I’ve been feeling angry lately. Some of it has to do with getting over a chronic cold and not being able to abide by my normal routine of working out, cooking food that isn’t crap, and being social.
But a lot of it also has to do with the fact that I’ve been spending too much time on Facebook. I scroll through my phone and sigh at depressing news headlines, read hateful comments with disgust, and sometimes offer my own color commentary. Commentary which typically reads like a mathematical equation of why I think so-and-so is an idiot.
There is so much hatred and divisiveness in our world. And I know I’m part of the problem.
This week, Robin Williams’ death was officially deemed a suicide.
When Robin died in August, it really affected me. I knew about Robin’s history with mental illness and addiction. And I always sympathized with him, because I also struggle with mental illness. Coincidentally, I am on the same depression medication that Robin was taking before he died.
When Robin died, I couldn’t help thinking, “Is there still hope for me? Will I eventually end up in the same boat? Despite all the medication and the various treatments, will it one day just be too much to take?”
According to reports, it seems that Williams’ suicide could have been due to several factors: a combination of mental illness and a form of dementia that could cause hallucinations. There were no drugs or alcohol in his system. Just normal levels of anti-depressant medication and caffeine.
But that evening in August, I sat in our home office and sobbed uncontrollably, wondering if it was all hopeless. I watched the clip of Robin’s brilliant, Oscar-winning performance as Sean Maguire inGood Will Hunting and how expertly he cut Matt Damon’s character to the core with his character’s brutal honesty and life experiences. I could see Williams channel both the dark and light side of himself into that unforgettable character.
Then I saw someone share a clip from the movie Hook. It was the scene where one of the lost boys takes Robin’s face in his hands, examines it, pushes it into a smile, and declares, “Oh there you are, Peter!” The person who shared it said, “This scene kind of depicts what people like him suffering from mental illness need. Someone who sees who they really are and will stand on their side… no matter what.”
Oh man. That one really got me.
Tuesday was Veterans Day and my husband watched Black Hawk Down. After watching it, he said, “Man, that was sad. I could really use a happier Veterans Day movie.”
“What about Good Morning Vietnam? That’s kind of happy,” I offered.
So we put it on. And as Robin belted his famous, “GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM!!!” and hammered through that brilliant first monologue, I became teary-eyed from both laughter and sadness. There he was, being Robin, dishing joke after joke and doing what he did best: making people smile and laugh. I know the movie is a work of fiction loosely based on a real person. But to think of it… his character’s antics boosted morale in what was the worst place on earth.
And that’s what Robin Williams did throughout his career. He boosted our morale through good times and bad. He took his pain and instead of letting it destroy him, he breathed joy and happiness into the world. He encouraged us to not take life so seriously. He inspired us to be kinder to each other.
I think that was part of Robin’s personal regimen for keeping his mental illness at bay. I know I’ve used humor myself to cope with depression and anxiety. Humor helps me forget. And if I can make someone else laugh in the process, that brings me joy. And it makes me feel like I have a purpose.
But I know I haven’t been that person lately. And due to that, I’ve questioned my purpose.
Glenn Beck also made the news this week, with the revelation that he has suffered and undergone treatment for a neurological disorder.
While I feel sorry for Mr. Beck, I think he is an example of someone who has used his gifts to inspire more hatred and division in this world. I hope that changes. Maybe it will now that he is well. But time can only tell.
Robin suffered as well, but he used his gifts to bring people joy. And that’s not what killed him. I think that’s what kept him alive for 63 years.
This week I decided that I want to be more like Robin was. I want to try to bring people more joy instead of bringing them down. I want to stop arguing with people so much and dismissing them for ridiculous reasons. Instead, I want to make them laugh. I want to encourage them. I want that to be my legacy.
It’s worth it to at least try to leave the world a happier place than it was when you entered it. I’m going to try.