I hope Robin Williams will be remembered for his talent and not for the fact that he took his own life, or that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I usually avoid celebrity “news”, but having received the same diagnosis over a decade ago, I have followed both the tributes and speculation following his death.
We may never know the connection between Robin Williams' diagnosis of Parkinson’s and his decision to take his own life, but I wonder if depression was a factor.
Robin Williams was a funny guy. YouTube was inundated with searches of now historic interviews with
With such a large following, I wonder what could have triggered such a horrendous decision. Perhaps knowing he was a gifted actor and an exceptionally talented comedian, made his recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s unbearable.
He was not unfamiliar with depression, having experienced failed marriages, and addiction issues. His diagnosis of early stages of the disease was recent, and he had yet to make public his new reality.
I can only imagine that as he became more familiar with the unique progression of the disease and how it would compromise his voice - his exceptional, gifted, voice - he gave up hope. How sad.
Medical research may find a cure, and medication and treatment may manage symptoms, but how do you cope with the parallel track of depression that can leave you so vulnerable?
If you are depressed because of Parkinson’s, how do you maintain the active lifestyle so essential to the treatment of the disease? How do you emotionally adjust to the way people look at you? How do you adjust to the way you see yourself? There is a fine line between being sympathetic and feeling sorry for someone, between having compassion and feeling pity. Crossing that fine line can trigger depression.
I waited six months before I told my family that I had Parkinson’s. I wasn’t in denial. It was a conscious decision not to swallow it whole. Not to let the worst-case scenario become the norm.
Robin Williams had gone public with his alcoholism, and managed to achieve sobriety. He was close to his children. So what happened once he was diagnosed? Were there any signals that went unnoticed? Did he mask his depression? Emotionally, had he fallen into quicksand, which silently claims you limb by limb, making it impossible to reach out for help?
I recently moved to Dundas, Ontario, a small community bordering on the city of Hamilton. Recently, while browsing through Amarettos, an eclectic boutique, I shared my book with Debby, an associate of the store. I wondered out loud to her, if the standard course of treatment for Parkinson’s would ever include mental health assessments. If blood tests could diagnose depression, could they go further and determine one’s capacity to cope?
She told me that while he was in Dundas filming Man of the Year, Robin Williams had been in the store. That she had met him and shared a few hugs. He was so genuine. His death was a tragedy and for her a personal loss.
Suicide wasn’t the way his life story should have ended. Unlike in the movies, this ending can’t be rewritten.