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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Aspiring to Not Be Overwhelmed by Sadness

Here I sit again, writing a humble homage to a great artist who has left us too soon. I wrote on my old blog about Michael Jackson when he died five years ago. Like him or not, he was a magnificent talent, the likes of which we may never see again. I feel the same about Robin Williams.

What is it about great artists that makes them feel so much, too much, then want to escape? I believe we are blessed with the presence of artists so we can learn more about ourselves, gain insight into issues we might not otherwise consider and learn how to be empathetic with those different from us. Artists teach us about beauty, sadness, the plight of the human condition. They make us laugh and cry. They may even irritate us at times, make us feel uncomfortable in our own skin. They teach us. Robin Williams did all of these things for me. What a talent. I've listened to people on TV who knew him and say what a kind soul he was, how down to earth and interested in those around him. Not only was he a gifted comedian and actor. It sounds like he was a great human being as well.

I was in nursing school 22 years ago and the subject of Robin Williams and Bipolar Disorder came up during my psych rotation. I've never forgotten one lecture my nursing psych professor gave in which she said (to paraphrase) that psych professionals believed Robin Williams lived in a constant state of "hypomania" where he was able to be "manic" most of the time and lead a "normal" life. My professor said these professionals (who were published leaders in the field of psychology and psychiatry) were waiting to see what happened when the ball dropped and he fell into a major depressive episode, because no one--not even Robin Williams--could live on such a manic level and maintain their sanity. The ball has dropped, and now we know what happened. 

I realize it has come out in recent years about his depression, manic-depression and substance abuse issues, but this was back in 1992. I don't recall knowing this much about him back then. I'd been interested in his personal journey ever since. I'm so sad to see it end this way. 

On one hand, I (sort of) get it. Depression runs in my family. I've dealt with episodes of depression. I'm on an antidepressant now. I wish I didn't need it, but I do. It helps keep me grounded, on an even keel, and I appreciate that about its effects. When I'm not on it, I'm more sensitive, more irritable, more snarky. I don't pretend to know what Mr. Williams' depression was like for him, and I'm not saying I understand suicide, but I can appreciate feeling things too much. If I allow them, many things in the world can hurt me. If I allowed it, and if I wasn't on medication, I could wallow in sorrow. Sometimes I think my writing is better when I'm not on medication, but the rest of my life would suffer. Relationships would suffer. They're more important to me than my writing, so on the medication I'll stay. But I get it. I get self-medicating and numbing so you don't feel as much. I'm a numb-er (see previous posts re: disordered eating and food issues. ;o)).

My thoughts and prayers are with his wife and children. I hope in some small way they are able to feel the love and positive energy being sent their way, although I'm sure they're devastated. 

I have many fond memories of Robin Williams, but I'm posting this one because I'm an avid golfer and I find this very funny. I apologize ahead of time for his language. He uses the F-bomb like 200 hundred times. I hope you can get past that and appreciate the humor of the piece. He said on Inside the Actor's Studio that he hopes there's a lot of laughter up in Heaven. 

There is now.

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