by Dish Staff
— New York Magazine (@NYMag) August 13, 2014
A reader writes:
Thanks to Elizabeth Nolan Brown for her eloquent essay on Robin Williams. This reminds me of when Princess Diana died. I found out when I walked to the corner store to buy the newspaper. I read the headline and thought “Shit, that’s too bad” and didn’t give it another thought. Then the worldwide hysteria erupted and it was all Diana, all the time. I just didn’t understand what the big deal was. My wife, friends and family thought I was incredibly callous to have almost no reaction to Diana’s death.
Same thing with Robin Williams. I liked him and more than once busted a gut listening to him, but he was an entertainer with no connection to me. Why should I grieve? It sucks that his demons took him down and I understand why some people are sad, but I just can’t muster it.
A like-minded reader adds:
It is as if Facebook and Twitter reactions to celebrity deaths and tragedies have supplanted going to church as the cultural litmus test for letting the greater community know you are a good person and people are compelled against all reason to participate.
But another relates to Robin:
“If you’re that depressed, reach out to someone. And remember: Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems,” – Robin Williams, World’s Greatest Dad (2009)
I was diagnosed with postpartum depression not that long ago.
I reached out, got help, and feel a million time better already. But it took along time. Depression makes you believe that you can’t dig yourself out of the hole you find yourself in. It makes it feel like if you reach out and talk to you someone, they’ll think you’re crazy. One of the main reasons I didn’t talk about my PPD was because I thought my doctor or husband would try to take away my son for fear that I’d hurt him. And that’s where depression twists the knife that is guilt. I felt guilty because I’m a mother! I should love this period of my life! I should be thrilled to have this amazing, perfect, healthy human being that looks at me with such love. But it’s a chemical imbalance. It’s not something I could control.
Mr Williams suicide is the second I’ve heard of in less then two weeks, the first being a former acquittance. We really do need to work on having a more open and honest dialogue about depression in this country.
Another gets honest:
If someone were to die at the age of 63 after a lifelong battle with MS or Sickle Cell, we’d all say they were a “fighter” or an “inspiration.” But when someone dies after a lifelong battle with severe mental illness and drug addiction, we say it was a tragedy and tell everyone “don’t be like him, please seek help.” That’s bullshit. Robin Williams sought help his entire life. He saw a psychiatrist. He quit drinking. He went to rehab. He did this for decades. That’s HOW he made it to 63. For some people, 63 is a fucking miracle. I know several people who didn’t make it past 23 and I’d do anything to have 40 more years with them.
Another gets open:
With regards to the death by apparent suicide of Robin Williams, I want to draw a clear line between Feeling and Mourning in this particular situation. I agree completely with the sort of Yeah, No Duh thesis of your post, and I found myself in the Facebook poster’s camp when, say, that guy from The Fast and the Furious movies died in a fiery car crash. It was tragic and ironic and awful, and I “felt” for his fans and family, I suppose; but I didn’t mourn.
I am deeply mourning the loss of Robin Williams.
I was born in 1969, so I grew up with Mr. Williams on my teevee machine. I obsessed over Dead Poets Society in my early 20s, around the time I realized I would suffer the rest of my life with depression. Aladdin and Mrs. Doubtfire helped me through the miserably dark early ’90s, when my diagnosis shifted to Bipolar Disorder, and I laughed and cried at the tail end of that rotten decade with Good Will Hunting and The Birdcage, both of which I sat up all night last night watching.
And somewhere in there, between Williams as a fat blue cartoon genie and a gay Miami nightclub owner, I laid down in my grungy apartment’s bathtub and made a pitiful, half-assed and obviously unsuccessful attempt at opening my wrists. I didn’t want it enough, so I failed. I still bear the small, pale scars of that day as reminders of what the end might look like. But I made it over. That time.
I am deeply mourning the loss of Robin Williams, because he felt like a friend and fellow-sufferer. He was the classic Crying-on-the-Inside Clown; a man who had everything and an almost universal acclimation as one of the greatest living comics. And yet he didn’t make it over. With all his fame and celebrity and the deep respect of his peers and fans, Robin Williams couldn’t make it over. I mourn for him; I mourn for that inescapable pain that not even his wife and children could help him overcome. I was inconsolable last night not because I’d never see another Robin Williams stand-up act or another in a long line of his mediocre late-career comedies, but because if he couldn’t make it over, what chance do I have?
Yes, it’s fine to feel nothing about this. Be my guest; the last thing the world needs is more faux-sentimentality and rootless hero-worship Because Celebrity. But when you’ve loved a performer since you were 9 years old, and suffered with him and laughed with him and watched him grow and rise and fall and fail and get back up and start all over again, all the while laughing most loudly at himself, you owe yourself a moment of true mourning.
Go here for all our coverage of Robin Williams’ death.