I have many friends who struggle with depression, even friends who have attempted suicide and were thankfully unsuccessful. It was those friends I spoke to the night he died, because only they know the kind of pain Robin Williams must have felt. I knew I had to check on them.
My heart breaks for his family. As a member of a family who has also been touched by suicide (not everyone I know who attempted it was unsuccessful) , the shock of Monday night reminded me of my own punch to the gut after receiving that phone call years ago. Every time we lose someone that way it's the family I always think of first. The pit in my stomach I felt back then within my own experience was felt again on Monday night.
The more I've thought about Robin Williams' passing, the more I've realized how many lessons his work and his life have taught me.
Improvisation is not only okay, but wonderful.
Robin Williams was a master of improvisation. There are stories upon stories about his time on Mork and Mindy, but the one I personally loved was a moment in "Flubber" from 1997. During a scene where he his playing with a ball of this new rubbery material, Robin Williams as Professor Brainard stretches it out and sticks his face through it. Of course, Robin Williams had nothing in his hands during filming, and the "flubber" was added in during editing, but him sticking his face through it was no where in the script. The producers, instead of cutting that moment because it was two difficult to deal with, not only turned it into a wonderful moment in the film but discovered incredible breakthroughs in special effects while learning how to make Williams' face appear stretched out in the substance. That small moment of improvisation taught an industry new tricks.
Improvisation can also be a beautifully useful tool in life. The ability to adjust to every situation while still being ready for all possibilities is an incredible strength to have. When my father's cousin passed away, I had to drive about four hours to the funeral. My dad, always looking out for his little girl, wanted to know what my plan was for where I was going to stay the night. I honestly didn't know, but after he continued to press me for an answer I said, "I've got a full tank of gas and an overnight bag. I'll figure myself out." My dad just laughed and said he knew I'd be fine. I was.
However, when someone is so beautiful it's perfect, don't mess with it.
"Good Will Hunting" won Robin Williams a well-deserved Oscar. If it is a film you haven't seen, fix that. Now. After the movie came out, many people asked Robin Williams how much of the movie was improvised, since its an incredible strength of his. He did admit that the line about his wife farting was improvised, but for the most part he stuck to the script. I read an interview where he talked about how well written everything was, and that he didn't want to mess with it. It was that good.
I get asked all the time if I ever wish I could go back and change things in my novel "An Unusual Path". After spending so much time in a story, how can I just walk away from it without still wanting to tweak it? Now, I'm not saying its a good as "Good Will Hunting", but when I finished the story I knew it was right. That may be hard to describe, or difficult for someone else to understand, but when something is done and perfect then it's done and perfect. Believe and trust in that, and confidently be proud of your work. Own your own amazing accomplishments proudly.
Laughter can improve almost any situation.
I don't need a specific moment or anecdote from Robin Williams' life to talk about how he made us laugh. "Patch Adams" comes to mind when I think of how love and laughter can have an incredible healing presence, but there are others. When life gets difficult, even when the unthinkable happens, I believe Robin Williams would want us to keep laughing. Sometimes its being a little irreverent- how can any of us forget those legs in "Patch Adams"? Maybe it's the belly laugh you let go when "Mrs. Doubtfire" set her breasts on fire while cooking. There are times for a little smile. Enjoy those moments, and embrace them.
When my grandmother passed away, of course there was sadness, but within the sadness we celebrated a beautiful woman who lived a wonderful life. I'll never forget the night after her memorial service at my aunt's home. The house was filled with family, as well as more flower arrangements than we knew what to do with, and we had an absolute blast together. My favorite moment from that evening was a trash-talking-filled game of bowling on the Wii with my brother and some of our cousins. It was okay to laugh that night, and I know that the only thing my grandmother would have been upset about was that she missed the party. Laughter was a huge part of our healing after her passing.
Sieze the Day. I don't feel like I need to add any more to that.
What does his death teach us? Get help if and when you need it.
Depression is not a sign of weakness. I am going to say that again. Depression is not a sign of weakness. Ask for help.
There are doctors and counselors out there to help, as well as medications and treatments available. What works for one person may not be as beneficial to someone else, but what's important is to find a treatment who works for you. As much as I wish I could love my friends who struggle with depression back to health, I know that it's their treatment that has made the biggest impact for them. Whether that's medication, exercise, therapy, or a combination of all of it, don't be afraid to say you need it. Those of us who love you will be happy to see you getting the help you need. We won't stop loving you.
Rest in Peace, Mr. Williams. I hope you have found the peace you couldn't find here.