(my brother and I with his Mork from Ork poster – November 1979)
Honestly, I wasn’t a big Robin Williams fan. I mean, I’ve watched and enjoyed a few of his movies – Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, The Dead Poet’s Society, and Good Morning, Vietnam do come to mind … but I was probably more of a fan of his as a child because my little brother and I loved to watch Mork and Mindy (my brother even had a pair of Mork suspenders!).
Our family just isn’t movie watchers in general. Hollywood doesn’t really appeal to us … and though I catch a little celebrity gossip here and there, it doesn’t affect my life one bit! Daniel’s cousin is actually an actress, living in Los Angeles, and she acted with Robin Williams in a movie I’ve never seen called Bicentennial Man (she played a character called Galatea). When his death was announced this past week, she recalled some of her memories on Facebook of working with Robin Williams and confirmed what many people have already said: he was a very kind man, very generous, and he was hilariously funny.
Yes, the news of his depression, his addictions, and now coming out that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease is very sobering and sad. I am thankful it brings the subject of all this – to include suicide – to light again. I have read a plethora of articles via Facebook now (because I’m interested and because I’m nosey!) with opinions and analysis about Robin Williams’ tragic death – many of these articles written by Christians or put out by Christians organizations. Everyone seems to have something to say – ranging from suicide being a “choice” to admonishing the church to be more aware of depression, addictions, and suicide.
I don’t have enough wisdom to really say with conviction what my own opinion is … so, why am I writing about Robin Williams tonight?! I guess because I have thought about him and his family a lot this week despite my lack of knowledge about him … and while I’m not here – as one article warned – to say if he is in Heaven or Hell (his dad was an Episcopalian minister!) … I do feel something unnerving about knowing a person can be so incredibly kind – good to support the troops – benevolent to support St. Jude Children’s Hospital – open and honest in interviews about their personal problems – who made others happy … but then despair so much as to kill himself.
I have heard the gamut of analysis from Christians that depression is a spiritual problem to others stating depression is a chemical imbalance and just like cancer or diabetes, it is a manageable but incurable disease. Many people who have dealt with depression will tell you that until you experience it, you can’t relate. An assistant pastor at our church addressed it briefly on Wednesday night, saying depression is a “black cloud”.
My husband currently works in a Mental Health Clinic. And the gamut is there: those who are addicts and drug seekers to those who are truly troubled and chemically imbalanced to those who just end up in depressing situations and need some help coping. It is a whole new world for my husband as he is generally an optimistic, upbeat, happy person … although
We have known depression and despair. Me, more than him – but at a point when he had been unemployed a few months, laid up with a broken leg, unable to do anything but lie there, he admitted his thoughts did go to the idea of being worth more “dead than alive”. While I have confidence that he wouldn’t have killed himself, I know in the deepest of despair, one can think those thoughts … thankfully, we have JESUS. HOPE. and FAITH that “everything will be alright” as long as God is in control. However, that doesn’t mean things will be easy and sunny every day.
I have had my own periods of depression – there are several times in my life when I truly can say I was situationally depressed (a term a Christian counselor used for me shortly after our 2nd child was born, when I probably had a touch of postpartum depression). I think I was depressed during our infertility years, then for a period of time after my miscarriage in 2002 and in following years at the time of the anniversary of our loss; there was a time period working in the ministry when I was just overwhelmed and despondent. And other times, too – sometimes just for a little while – sadly, for a year or two other times. And looking back, I think I was depressed, but mostly, I was just very unhappy.
Surprisingly, when Daniel left his job and was unemployed and then disabled for 6 months, I was actually NOT completely depressed – other than a few days where things just hit me and left me sobbing – but those times didn’t last long. I think I’d learned by then that God was not out to destroy us, that He loved us, and He was doing a work in us. I also think I was more aware of His Hand because on a regular basis a seeming miracle would happen: money came in the mail anonymously or through friends, our $90,000 hospital bill was completely forgiven, or I’d see a quote or a Bible verse at just the right time. I believed God had plans for us … I had hope.
In the last year, we’ve been rebuilding our lives here … It hasn’t been easy because we are truly starting over – and at our age, we should be looking forward to paying off a home, helping our kids with college funds, and planning our retirement. But due to our choices in the past as well as the unexpected, uncontrollable situations, here we are almost worse off than when we were newlyweds. There have been times in the last year I have been “down” … and I had my own way of coping – to withdraw from people, to not be open to new people and situations, and to just generally not talk to anyone … except my blog where it is easy to edit how I present myself. But I still have hope for the future.
So, while our situation compares in NO WAY to Robin Williams, his story leaves me sad because I guess Robin Williams lost HOPE. I’m an empathetic person, so stuff like this bothers me even though it doesn’t affect me. How very sad to lose hope … to not have faith (or to not be able to have faith) that there is a reason for our life – in the good and the bad.
One of our favorite Hollywood movies to watch is It’s a Wonderful Life, and I think I’d rather dwell on its message. If you know the story, things didn’t work out seemingly very easily or quite as the character George Bailey wanted either…he did the right thing even when he didn’t want to, he had some hard knocks, and he was opposed all the way by evil, old Mr. Potter. But the ending was happy because George did what was right and the consequences positively affected many others, and he was told, “You see, George, you truly had a wonderful life.” I know we have, too!