Where were you when you heard Robin Williams was dead? Much like JFK’s assassination, Williams’ death has become one of those seminal moments that thumped people hard in the chest and made the earth stop spinning for a long tearful moment.
If that wasn’t enough, when the word got out that Robin Williams committed suicide the shock was even greater. Sure, we knew he had fought with drug and alcohol addiction, and it wasn’t news to anyone who’d watched him that Williams was wrestling with his own demons but still, how could a man who had everything — money, fame, worldwide adoration, healthy children, and even an Oscar for Pete’s sake — take his own life? All of a sudden, Williams became the Richard Corey of our age.
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
I read Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem about Richard Corey in junior high school but never really understood it and I’ll bet you didn’t either. It wasn’t until I read Danny’s blog post about Robin Williams’ suicide that I understood a little bit more about Corey and Williams and my son.
Danny wrote in part: “The death of Robin Williams affected me twice over. Not only had a childhood hero of mine passed away, but he had taken his own life. As someone who has been engaged in a lifelong struggle with depression, learning of his suicide crushed me more than I could’ve predicted.
Depression is a monster. It’s ugly, and relentless, and manipulative. It turns you against yourself, and transforms you into a weapon with which it attacks you. It feels like a mountain on your shoulders that only gets heavier. It doesn’t give up, and it doesn’t disappear. Sure, it may leave you alone for a while and with treatment may not ever come back as strong, but it never truly goes away. Depression isolates you from everything around you, makes you feel alone and hopeless. The worst part is the self-induced Stockholm syndrome that makes you feel as though everything you’re going through is completely justified, like you’ve done something to deserve it. It’s an infinite loop of pain.
You can’t even begin to comprehend depression without experiencing it. It just doesn’t make sense. I can’t count the number of times someone has told me, “Just cheer up,” or “Get over it,” or “What do you really have to be so sad about?” While possibly well-intentioned, this kind of stuff only makes it worse, because you ask yourself, “Well if it’s that easy to just cheer up, what’s wrong with me that I’m not able do it?”
Danny’s post knocked the parental wind out of me, both literally and figuratively. Of course I knew my little boy was suffering, but I never understood the depth of his pain. I’m embarrassed to admit I probably still don’t despite my own personal struggles with episodic depression.
As of this posting, Danny’s blog has been read by thousands of people, shared 300+ times, and earned more than 1,000 ‘likes,’ and that’s only the metrics I can find. All comments have been empathetic, most have been insightful, and some have been revelatory. But the most consistent emotion is thanks from people who now understand a little of what they, or their loved ones, have been going through.