“When I’m awake, I don’t want to go to sleep. I don’t want the hassle of turning the light off, putting my head down and then all the thoughts. I don’t want all those thoughts…thoughts feed on thoughts feed on thoughts feed on thoughts and I’m; ‘I don’t want this’. I have to knock myself out.”
Robin Williams from the book Feel
It has been only a few days since the news broke and yet I still find myself thinking about it. His family and friends left behind crushed and asking painful questions to themselves and each other. A man who was generous with his money and time and a man who was adored by so many is gone. My first experience with Robin Williams was with his first movie role, Popeye. I loved it. Couldn’t get enough of it and I remember asking my mom if we could get canned spinach, to which she did. I opened it up took one look and decided against eating whatever was in that can. In pools, I would act out the octopus scene because I thought it was the best part of the movie. This would not be the first time Robin Williams affected my life.
The Survivors, Club Paradise and the Best of Times would be welcomed company for me on many a weekend afternoon. I must have seen those movies countless times and they never got old and I still watch them to this day. Good Morning Vietnam was one of my first R rated movies. I must have worn down the VHS copy of Hook because I had to watch the dinner scene with the Lost Boys and when his character realized who he was just one more time. Same thing would happen to my copy of Aladdin and Toys (an underrated film of his). Jack will always have a special place in my movie life because he portrayed the scared and innocent man child so perfectly that I felt in some instances he was talking to me, even as an adult. He also did drama…very…very well.
What a versatile actor, comedy and then would blow everyone away with drama. First one I saw was Good Will Hunting and he was incredible. His calm, confident portrayal of a grieving widower who has to counsel a snot nosed genius was heartbreaking, painful and honest. More would come with Insomnia, What Dreams May Come, Bicentennial Man, many of which critics didn’t enjoy but you could see his commitment to his roles and they were phenomenally played with seamless emotion and professionalism. More great roles would come and he would always be the best part if not the only part of the film that was great. What other great roles were waiting for him?
As a Christian who suffers from depression and questioning in those horrible times if God cares, I have intimate experience with the deepest one may go in their own mind with depression. I do not know how dark it was for him in those final hours, but I have experienced something like it. I may have never thought of suicide, but I did welcome death. Depression was always a tough thing to tell people about, not that I wouldn’t tell people if they asked, but I couldn’t make anyone understand what was going inside. In those times there was nothing more frightening than the darkness that would surround me for days, weeks, months and the utter hopelessness that I would feel. Surrounded by people, I would still feel alone, unappreciated, unloved, and unwelcome. The night would be the worst, especially when you’re alone in the dark and you pound away in your mind’s eye what is wrong with you, that things will never get better, this will never end, and everyone has abandoned or could care less about you, especially God. Hopelessness, despair, helplessness, these words still do not feel strong enough when explaining how deep the damage of depression can be.
I’ve known the darkness and more often than not welcomed it as my only friend. It looks like Robin Williams welcomed it one too many times and was crushed by it. My pastor told me of a pastor in Los Angeles who saw Mr. Williams come into his congregation one Sunday and had lunch with him. This was shortly after his heart issues and he was looking for answers. Years ago he was lost, maybe depressed and the depression was too great. I can’t get him out of my mind, how close have I been to that? Who do I know that could be going through this struggle right now? They may be and they don’t want to talk, they don’t think you would care, they are lost and in a lot of pain, I know all too well that sensation. If you’re someone like this, please talk with people you trust, I bottled it up for almost two decades because I thought no one truly cared no matter how often they said they did. If you’re a Christian, know that others like you are having the same struggles with trusting Christ; even David dealt with severe depression. No one is outside the grace of God, you may feel it, but it isn’t true and can never be. Praise God.