Actor Robin Williams took his own life today. By all accounts an extremely funny, extremely intelligent person, he lost a battle with depression. I’m probably more upset by this than I have any right to be — Mr. Williams being an actor and a public figure whom I enjoyed does not mean that he belongs to me in any sense. It doesn’t seem right to eulogize someone I have never, and now will never, meet, despite his featuring prominently in the entertainment landscape of my childhood. Maybe it’s just that his humor resonated with me, because I see similarities to my own sense of humor… and maybe because his actions today resonate with me, also.
Seems to me that it goes something like this: A good sense of humor is an indication of intelligence. Intelligence is a predisposing factor to depression and mental illness. People who are depressed are also more likely to be humorous, probably as a result of their higher intelligence and perhaps as a result of coping mechanisms developed to mitigate their depression.
Smart people are also marginalized in our society. Those who suffer with depression and other mental illnesses are likewise stigmatized. We use humor to deflect and cover up our wounds, and then we suffer quietly. Alone. As we spend more time alone, we are observed to be introverted. People who are introverted, on the whole, seem to be less desirable companions and are therefore sought out less by their peers. In the end, you get a bunch of smart, suffering, funny people with no close friends.
And then we kill ourselves because human beings aren’t meant to be islands (Bon Jovi had that right) but what choice does a person have when their territory is being colonized by naysayers and doubters and people who, in general, just want to make you feel bad for being who you are and enjoying what you like.
Seriously. Fuck those people.
This is what being a Stigma Fighter is about. Standing up to the unenlightened masses who would prefer to see a greatly homogenized culture instead of embracing and celebrating our differences, mental illness included. I wonder if Mr. Williams, had he known about our mission, would have joined us. Something tells me he might have done just that.
2 thoughts on “A perfect storm”
I’m always amazed by the responses that say “But he was so successful! Everyone loved him!” Etc, etc.
I’ve been depressed. I am still depressed. I know I have friends and family who love me, but in my darkest moments, I can’t see that because my thinking is distorted by the imbalance of chemicals in my brain. We have NO IDEA what it is like to live inside the minds and bodies of other people. I hope his family sees the compassion and support that they deserve.
I agree. I’m sickened by the thought of news media hovering over his family home. I’m sickened by the loss of someone so poignant and inspiring — just the fact that he was in the public eye and was able to speak about his mental illness was a triumph. It goes to show, as you said, that no matter how loved you are, how successful, or even fulfilled, a depressed mind is a distorted one, incapable of internalizing one’s worth. In those moments, I think it is a combination of treatment, acceptance, and compassion that is most successful. But who knows — sometimes the disease just wins out, despite the best efforts of all involved.