Monday, August 11, 2014

In Memory of Robin Williams

The death of Robin Williams hit me like a physical blow. I know it seems like overreaction, but it's true. He is an actor that defined much of my childhood. The minute I heard, the first person I told was my sister. We grew up watching his movies, laughing and crying and basking in the honest humanity of every character he portrayed. He had a way of making even the funniest characters truly human; he knew how to make people feel. Some of my favorite movies of his are the lesser-known ones, or at least the ones that don't get as much attention or acclaim, like What Dreams May Come, Death to Smoochy, and Bicentennial Man. And of course, as an English teacher, I absolutely adore The Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting. 

I know he's had a profound impact on so many people...Matt, who has never cared about celebrity deaths, actually felt moved to the point of posting a Facebook status about it...and that says something, believe it or not. 
"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer: that you are here; that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?" - Robin Williams as John Keating, The Dead Poets Society
What strikes me most about his death, beyond how talented and beloved he was, is that it shines a light on depression as something that is sometimes bigger than we are. It's sometimes out of our control; sometimes it just sneaks up and takes hold of us, even those of us who have the money - the means - to "fix" ourselves the way that society wants us to be fixed. Williams had the money to get the best help available, had proof through his amazing body of work that he was successful and loved throughout the world...and yet he got to the point where he could no longer go on. Sometimes we can't escape its grasp. 

I've talked on my blog before about my history and relationship with depression, and it's not really something that I want to go into in depth, but Williams's death is definitely something that hit home. I feel very lucky to be married to man who may not understand depression personally, but who at least understands that it is very real for me, who is willing to be there when I need him to be, and who helps me work through things in the way that I need to work through them.

Running has had a huge impact on my mental health, just as it has on my physical health, but I want to make it clear that often you need more than just a loving family and a healthy outlet in order to beat depression into submission. Please, please, please if this is something that you battle, get the help that you so deserve.

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline - US. Canadian Mental Health Association - information and help for those in Canada. Befrienders Worldwide - to learn how to provide support for those considering suicide.

Williams still had so much to offer the world, and we've truly lost a great man and a huge personality. But I do hope that we can learn from his death that depression and mental illness are real, and they're things that we need to destigmatize so that those who need help are no longer afraid to seek it.

Take care of yourselves.



  1. Very, very well said Ali. Often people think it's just a 'phase' or something that someone is going through and the stigma with getting help or taking medication to help is awful within society. Robin will be missed and I will always remember his laugh!

  2. I agree with Courteney - this is very well said. Robin Williams will definitely be missed.

  3. So sad. :( I have to say that I still love Mrs. Doubtfire! We owned it on VHS as kids and my little sister was obsessed! LOL. I have to admit I sort of was too. ;)

  4. So beautifully written. Depression is a very real thing and we need to be aware of it.

  5. Thank you for sharing. I'm glad your husband is a great support system for you <3