I'm manic/depressive, but Robin Williams' suicide couldn't have come at a worse juncture. I'm still in one of the longest downward spirals of my recorded mental history, in terms of being depressed. Quite literally, I'm experiencing psychomotor retardation, and my mind isn't focused, sharp or intellectually balanced in order for me to complete projects that are really a matter of urgency. Almost as if it was scripted, both my mother and my brother asked me recently why I "act like I'm moving in slow motion." Reading up on the subject of bipolar, I found that THAT is exactly what psychomotor retardation is. I don't notice it at all. Maybe I AM robotic, but I sure as hell can't tell. There's an opposite of it, I can't remember what it's called, but it happens when you're manic.
I don't want to do anything but sleep or sob, yet I find it close to impossible to do either.
The insomnia is a mystery, since I'm on the famous Ambien, which is supposed to keep me asleep all night, combined with the Valium I'm supposed to take at night. Still, I'm awake 2-4 hours in the middle of the night, fiddling about, giving in to what we insiders call the "Ambien Walrus." See, the walrus controls our crazy actions during the night, which oftentimes, we don't remember in the morning. I'm pretty used to the quizzical questions of "Why did you...." or "Where'd you....?" the next day from my family, or a week later "When did you order THIS?". And I either cry instantaneously or I don't cry at all. I didn't cry for Robin Williams until I read the Pagliacci joke. The tears of a clown over the tears of a clown.
How I can fly through writing a blog entry with no roadblocks is a complete mystery to me, but the last one I wrote, the night Williams died, took me all of 15 minutes, no bullshit. I suppose I require something which brings me passion to unleash the Writer inside my heart. I have to finish my Adler projects, but I JUST. CAN'T.
Pagliacci. The clown who cried tears. The clown who made so many so many laugh and marvel with his unique talents, who hurt so deeply inside. Remember the Smokey Robinson song?
Although I have numerous projects of dire focus, I've followed the stories and articles about Robin Williams with keen interest, I think, in an effort not to justify my depression, but to normalize it, if that makes any sense. Perhaps it's one of those instances during which you relate to and empathize with the afflicted when you metaphorically pat yourself on the head, or throw your arms around yourself for a hug (given there are only like 2 humans I know around who hug me regularly, Luke and Meg), in an effort to reassure yourself that you'll pull through this.
My brother helps care-take this woman who's either schizophrenic or with major depressive disorder, who refuses to stay medication compliant. She tells my brother that she feels more like herself and better without the medication. Then he questions why I take so many different drugs, and wouldn't I be healthier off of all that medication. The short answer is no, because I would definitely kill myself. The long answer is that I've been on a finely tweaked cocktail of drugs for so long, I wouldn't know a "normal" me from an "abnormal" me if it stared me dead in the face. I've struggled with mental illness since my early 20's, and like Williams, spent far too many years self-medicating with drugs and alcohol before seeking proper psychiatric help. At first, the drugs sapped my creativity, which saddened me and no, I didn't feel like myself. But as I adjusted to them and them to me, and in therapy, I began to realize that the creative in me could come alive again with enough practice. I took up drumming again. I began writing again. It flowed naturally.
My best friend, Kate, asked me if the development of my sense of humor was a reaction to having lost my father when I was a child. I'm funny. I'm witty. I, at least, make Kate's insides hurt with laughter (which I sort of feel guilty about, seeing as she has Crohn's Disease!) Williams' mother was an alcoholic, like my father. I think, to a degree, that's correct in assigning it as a coping mechanism. Kate asked me to elaborate on the subject in hopes of understanding from where Williams' despair rooted; some type of explanation as to why someone with such a bright life and promising future would kill himself. Suicide and suicidiality is difficult to explain to someone who hasn't trenched through it....I mean REALLY trenched through it, calculating a plan, arranging things in order, putting on a facade of happiness, giving away prized possessions. This is what I answered Kate:
"From my perspective, the loss of my father amplified what was already my goofy nature, which came from him. I do think making people laugh was a way to gain acceptance and friendship from other kids who might otherwise not want to be my friend. Obviously, my sense of humor has matured (slightly) and it's more intellectual now, more cheeky, more crude, but underneath that silly exterior is still, though I'm a 42 year old woman, an 11-year old girl who just wants love. If Robin's mother was an alcoholic, he may have felt similarly. When there's pain at home, or family problems, you try your damndest to put on a brave face. Williams just happened to hone that craft to the point of genius. He was VERY good at what he did, and made sure to take care of everyone around him, and as I've read, was very loving and giving. Those who knew him best said that he'd give every ounce of energy to make other people happy but didn't address his own problems or take care of himself. That's the nature of the child of an alcoholic, too. You become the ultimate caretaker. Adult children of alcoholics want to be peacekeepers, and want to stand out with at least one positive quality about themselves. For Williams, it was his comedic and actor genius.
This death has broken my heart, because I know the depths of that depression and the glare of ending the pain once and for all. Thank God for Luke. And, like I said in my blog, I wasn't making myself out to be a martyr, but it takes someone who's been THAT depressed and has self-medicated through drugs and alcohol SO LONG that it's a unique club of people who can honestly relate."
I've been reading varying perspectives on the soul of one who commits suicide, as I am chiefly a Christian, albeit lapsed, and universally, apart from religious fundamentalist extremists, God met Robin's soul and said, "It's not your fault." I'm not sure from where the position of "automatic hell" as a result of suicide came from, but it's not valid.
I've read tributes and reactions from fellow actors and comedians, and yes, some have been mean, but for the most part, everyone's heart is broken. (Except Rush Limbaugh. Don't EVEN GET ME STARTED ON THAT SHIT PANCAKE, who had the balls to blame the suicide as a leftist political movement of liberal America to thrust a vicious agenda. That's just total bullshit.)
I've taken a break from worrying about Hamas and Gaza and Israel and Palestine to personally reflect on matters which affect my own heart. For those who think Robin Williams was a "coward," or a lesser person for taking his own life, screw you brother OR sister, because you weren't in that room with him tightening the belt.
Depression can be physically overwhelming. It can cause physical pain as well as emotional turmoil, and you can only put that humorous face (like Pagliacci) for so long until you crack. I'll be interested in hearing when the toxicology reports come back whether or not he had any substances in his body at the time of his death, but I'm going to take a blind guess and say no. One might argue, "But no one in his right mind would hang himself if he wasn't on drugs." Bullshit. Depression propels you into a constant state of not being in your right mind. For those who deem it an act of selfishness towards those left behind as a result of a suicide, please do not think that the feelings and love for family and friends were discounted. It's the depression which overtakes you. And it's a chemical imbalance in the brain. Left untreated through both medication and therapy, it will kill you. Literally. Mental illness can be as fatal a disease as cancer or diabetes, and there's no romanticizing of it.
I certainly hope Robin Williams frolicked to a packed house in Heaven yesterday, causing God to chortle and the angels to wet their robes. And I hope he did it this way: