What Losing Robin Williams Meant to Someone With Bipolar Disorder
I grew up loving Robin Williams. His acting was incredible. To watch somebody switch the switch from goofy to sadness from movie to movie blew my mind. He had no bounds. He inspired me as a young actor. He had captured my heart, and pushed me to be my best.
Finding out that people Robin struggled with depression, like I do because of my bipolar disorder, gave me hope. Seeing him as an older man made me know I’m not alone. I could make it through. Because hell, if Robin Williams could do all of these wonderful things, what could possibly stop me? I made him out in my mind as a superhero.
Two years ago I was in a PHP (partial hospitalization program) up in Massachusetts. I was picking up the pieces of my life and drawing conclusions. I was prepping to end an abusive relationship, and in the works of moving back home. I was broken. I felt like a puppy left in a cardboard box, seeking love and support, but clueless from who. My therapist at the program was actually a stand-up comedian and helped me try to be the same. He would talk about celebrities he met and who struggles with what. It kind of broke the wall between us “crazies” and successful people. It made us all feel like we were going to be OK. He talked about Robin a lot and my personal connection to him grew more than before. I put all my faith into him, idolizing him. In my head, he was the person pulling me through.
I walked into PHP one morning with everyone mourning. It turned out my idol had passed away, from suicide.
My world was rocked.
I took his death more personally than I should have. I was upset because if Robin died by suicide, what did that mean for the rest of us? I was being selfish. I didn’t know what to do; this was the man who I had put all my faith and hope into. I needed him to succeed. I needed to look up to him.
This mindset changed when I saw what people were posting. The internet was littered with people asking how he did it, wanting the gory details. People were saying it was a cover up and that he had to be murdered, because who could believe a funny man would take his own life? People were not respectful, and instead of bringing light to suicide, made it a spectacle.
This began my journey into mental health advocacy. This was a major celebrity suicide. And people were still not understanding it or giving his death the respect he deserved. People were saying he was weak to do this; little did they know he was probably the strongest person in the universe to have fought his illness for so long. I needed to give him, and other suicide victims, a voice, and demand the respect they deserve. Suicide isn’t the easy way out.
And as for my connection to Robin? It’s still there. I think of him often, and I still can’t watch his movies in fear of crying. His death reminds me we’re all human and that I’ll have to fight my mental illness for the rest of my life. But his life reminds me I can still make beautiful things and inspire others to live the best life they can.