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Like most of you, I heard the the sad news about Robin Williams tonight. Probably unlike most of you, I'm feeling strangely unmoved by it. I actually wish I was sadder than I was, I feel like I ought to be for some reason and I certainly don't fault those people who are. I guess I'm just a little too young for his best movies to have been central to my life the way they are for some people. That seems to matter.

All lives, of course, are valuable. But I suppose I'm talking about when losses affect us personally, when this doesn't just feel like the tragic death of someone we didn't know well. According to the NIMH (via this advocacy site), bipolar disorder (which Robin Williams had) shaves about nine years off your life expectancy and as many as one in five die by suicide. It's not a rare thing. Distressingly so, actually.

The one thing I'm really struck by with all of this is that people tend to think (certainly the ones I know in RL) it's the gloomy folks who are at risk for suicide, but it seems to me it's the ones who have their happy faces screwed on so tightly that are really probably the saddest of all, in their way. i really don't think I'm at risk for suiciding, but I know a thing or two about masks. I know how I feel this compulsion to seem cheery and upbeat so people won't peer too closely behind and maybe see how broken I really feel sometimes. Or how mad, or sad, or generally not together. There are a lot of reasons for that, which probably vary from person to person, and that's a topic too big to go into right now. I do think it's a good reminder: that those people who smile the brightest are sometimes trying to cover up a very bruised heart.

Mr. Williams' death has me thinking about a particularly favorite Doctor Who line which has lightened the load a bit when faced with sad news. I'm not sure it works entirely as a description of what he clearly fought against, but maybe it will give some of you some comfort. My thoughts are with everyone affected by this man's death, in whatever way.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
shirebound
Aug. 12th, 2014 12:45 pm (UTC)
I remember him all the way back to 1974, when he guest starred on "Happy Days". Forty years of delight in his work has made me sad and reflective that he struggled for so many years to find balance in his life.
azalaisdep
Aug. 12th, 2014 01:50 pm (UTC)
You are spot on about the masks. I know from personal experience that it is often when I am most depressed/stressed that I find it most difficult to admit to anyone (including sometimes myself) that I am struggling. I imagine (and to some extent know, from having heard people like Stephen Fry talk about it) that that's magnified when one is in the public eye, as RW of course was. I think that's true for many people who suffer from depression, and of course it can be very dangerous because it means we don't get help/support from those around us, and keep going till our body, mind, or both just keel over.

(I believe there is a theory that this may be the evolutionary basis for severe depression, the sort where people just can't even physically drag themselves out of bed - that it may be your body forcing your conscious mind to stop pretending that everything is OK, and your brain simultaneously trying to insulate you from stressful circumstances by putting you into that totally apathetic, simply-cannot-summon-up-the-energy-to-give-a-damn deep depressive state...)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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