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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

But Doctor, I am Pagliacci. . . In Memory of Robin Williams

The shocking news of much loved comedian, actor and filmmaker Robin Williams passing away stunned and broke the hearts of millions around the world on Monday 11th August 2014. However, finding out that the cause of death was suicide was something that tore many apart even more. How could someone so seemingly joyous, who had the gift to make millions of people around the world laugh until they couldn't speak, feel that the answer to all his problems was to end his life? How were we all so oblivious of this absolute suffering and heartache this man was going through?

You may think it's weird that I'm writing about this now, 2 weeks after it happened. To be honest, when I first heard about it, I thought of writing a post, just to express the shock and devastation and also to raise awareness of how truly awful depression can be. But then, after composing my thoughts, I thought I'd give it a bit of time. When we're upset, we tend to say things we don't mean. It's difficult to rationalise your thoughts, especially when you're talking about something that you feel very strongly about. So I didn't want this to be an angry post. I wanted it to reflect positively on Mr Williams, showing what a great man he was, despite the struggles he faced. Another thing, I knew that people would be looking up Robin Williams a lot and I didn't want to seem like I was cashing in on that. So all in all, that's basically why I thought I'd wait a bit to write this.

Robin Williams: The Man With No Limits

When I think of Robin Williams, I immediately think of Mrs Doubtfire and Patch Adams. I think they're the main films that stand out to me because I really believe he was similar to the characters that he played. Personally growing up without a dad, I used to love the idea of the sort of dad he played in Mrs Doubtfire; fun, loving, caring and willing to do anything for his children who he loved so much. Also, having a lot of experiences with doctors in my life, I loved the idea of the unorthodox, fun, child centred approach of Patch Adams. From what I've read, Robin Williams seemed to be that sort of person. For example, he once said this about his children:

"My children give me a great sense of wonder. Just to see them develop into these extraordinary human beings."

So the man wasn't perfect. He'd a had a tough life, with his time as a stand up comedian on the road being the main culprit for his turning to drugs and alcohol. This obviously had a massive negative impact on his life. In fact, it was the birth of his son that made him quit the drugs.

He was also close friends with Christopher Reeve. Reeve said that Robin was the first man to make him laugh after his accident. In fact, here's the insert of what Reeve had to say (taken from Wikipedia. . . Yes, such a trustworthy source!). He was about to undergo surgery to reattach his skull to his spine and was obviously terrified, experiencing a lot of anguish:

" "I already knew that I had only a fifty-fifty chance of surviving the surgery. Then, at an especially bleak moment, the door flew open and in hurried a squat fellow with a blue scrub hat and a yellow surgical gown and glasses, speaking in a Russian accent." The man announced that he was a proctologist and was going to perform a rectal exam on Reeve. It was Robin Williams, reprising his character from the film 'Nine Months'. Reeve wrote: "For the first time since the accident, I laughed. My old friend had helped me know that somehow I was going to be okay". "

Williams & Christopher met as students at Julliard.
What an amazing individual. Robin promised to do everything to help Christopher. After Reeve's medical insurance ran out, Williams paid for the bills out of his own pocket. Reeve passes away in 2004 and his wife Dana died in 2006. Williams went on to provide both physical and financial support to Dana and Christopher Reeve's 14 year old son. 

You don't have to be a genius to know that Robin Williams evidently had a heart of absolute gold. So he made mistakes just like everyone does, but he had heart, soul and the want to just make people happy; to make them laugh.

Just Because I'm Laughing, It Doesn't Mean I'm Happy

Depression is. . . Do you know what? I can't even find a word that describes it. Nothing completely explains it. Nothing completely describes how awful the illness is. Though I think many will agree (particularly those who have suffered from it); when I think of the word "depression", the word "misunderstood" comes to mind immediately. Because the fact of the matter is, even if you have been through depression yourself, you will never fully understand another persons' depression. The struggle is real, and the struggle is individual to each sufferer. 

When the world heard about Robin Williams taking his own life, many took to social media to express their feelings. Many were heartfelt tributes, thoughts and memories on how this man helped vast amounts of people all over the world through his films and demeanour. Then there were some who posted careless comments. You know the ridiculous hype:

"How could he be so selfish as to take his own life and leave his family behind".
"Right well he had all the money in the world so how could he have been struggling"
"He seemed happy enough."
"He had everything! He had no reason to be unhappy!"

These comments are heartless, cruel and so disgustingly naive. I think the worst thing about a chronic illness that you can't physically see is that no one realises how much it's killing you. If someone was visibly covered in bandages from head to toe, people would understand. But you can't do that with depression. There is often no physical ailment to cover up. 

I think with some people, they can't find true happiness themselves, so they just focus on making other people happy instead. See, I'm just relating my own experiences. I've suffered from bad depression in the past. However, it's not something that I wanted to talk about a lot. I find it difficult to talk about my own problems. Ok, so I'm not gonna be ridiculously modest and say I don't like talking about myself because sometimes I do! But when it comes to problems or issues I'm facing, I don't like to open up to people that I know. This is for a few different reasons.

1. I don't want people to worry about me.
2. I don't want people doing things for me. For example, I know if I put statuses on Facebook, my friends (being the amazing people that they are) will text me asking what's up. They'll try to help and I completely appreciate that. But sometimes, I don't want that attention. Sometimes, I just need to vent, but I don't want close people worrying. It's at times like this that I'll vent on Twitter. I get my feelings across but don't have anyone asking me what's up. 
3. I find it difficult to trust people.

Humour hides a multitude of emotions
But you see, when I feel utterly hopeless and just ridiculously down, I sort of give up on happiness. I just think, for the moment, nothing will make me happy, whilst I'm going through this state of emptiness. So I might as well focus on making other people happy. It's weird but I feel some sort of momentary spark of glee when I hear someone laugh from something I've said. It's almost like a two second spark that lights up inside. It literally does only last about 10 seconds, but for that moment I forget my own issues. I feel like my existence isn't completely worthless because I just made that person laugh. I made them a little bit happy. So I must have something in me that's worth the struggle.

This won't make a lot of sense to people. It doesn't completely make sense to me to be honest. But what I'm trying to say is that many people use comedy as an outlet. But just because they use it as an outlet, just because they seem happy, doesn't mean they are. A couple of weeks ago, comedian Jason Manford put the quote from Watchmen on Facebook, sort of to reflect the struggle of people suffering from depression:

"A man goes to the doctor. He says he's depressed. Life seems harsh and cruel and he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. The Doctor says: "Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up". The man bursts into tears and says: "But doctor. . . I am Pagliacci". "

Many hide behind the mask of humour, the mask of the clown, just to conceal their real deep dark feelings and emotions. It's a means of escape, but not a permanent one. Song lyrics come to mind; Beautiful by Eminem:

"They're like,
"Ha! Marshall, you're so funny man, you should be a comedian"
Unfortunately I am, but I just hide behind the tears of a clown"

Picking Up The Pieces by Paloma Faith:

"Am I too loud?
I play the clown
To cover up all these doubts"

Too many people do it. But not enough people see the hurt behind the laugh. The scars behind the smile.

Look guys, I'm well aware of how scattered and jumbled this post is. I think it's because even though I was/am a sufferer of depression, it's something that I will never fully understand and it's because of this that my emotions and my own body catch me by surprise sometimes. But I hope this gives some of you even the tiniest bit of understanding. Depression is something that billions of people suffer from, from mild forms to severe forms, but very few people actually understand it. 

We don't know what the next person is going through. Some might call others attention seekers but you don't feel attention when your dead. And yeah, some might be attention seekers, doing stupid things to get the attention of others. But why do they need that attention? Maybe it's a cry for help out of utter desperation?

Humour is a beautiful thing and being made to laugh is one of the best things in life. Having the ability to make people laugh is a gift. I truly believe that. And Robin Williams had that gift more that anyone. But those people that make you laugh, those that make you the happiest, those that seem the happiest they could be; these could be the ones going through the most heartache. We don't know each others struggles. But we can be there. Because we all need friends. And we all crave someone who understands.

In loving memory of Robin Williams.

Seek help. No one will judge.

Keep smiling folks, however hard it may be at times.

Ditzy xXx

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  1. Depression is hard. I agree with everything you've said. Nobody truly understands. Those who haven't ever had depression can only ever sympathise - they will never understand. Those who have been through/are going through depression can understand better but it affects everybody slightly differently. The only thing that got me through it was Jehovah and a very good counsellor. But i still have my up and down days. All we can do is throw our burdens on Jehovah and wait for the day when we can say 'no resident is sick' and depression will be no more! Xx

    1. Aww thank you for sharing your thoughts! It's true, it's such a difficult illness to cope with. But yes, very soon no one will have anything to worry about! What an amazing time that will be =) xx