In the wake of Robin Williams suicide, I am compelled to contribute my thoughts.Yeah, I am sure by now your a little tired of reading about this subject.That’s alright, I am too but I need to write this anyway.
Williams was a true genius.He could transition from mapcap lunacy to thoughtful insight at the drop of a hat.His comedy had a rare quality of letting the viewer peek behind the curtain occasionally to see the softer, sometimes sadder side and it was believable. He revealed the pain behind the playfulness, the tears behind the laughter.
Watching an recent interview, I was astonished by how profoundly sane this man sounded.Even though he would interject with various characters, voices, and facial expressions, he sounded intelligent and lucid.When he was asked about the on going war in Iraq, he appeared to be sincerely concerned and yet exasperated by the whole situation.We live in a world where we have been doing the same things over and over again, for centuries, expecting a different result. That is crazy. Robin Williams. like many comedians, was a court jester who used his humor to make us laugh and because of this, he had a license to address uncomfortable truths.
What a lightning rod he was!!
Comedy is most effective when it serves as an antidote to the pain of life.Strangely enough, I had a dream the other night where I was at a party with some people I work with.I looked out the window into the street and witnessed a breathtaking bolt of lightning hit the ground and then catch fire.When I woke up, I looked at a dream dictionary online to find the meaning.One source said that lightning represents a sudden insight and awakening and/ or a shocking turn of events beyond our control.Lightning is powerful and unpredictable. Imagine being a sensitive person who is constantly bombarded with stimulus from their environment.It can be uplifting at times but also draining.Powerful energy like that needs a place to land.It has to be grounded.A lightning rod is grounded to the earth. I am sensitive myself and I am constantly being reminded how important it is to stay grounded.For me, this means staying connected physically to the earth by spending time outdoors, being exposed to sunlight and moonlight, breathing in the freshest air possible, and even walking around in bare feet when as I can.This is an essential piece of the puzzle that is missing in our high tech society.To the modern world, this seems so simple, how could it possibly make a difference? It doesn’t make sense.Well, it doesn’t have to make sense as long as it works.
It doesn’t make sense for someone like Robin Williams to take his own life.He had millions of fans worldwide who adored him.He had colleagues who respected and admired him.He had family members that probably depended on him.How could this happen? As someone who has, and still does struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts, I know what it is to be in a similar position.To the outside world, it doesnt make sense.Nevertheless, when you are in a place of despair, the only thing that make sense, truly makes sense, is ending it. Period. Think about the nature of addiction.To an addict, it makes perfect sense to spend their last dollar on a cocaine binge.Recently one of my dear, recovering friends shared a story about partying with another guy one night who said he couldn’t buy more drugs because his rent was due the next day.To that my friend replied, ” Rent??? Rent is tomorrow!! “.We both roared with laughter at the telling of this.It revealed a sobering fact. When you are an addict, the addiction is doing the talking.The addiction is calling the shots.You can’t reason with an addiction.Once you are in the throws of such a thing, you are completely powerless and it’s only the grace of God that will keep you alive.
There are two things that infuriate me about the way society deals with depression.The first is that we should never be depressed.We should never be sad or even angry.Actually, why even have feelings or emotions at all? It just gets in the way.It’s a major inconvieniece.Snap out of it.
The truth is, in my opinion, it’s okay to feel sad.It’s essential to allow yourself to grieve a loss or acknowledge pain, disappointment, or resentment.Sad is not bad.Bitter is as important as salty, sweet, spicy, and sour.When working together, all these components create rich flavor.We live in a time when people crave more and more sugar. (Are we seeing a pattern here?) We want a quick fix and a happy ending to every story.Life doesn’t always happen that way.In fact, experiencing a time of disillusionment and despair can be like a rite of passage.A “dark night of the soul”, if you will, that can lead to a place of more meaning, gratitude, and purpose.Elizabeth Lesser’s book , “Broken Open” does a fine job of arguing this point. She shares powerful examples, some deeply personal, of failure, tragedy , and loss and the gifts they can bring if we are open to them. Still,as a society, we don’t always have the patience to endure that part of the process.
Here is the second.
I realize that severe depression is a little different.I get it.It can be debilitating.What then? Reaching out to a friend,talking to a councilor,or attending a support group can be a huge help.Medication may be recommended in some cases.Okay, got it, but this is what makes me angry.
What about food? No one ever seems to ask, “What are you eating?”
Your brain, my brain, everyone’s brain needs quality food to function.When depressed, some reach for unhealthy foods while others stop eating all together.Unfortunately, this is when we need nutrients the most.I realize that there are various books on this subject and I am not completely alone in this matter but by and large, this viewpoint is ignored.I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered a troubled soul whose diet was abysmal at best.I am talking about loads of sugar, processed food, caffeine,you name it.And what about water? Are you kidding? Not everyone is quite as reckless.There are those who eat fairly well but are they eating what they should for their specific needs? Are they getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids? B vitamins? Do they have a food allergy?.It is astonishing what havoc an allergic reaction, for instance, can create in the body.Something so tiny and insignificant as a nut or mold spores can create such a complex immune response in one person while it does nothing to another.I, personally, can eat peanuts and shellfish all day long without incident while for someone else, it is life threatening.I used to think I had to avoid all dairy products until I realized it was lactose that was causing me trouble and not casein.I can tolerate some cheeses and not others.Go figure.For me, there has been a lot of trial and error.Look, I am not a nutritionist so I can’t diagnose anyone, not even myself, but I have learned from my personal experience how food can affect mood.Unfortunately, in the case of depression, this is usually a last resort.
It doesn’t make sense does it?
I will tell you what also doesn’t make sense, the far reaching impact of a seemingly tiny act of kindness.A kind word of encouragement, a phone call, a hug, or even a simple, “I hear you” at a time when no one seems to be listening can mean the world to someone who desperately needs it.It can also be the difference between life and death.
Another thing that bothers me, while I am on the subject, is how hard performers and artists work to maintain their level of excellence and how little it is appreciated.For someone like Robin Williams, it appeared effortless but I am sure it wasn’t.It takes years and years of practice, experimenting, rejection, revision, as well as countless hours pacing the floor waiting for the phone to ring.This is something even the greats strugggle with. Uncertainty is something that even a talent as famous and sucessful as Robin Williams had to grapple with.
Again,it doesn’t make sense.
There is one thing that is beginning to make sense to me, as I write is this.
I have been guilty of wanting to understand everything.I want guarantees.I want to know how, exactly, it’s all going to work out before I make a move.This is poison.It paralyzes you.When you analyze you paralyze.
Insight doesn’t always come about by searching or reasoning.It can be like a bolt of lightnining.
Thanks,Robin.Thanks for all the laughter.Thanks for all the hard work.Thanks for showing us earthlings that you are more human than we thought.Most of all thanks for giving me the ability stop being so damn hard on myself (at least for today) and accept that I am not alone.Even the brightest stars fight the same fears and demons.I wish you could have come out of the other side of this despair without taking your life but maybe we wouldn’t have paid attention.Again, No Sense Makes Sense.
I love you.
Rest in Peace.