Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Oh Captain, My Captain

I was very saddened to hear the news of Robin Williams' passing yesterday of an apparent suicide.  I have been a big fan of his comedy since his first appearance on Happy Days in the 1970's, and I treasured his first comedy album, Reality...What a Concept.  His frenetic energy and his quick comedic mind almost mirrored my own frenetic personality; he just kept throwing jokes at you

Dr. Drew Pinskey gave great insight on CNN last night, when he said how Mr Williams survived his open heart surgery in 2009, but apparently died from his depression.  He stated how common it is to suffer from depression after major surgery.  I know that for a fact.  I too suffered from massive depression not long after my heart attack, to the point where I asked why did I survive to go through this? Depression is real, it's constant, and if you don't take care of it, it can be permanent.  It's very disconcerting for a doctor to tell you that you may not have lived if you hadn't taken the necessary steps in time. What would have been the alternative?  Depression comes via different roads, but always wants to fill you with darkness.

As I watched the talking heads last night try to publicly eulogize Williams, I was struck by how so many just don't understand mental illness.  How did he seem when you last spoke to him?  Did you see any signs of depression?  How can he do this to himself with such a great life?  I was upset; these people don't get it.  Depression doesn't care if you are rich, or poor, male, or female---in a depressed state, nothing excites you, nothing lifts you.  You struggle to get through the day, the hours, the minutes.  It's horrific.

I am tremendously lucky; I have a great psychiatrist, wonderful therapist,  great cardio team, supportive friends, and a loving, fantastic wife and son, who make sure I stay positive and healthy, and don't let me get too down. I feel I am now making the best art of my life, as I now (with the help of meds) am no longer afraid to experiment.   But I have a long family history of bipolar disorder, and see it in family members.  I am conscious of the possibility that I could slip back once again.  I refuse to let it.

RIP, Robin Williams.  Oh Captain, My Captain.

A couple of my favorite scenes of his, from Aladdin:


And this gripping scene from his Oscar winning turn in Good Will Hunting: