The loss of Robin Williams was felt around the world.  In a career that spanned decades, he entertained us starting with his stand-up comedy routines that eventually led to appearances on the Richard Pryor Show and his memorable role on Mork and Mindy.  By the late 1970’s, his stand-up comedy had reached broader audiences and he began his movie career.  His break out role was in “Good Morning, Vietnam” and from there his talents graced us with an array of comedy and drama films.  We watched him in memorable movies like Dead Poets Society, The Fisher King and Hook.  He won his first Academy Award for his performance in Good Will Hunting and continued to entertain us with spectacular roles in films like Awakenings, What Dreams May Come and Patch Adams as well as voice work in animations like Aladdin, Fergully, Robots and Happy Feet.

His impressive career earned him the love of millions of fans around the world.  His roles were often either fun-loving or deeply touching characters which made him seem approachable.  He had likeability to his fans that made many feel like he was a friend.  And that is why his loss was so great and felt by millions.  Many were saddened by the loss of a man who brought happiness to so many yet had an internal sadness that some knew of and even fewer spoke of until his passing.

He was not only a charismatic actor/comedian but a philanthropist as well.  For decades, he did charitable work for Children’s Promise and in 1986 he teamed up with Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal to found Comic Relief USA, which as of 2014 has raised $80 million for the homeless.  He regularly donated to the Red Cross during crisis and founded the Windfall Foundation, a philanthropic organization to raise money for many charities.  He traveled with the USO, where he visited thirteen countries and performed to approximately 100,000 troops.  He also traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan to perform for the troops stationed there.

Williams was a wonderful friend as well.  He became friends with Christopher Reeve while studying at Julliard and Reeves spoke of William’s hospital visits being the first times he laughed since the horse riding accident.  Williams generously covered Reeves medical expenses when his insurance ran out and after the death of his widow in 2006, William’s gave financial support to the couple’s 14 year old son.  Those who knew him spoke of him being a sweet, caring and sensitive man.  While family, friends and coworkers were aware of his struggle with depression, none spoke of it until after his passing.  Even those who only got to know him on a casual level spoke of his kindness but underlying sadness.  Perhaps, it was the underlying sadness within that made his dramatic performances so captivating.

Williams himself never hid his battles with drug and alcohol addiction as well as depression.  He often spoke candidly in interviews of his addiction relapses and inner battles with a non-clinical form of maniac depression.  Admitting that sometimes he got very low with bouts of depression that hit him hard and explaining that alcoholism fueled thoughts of suicide.  Some of his stand-up routines included jokes about his battles with addiction as well.  His decision to get clean stemmed from the pending birth of his son Zak and the overdose of John Belushi.  Williams was with him during his fatal all night cocaine and heroin binge in 1982.  He finally got clean in 1986 and became an avid cyclist to help with his depression and sobriety.  Williams achieved 20 years of sobriety before relapsing in 2003.  He later stated that his relapses were with alcohol and that once he had gotten clean of cocaine addiction he never touched it again.  Williams admitted that he never really identified with the underlying cause of his addictions.  He started drinking again while filming in Alaska and sought treatment for alcoholism in 2006.  He achieved sobriety once again but in mid 2014, he again entered rehab for alcoholism.

Sadly, just a few months later on August 11, 2014, Robin Williams took his own life in his California home.  He left behind three children; a son Zachary, daughter Zelda, and youngest son Cody as well as his wife Susan Scheider.  His widow later released a statement regarding his latest battles with depression and recent diagnosis of early stage Parkinson ’s disease which he was not ready to share publicly.  His death is a terrible loss to so many.  It’s hard not to feel like you’ve lost a friend when you’ve watched them in various outlets for 30 years. While anyone who ever read one of his interviews knew of his battles, the way he could make people laugh made you think he would always win those battles.  Unfortunately, Robin Williams’ struggle with addiction and depression was a lifelong battle that he just got tired of fighting.

If you are struggling with depression-you are not alone, reach out to friends and family.  People struggling with depression often keep it to themselves but it is more common than you think so no one should feel ashamed if they are struggling.  Please reach out for the help you need.

Advertisements