There are certain moments in your life when you know exactly where you were when you heard the news. The moment Reagan was shot. The Challenger explosion. 9/11. Shuttle Columbia breaking up over Texas…
For me, the news of Robin Williams’ death was the same type of visceral moment. I was sitting in my car at a Thorton’s gas station in Brandon, FL. Anyone following my Facebook would have seen the picture I had just taken – two bottles of Coke labeled “Friends” and “Family.” A cutesy message, nothing earth-shaking. Then I looked at my messages and I saw the alert that had come in from MSNBC three minutes earlier.
Robin Williams was dead.
And not just dead. Dead from an apparent suicide. Such a violent way to die.
I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. God, please let this be a hoax, I thought as I started hitting every news site I could access, trying to find out additional info. But the news was numbingly consistent. Robin Williams had been fighting depression over the last few weeks, and was last seen alive at 10 p.m. the night before. Sometime in the middle of the night, the darkness took him, and he ended his pain.
I drove home, my guts twisting inside. Robin was a hero of mine, but probably for a different reason than for most other people. Everyone saw him as a brilliant, funny, thoughtful performer who came to his performances with a wonderful manic energy. But I saw him as something completely different. Like me, Robin Williams suffered from Bipolar Disorder. And for decades, he was the example of someone who could survive – no, thrive – in their life despite the disease.
I want to do what his waif asked – not focus on the way he died, but on the way he lived, the joy he brought to all of us…
But I can’t. Not completely. Because he was my hero for being the one of us who succeeded. Yet in the end, the dark side of the cycle took him. I won’t go into the details of his death but it was violent, angry death. You cannot imagine the pain he must have been in to choose that as an exit.
I don’t have to imagine. I’ve seen the edges of that much pain. I’ve been in those dark spaces for times, but been able enough to get out. I’m one of the lucky ones. Although my bipolar is disabling, I get regular treatment for it – counseling and medication. But Robin had those, too. And in the end, they weren’t enough.
My hero died yesterday. The darkness took him. And I am willing to admit it has me scared, What if I’m not strong enough next time the darkness comes for me?