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BIG’s Blog: Robin Williams

What is life, if not full of challenges?

Take any challenge in life … we all will react slightly differently depending on our pre-programmed personality. I like to say that life is a Bell Curve, and in any particular challenge or set of circumstances, a group of people will all fall out slightly differently in how they react. Some faced with a challenge will grit their teeth and take the problem head on. At the other end of the Curve are those who hide in their office or however else they run away.

Sometimes a mental illness is the reason for how we react.

Some people, it seems, need to ride the edge of the knife; that was Robin Williams. We now know Robin was struggling with depression.
He was as big a star as our baby boom generation produced, and we all loved him. As big a star as he was, he seemed like the kind of guy who, if we met him, would make us feel comfortable. We knew he would make us laugh because he could make any subject funny.

He first hit our radar back in the 1970s with Mork and Mindy. He was the manic comet we couldn’t get enough of. He didn’t need writers, it seemed, when he showed up on The Tonight Show or any of the other talk shows. His wit and non-stop banter kept us laughing and guessing what he would say next. He was the energy in any room. Any movie or TV show that he was in was a must see. Even as we quit going to movies, we made the exception for Robin Williams, because we knew our investment would be rewarded with hard-to-come-by laughs. He always made us laugh, even in his serious roles; they always had some laugh lines for Robin.

Robin Williams was out there for us, but he was living with mental illness. Mental illness affects one in four American adults each year, costing $193.2 billion in lost earnings, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. And of those 61.5 million Americans, 25 million live with depression. Nine of 10 suicides are committed by people suffering from a mental illness, and in 60 to 70 percent of the cases where depression was the disorder.

You’ve got to believe that Robin Williams always knew what was happening to him. Even we could see, as we all got older, that there was a hole in his soul. He was so funny, but when he quit talking, there was a faraway look. Then we heard he was in rehab again. The hole in his soul was covered over by the applause and adulation, but that was always fleeting and it was never enough. When the applause stopped and he had to be by himself, he must have felt all alone. He never looked comfortable alone.

The mantra today is “60 is the new 40,” except than when you’re sixty, you know it’s a lie. As the reality of being a 60-year-old man sets in and, if you’ve been like Robin, running so hard for so long and you know you can’t keep it up after sixty … you feel and see the end drawing near. It becomes real. You’re supposed to slow down, but how does a comet like Robin Williams slow down? And if you’ve fought depression along the way as Robin did, it starts rising again. The hole in your soul has never been filled.

If you don’t believe you were born on purpose, for a purpose, and you have no god to cling to but yourself, you are oh-so-alone.

And the depression really becomes too much …

We all loved Robin Williams and it hits us hard that one of us is suddenly gone too soon. It’s very close and personal because it seems he’s always been around.

Not all people with depression are suicidal, but a high percentage of those who are suicidal are depressed.

It’s a sign of strength to ask for help. Things can get better.

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