Robin Williams died on August 11th, 2014. It affected me deeply—it was a catalyst which pushed me taking my mental health seriously.
It seems silly to be profoundly shaken by a stranger’s death, but it floored me. I had to work that day, a Monday. I cried at my desk. I closed the door and I cried. I would start crying at random moments. I wanted to dig a hole and lie down in it. I floated around in a grey, numb haze for a few days, haunting my own spaces. I eventually mustered enough fear I might perhaps go down a similar path to Robin’s, and called a mental health hotline. I was afraid to tell anyone how hurt I was, I was afraid of being dismissed, judged, or ostracized; I already felt so alone, unmoored and drifting.
I’d been a fan of his work as long as I could remember. I started being interested in comedy around age 11, when I’d listen to comedy albums from the library and soak up all the Evening at the Improv, SCTV, Kids I the Hall, and SNL I could. When I flipped channels, I’d stop every time I saw someone with a bad haircut and a worse suit before a brick wall. I’d stay up late on Friday to watch Leno or Letterman (when Johnny Carson was on the air I was too young to care or stay up that late). I got deep into The Simpsons and Conan, and went through a protracted “Monty Python” phase, which many label as “being a dude”.
Through it all was the work of Robin Williams.
Only recently I’ve been able to listen to his albums and watch his movies again. I had the pleasure of watching “Hook” with my kids, their first time seeing it. If I were to recommend any one piece of his work which summed up his essence, talent, and humanity, it would be his appearance on “Inside The Actor’s Studio”.
Damn, he was funny. It seems could not be human if he wasn’t being funny. Also, James Beard’s makeup stopping abruptly at his chinstrap beard is kinda funny, too.
It feels funny to celebrate the life of someone who didn’t/couldn’t be alive. I’m not using “funny” so much because I am running out of words. It’s intentional; where I felt only a great deal of pain, I can now find a little ironic nugget of humor, which comes from a place of hope. It’s my slow-growing resilience showing up and flexing a little. I am stronger than I was a year ago, and in an odd way, have Robin Williams to thank for that.
Please get help if you are feeling signs of depression and having thoughts of hurting yourself or others. Do not take your light out of my or anyone else’s life.
RIP, Robin. And again, thank you for everything.