Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Stream of Consciousness

Writing often shapes my thoughts much better than pure thinking ever can.

Why am I so sad today?
I am a member of the Mork and Mindy generation--I was one of the kids that grew up wearing the rainbow suspenders to elementary school, greeting each other with an ear twist and "Nanu-nanu."

I am one of the few who saw Dead Poets' Society on the big screen--I was almost 20 and so newly married that I was on my honeymoon.

I am a fan of his work--I followed from small screen to big screen and back again. I always wanted to see what he came up with next.

There was something about Robin Williams that translated through the screen to the people who loved him and his work. Never intentionally mean, his humor was unpredictable and zany, but no matter where he went with his antics, you always knew he would never cross the line into cruelty. Somehow, we knew he'd been at the other end of cruel and hated how it felt to be in its crosshairs.

Those who knew him and worked with him talk of his kindness, his sweetness, his true generosity--his inner self that couldn't be hidden. The world could see it and loved him even more for it. I wish that he had seen it in himself--had been able to hold tightly to what we all loved about him.

Could my sadness be that I lost a friend--a fellow traveler here on Earth who, like Mork and like me, was always struggling to find where he belonged?

Could my sadness be that, for all of his success, in the end he lost--he never appreciated that his true greatness was his generosity of spirit?

Could my sadness be that he purposely took himself from us--and that no one close could stop him?

Could my sadness be that I know depression--the disease that led him through addiction, past reason and reality, to an untimely end?

Depression. It's almost a forbidden topic in our generation of third world problems like cracked cell phones and slow internet. What do we have to be depressed about? For those who suffer from depression's insistence that life is bleak and dark, even a basket full of red-ribboned puppies can't bring joy. Unless you've ever agonized in its embrace, you can't understand how unbeatable an invisible foe can appear. A close member of my family suffers from chronic depression, and although I don't think suicide has been a consideration, I have seen depression paralyze, enrage, incapacitate, and isolate. I have seen the resignation that comes from the inability to permanently defeat it.

It's not just close family that suffers from this disease. I've never talked about this before, but I have felt depression fight for my own soul as well. I've wallowed in the solitary confinement of my mind, desperately praying that relief would come through more sleep or more food or more . . . something. Anything that could remove the pain and darkness. I know the self-loathing that comes from being unable to escape its grasp.

I've been pretty lucky. Although depression can be chronic, mine is not that way. After relatively short periods languishing in the pit, I've been able to pull myself out with exercise, prayer, scripture study, activity, and on a few occasions, medication. 

My sadness over Robin Williams's death must be that now when I see his face--that distinctive profile and those kind, mischievous eyes--I will see myself and others who fight this battle within ourselves. His mark on this world may have been larger than life while he lived, but his death may give voice to millions who suffer in silence and anonymity from the same illness.



  1. A very beautiful tribute to him. I grew up on his work as well (the period of Mrs Doubtfire, Fern Gully, Hook, The Birdcage and the like, though I have seen Mork & Mindy, as well as most of his body of work) and I feel as though I have lost a friend.

  2. such a loss the world has suffered!
    mork & mindy, dead poets, good will hunting, etc...i know and love them all!
    thank you for your beautiful words jen

  3. This is a thoughtful tribute. I think you described what many people experience but don't really talk about. He was a special man.

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