When I was 11 years old and first discovered that I wanted to be an actor, there was one man I admired beyond any other. One man I wanted to be when I grew up. That man was Robin Williams.
Robin was my first hero. Aside from my closest friends and family, there was no one more consistently in my life than he was. Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Popeye, Jumanji, Hook…These movies weren’t just the happy foundation of my childhood. They were on constant repeat as I drank in the glorious talent, joy, wonder, and commitment of Robin Williams. In happy times, Robin’s movies were something to study, and emulate. And in troubled times, these same movies were places I could turn to for escape and elation. As I witnessed what Robin did for me, I made a very conscious decision that I wanted to do that same thing for other people. That same dream keeps me going to this day.
As I got older, I also got to know Robin through his standup comedy, which I was listening to just hours before I got the horrible news of Robin’s death. Robin is best known for his manic transitions in and out of characters and accents (something I began replicating at a very early age), but much of his comedy was extremely dark. But Robin was able to use this darkness, to put it out for display without shame or censorship, so that his struggles could become the world’s laughter. I am inspired that Robin Williams, like so many comedians, was able to use his pain and create something good out of it for millions upon millions of people around the world. But I am so very sad that this same pain became too much for him.
Depression is a disease. Robin’s may have taken his life by his own hand, but in reality he died of a disease that society just doesn’t take seriously until it is too late. But even so, there is more to this story.
Robin Williams’ wife just revealed that in addition to his substantial psychological struggles, Robin was also beginning to experience the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease or Lewy Body Dementia – something he had not yet felt ready to share with the public.
Depression and addiction recovery are hard enough on their own…add on top of that a serious physical disease that is 100% guaranteed to get worse? The scenario strikes a deep chord with me, and I am profoundly sad.
I’m sad because I wish we lived in a universe where people’s mental and physical states were solely a reflection of their own acts and choices. I’m sad that a man who probably made more people laugh than anyone else who has ever lived was not allowed to be happy. I’m sad because of the cruel irony that a man who virtually never stopped moving would have been permanently stuck in a state of uncontrollable movement.
What an unimaginably difficult fate to live with…and though I wish with all my heart that Robin’s mind would have allowed him the hope to persevere, to become inspirational on an entirely new level – how could anyone possibly blame him for his choice?
I just wish that these weren’t the choices. More than anything, that’s what I wish.
I never got to meet Robin. My sadness is of course nothing compared to the friends and family who knew and loved him. But I’m sure going to miss him too. I think we all will.
Thank you, Robin – for changing my life, and for making this world a happier place to live in. It truly won’t be the same without you.