Depression and Robin Williams

After enjoying a fun evening of playing with my nephews and enjoying fellowship with my brother and sister-in-law, I opened my Facebook app to look up something we had been talking about.

The first three status updates were quotes of “Oh Captain, my Captain,” in various lengths. I immediately got
excited, because I thought Dead Poets’ Society was on tv.

I started to scroll further down, and I gasped so loudly that Joseph said, “Well, that can’t be good.”

The lives (and deaths) of celebrities don’t usually impact me much; I appreciate their talent and work but don’t hold much personal attachment to them.

Tonight, though, I was genuinely heartbroken to read of the death of Robin Williams. His body of work is interwoven through every facet of my life: I grew up with Mork on Nick at Night at my grandparents’ house; I was mesmerized by Hook; Aladdin made me want a singing Genie; Dead Poet’s Society made me believe that it was possible to teach with courage, passion, and complete abandon; my last Christmas Day movie date with my first love was to see Patch Adams; I laughed til I cried every week last season while watching The Crazy Ones with parents last season; nearly every unit of my worldview class contains some reference to one of his works, from Mrs. Doubtfire and The Birdcage to What Dreams May Come, because he chose roles that challenged traditional thinking, but did so in a thoughtful and tender way.

Yet with all the joy he brought to the lives of so many, there was always an intense sadness in his eyes that I could tell that he wanted to make people laugh so they wouldn’t experience the pain that he did. Some of the most tender, joy-giving, caring people are the most tortured souls who are simply trying to ensure no one else walks their path.

Those who struggle with depression are often the most empathetic among us, the most feeling and caring people on the planet, and their gift of feeling what others feel is also a curse, because often the weight is simply too much.

To be compassionate members of humanity, we must be cognizant of the pain of those around us, be willing to drop our own masks to reveal struggles so that others are empowered to do the same, and then walk alongside them to ensure we all receive the love, treatment (if needed), and support required to handle all that life throws our way.

To bear one another’s burdens can seem overwhelming at times, but to bear one’s burdens alone is truly unbearable.

Rest in Peace, Robin, with my humble thanks for the incredible gift you were to this world.

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