience that is paid to listen to such? Why did he take the final leap into the abyss of death? Death by hanging. It sounds like a mystery novel of great suspense, something from an Agatha Christie novel or M.C. Beaton or Robert Barnard. Let us find his killer; that elusive enemy of the mind known as depression. Where did it go and how can we make it pay?
Have we not taken the stigma out of mental illness? We’ve certainly talked about it often enough. Haven’t we? I mean, it’s not exactly uncommon for a person to suffer from depression. At some point in time, who hasn’t? But we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and we go on with the business of life. We don’t wallow in darkness and sadness and gloom. We reach for the light and laughter and gaiety and all things fun and funny. He was our funny guy. Where is he? He is supposed to make us laugh and keep OUR demons at bay. How can he have been just as human as the rest of us? We put him on a pedestal and once there, he could not let us down. He had to put on a brave face for the world, every single day as it was expected of him. That is why he was paid the big bucks and owned the big houses and expensive cars.
Was it too much to ask him to don a wig, put on a dress and become Mrs. Doubtfire? He had only to tell us that he hated being called Mrs. Doubtfire. We would have understood. It was all in fun. He knew it was just a character. He was still a man playing a role. That is what acting is all about. Why couldn’t he have kept up the act, continued playing a role of funny man, actor, father, husband, friend, associate?
But alas, what comes with fame and fortune? The need to continue living a lavish lifestyle despite marriage and divorce and marriage and divorce and children and another marriage and the sitcom fails and the big screen beckons once again and the toll it all takes on an aging body and the need for an emotional escape from it all. It is too much, too overbearing and I would be cut dead on Rodeo Drive if I got out of my second hand Toyota Rav4. Oh the shame of it and after I had once sent such expensive gifts to friends. How I would be laughed AT, the brunt of jokes, the outcast, instead of the bearer of jokes and one of the cast?
Oh no, the doctor says that I have Parkinson’s! What am I to do? The bills! The ex-wives! My lifestyle! Dear God, help me! If the tabloids get wind of this, they’ll run with it while I have to be funny and put on a brave face all the while knowing that the show must go on! I cannot fail! To know such anguish! Such shame! It is not to be endured. What use is rehab? I want a drink! I am not cured! Why? Why? Why? My life is over!
The 63-year-old was found dead at his home in Tiburon, California, on Monday. He is believed to have hung himself.
Williams had recently sold his California ranch, and there was speculation that he was experiencing money problems.
“There are bills to pay. My life has downsized, in a good way. I’m selling the ranch up in Napa. I just can’t afford it anymore,” he told Parade magazine.
We must all realize that there is still a stigma associated with mental illness, just as there is a stigma associated with poverty. People cannot help being mentally ill nor can they help being poor and the two need not go hand in hand. Those who have experienced fame and wealth feel that they will become ostracized if it becomes well-known that they are afflicted with an illness of the mind. The pretense must be kept up at ALL cost and unfortunately, some pay the ultimate cost. They escape the only way they know will finish it completely and finally, by the taking of their own lives. Many of us cannot understand how a person could become so depressed for whatever reason that they feel that the solution is death. But as you can see, such is the case and unfortunately, Robin Williams will not be the last. There are so many Robin Williams who are nameless and faceless and who had people who loved them but because Robin Williams was considered a ‘success’, his death is all the more shocking because it was assumed that he had it all. His addictions are nothing new! Hell! That’s like a right of passage in the world of entertainment. Who hasn’t been in rehab for drugs and drink? Many would be surprised if a famous actor, actress, comedian, singer hadn’t been in rehab. In fact, rehab has no meaning anymore. It’s like a revolving door. They say you’re good to go until you return and return, you will.
But keep in mind that we only talk about mental illness and the stigma attached to it when some famous person is found to have been suffering from a mental illness and subsequently kills him or herself. It does not bother us to know that everyday people of no particular fame or fortune are committing suicide because of their inability to cope and they run completely out of hope. We can never know, even family members, a spouse or anyone close to a person that is suffering from mental illness, just what is going on inside their head that would cause them to wish themselves, dead.
We have created a society whereas stress is overwhelming many and with it comes hopelessness and despair. The need to keep up with the Joneses is of paramount importance and if we cannot keep up the pretense, we have failed. We all fail these people because we continue to perpetuate the belief that you are indeed a failure if you cannot maintain the status quo and smile all the while. Until we change what we have deemed important; money, fame, big houses, fancy cars, lavish living, ‘Robin Williams syndrome’ will become even more of an epidemic. Count on it.
A white man hangs himself
while a Black man gets lynched.
Oh the vagaries of life
they just make no goddamn sense!
Shelby I. Courtland
©2014 Shelby I. Courtland