“Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day, make a wish, and think of me. Make your life spectacular.”
-Robin Williams, Jack
On August 11, the world lost Robin Williams. Yes, we all lost something that day.
I, like countless others, felt this loss more deeply than the deaths of nearly any other celebrity. The genie in Aladdin was my first exposure to his acting and comedic abilities. I can’t tell you who voiced Aladdin, I can’t tell you who voiced Ariel in The Little Mermaid, nor Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Alice in Wonderland, or countless other cartoons that I obsessively watched as a child. Once I learned who voiced the Genie, I never forgot.
From there, the characters which Williams played had major roles in lessons countless people learned during the courses of their lives. Everything from Hook and Dead Poet’s Society to Good Will Hunting and What Dreams May Come. He was a distant teacher: source of wisdom, comedy, emotion. Yes, I realize he didn’t write the scripts, but he brought the lines to life.
But he, like so many who suffer from depression, hid his pain behind an infectious smile.
During the course of my life, I’ve sat for tea with company of depression a few times. Speaking about it has always been hard. I’m not an outwardly depressed person. Like with the case of Robin Williams, you don’t expect the funny, bubbly one to be depressed. Close friends and even some family members don’t know when this happened to me.
I can speak and have done so with people who are having a hard time with depression, and recall all the same feelings and sensations. It’s not a one-size-fits-all routine, but there are similarities between people.
Thankfully, I don’t let myself sit in a depressed state for long. It comes and goes, and I try through exercise, writing, and art, sometimes with excruciating effort, to keep it at bay. I can say with confidence that for the most part, I am wildly successful.
The loss of Robin Williams has opened a dialogue about depression. Beyond just posting a hotline for people to call if they themselves are depressed, or if they know someone who is depressed, there needs to be a reintroduction of empathy in human beings that has seemingly disappeared. Of course the existence of such hotlines is great. But, there is such a social stigma around saying you’re depressed, that people don’t feel safe speaking with the ones they should trust.
Most people meet the conversation with “but you’re so happy!” “You always make people laugh, and everyone loves you!” “You have everything, though.” This makes conversations and confessions harder for those who are afflicted. Instead, we need to help each other learn to ask “What’s going on?” “Can you tell me what is making you feel this way?” “Is there anything I can do?” “Do you want to talk to a doctor? I can help you find one.”
We can’t avoid a thunderstorm by looking at pictures of sunny days.
We can bunker down and find ways to make it through the storm together.