Monday, August 11, 2014

I Will Be Your Robin Williams

Today, I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of one of our greatest comedians, Robin Williams.  I was even more saddened to hear it is likely that we lost him due to suicide.  Tears were shed.

If any of you are suffering from depression or you know someone who is, please know that there are resources to get help.  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's website can help.  As their website says, no matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living.  By calling 1-800-273-8255, you'll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime, 24/7.

I have had my own experiences with depression, and I know how dark things can seem at times.  When we lose fantastic loved ones due to suicide, we often look back in hindsight and wonder "Is there anything I could have done?  I wish I would have known what they were going through so I could have tried to help.  I wish I would have called or stopped by to see how they were doing."  Survivor's guilt can be quite the burden.  So is depression.  

I understand how a loss of hope can cause one to go down a dark path like that.  I understand how desperation taints the ability to figure out alternate ways of ending the kind of pain (physical or emotional) that causes the suffering.  I understand that feeling trapped can make people want to get out of their situation by any means possible.  I understand that sometimes the people who make you laugh the most or seem to have it "together" the most can be going through their own problems that probably nobody will ever know about.

I also understand that suicide leaves the friends and loved ones feeling deep regret over what they "could have done" to prevent such a loss.  At the same time, I understand that sometimes people don't necessarily think about that when they are so desperate to end it all.  Sometimes they just don't care because the pain is so overwhelming.  Maybe they even rationalize that "life will go on eventually" once they are gone, and the mark they leave on the world won't leave a huge void.

Just scrolling through the reactions on my own social network feed - reactions from people who never even met Robin Williams - proves to me that we, as humans, will probably never really understand just how much of an impact we make during our short time span on this earth.  We really don't understand how that impact will continue to change the world once we are gone either.  After we lose friends and loved ones, we often say things such as "I still can't believe you're gone.  I always considered you a true friend, and you will be sorely missed.  You will never know how much you meant to me, and I'm sorry I didn't get to tell you one last time."  When you think about it, it is kind of sad that we always seem to wait until people are gone before we try to tell them how much they meant to us.

Sure, we can try to make a difference in our world while we still can.  The average person won't necessarily touch the lives of countless audience members like a comedic actor like Robin Williams could, but we can all still try to make a difference in the lives of our loved ones and friends.  

Even though I never had the opportunity to meet Robin Williams, I will always remember him as an eternal comedian and an undeniably excellent friend to his college roommate, Christoper Reeve. 

When I have friends who are sick and dealing with absolutely awful things (like fighting cancer and whatnot), I do my best to try to make them laugh. I tell my good friends: "I will be your Robin Williams." If you're wondering what the heck that even means, read this story, taken from Christopher Reeve's Wikipedia page:

For the first few days after the accident, Reeve suffered from delirium, woke up sporadically and would mouth words to Dana such as "Get the gun" and "They're after us." After five days, he regained full consciousness, and Dr. John Jane explained that he had destroyed his first and second cervical vertebrae, which meant that his skull and spine were not connected. His lungs were filling with fluid and were suctioned by entry through the throat; this was said to be the most painful part of Reeve's recovery.
After considering his situation, believing that not only would he never walk again, but that he might never move a body part again, Reeve considered suicide. He mouthed to Dana, "Maybe we should let me go." She tearfully replied, "I am only going to say this once: I will support whatever you want to do, because this is your life, and your decision. But I want you to know that I'll be with you for the long haul, no matter what. You're still you. And I love you." Reeve never considered suicide as an option again.  
Reeve went through inner anguish in the ICU, particularly when he was alone during the night. His approaching operation to reattach his skull to his spine (June 1995) "was frightening to contemplate. ... I already knew that I had only a fifty-fifty chance of surviving the surgery. ... Then, at an especially bleak moment, the door flew open and in hurried a squat fellow with a blue scrub hat and a yellow surgical gown and glasses, speaking in a Russian accent." The man announced that he was a proctologist and was going to perform a rectal exam on Reeve. It was Robin Williams, reprising his character from the film Nine Months. Reeve wrote: "For the first time since the accident, I laughed. My old friend had helped me know that somehow I was going to be okay."

More from MentalFloss:

At Julliard, roomies Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve vowed to always be friends and help each other throughout life. Both held true to the promise, as they remained close. Williams even covered some of Reeves' medical expenses after he was paralyzed. Of course, being Robin Williams, he couldn't stop there; after Reeve found out he couldn't walk again, Williams channeled his inner-Patch Adams, visiting Reeve dressed as a doctor and pretending to be his proctologist. Reportedly, the act caused Reeve to smile for the first time after his accident.
Suffice it to say, Christopher Reeve had a true friend in Robin Williams.

When one of my good friends was battling thyroid cancer, I chatted with her about her hospital visit after her surgery.  Here are some of the chat quotes:

My friend: Then later the nurse was like - want a popsicle?  So I was like "A popsicle?  A POPSICLE?  You have popsicles and didn't tell me?"  It was a huge rainbow freeze popsicle.
Me:  "Hell yes, I want a popsicle!  That's dessert!  What kind of ridiculous question is this?!  'Do I want a popsicle?'  What kind of idiots do they have running this place?!"
I could include more quotes, but I will only include one more quote - the most important quote of them all.
My friend: Thanks btw... You kind of helped get my mind back in a normal state of mind.
Laughter helps take the sting of pain away.  It softens it.  It relieves stress.  It forms bonds of friendship and camaraderie .  It helps us stop worrying about the terrible things that we are going through - even if only momentarily.  It gives us a healthy perspective.  It helps us cope with our troubles.  It helps us power through difficult times.  It helps us remember that there are good times and good things to be experienced in this world.  As the old saying goes, sometimes laughter is the best medicine.

My wish for all of you is that you may all be so lucky to have someone to be your "Robin Williams" in your lives.  In honor of this great comedian, I hope this post will inspire at least one of you  - among my incredibly minuscule readership - to get out there and be someone's "Robin Williams."