#Depression didn't kill Robin Williams
Part 1 of 2
Depression didn’t kill Robin Williams. Mental illness in general, alcohol, and drugs didn’t either. If you were like me when the news hit that Robin Williams had ended his own life, you were devastated. I grew up with Robin Williams’ career- from Mork and Mindy to Dead Poet’s Society to Aladdin to As Good as It Gets to Boulevard. I watched it all. I loved Robin.
I’m not sure how to describe the feeling I got when watching him, but it was breathtaking. Watching him pour himself into every character he made up and take himself out of every character he imitated was amazing. He was truly a gift to the world of acting.
But it wasn’t just that gift that spoke to me. There was an underlying something that I can’t quite articulate that drew me to him as someone who suffers from mental illness. It was the moments just before the character kicked in. The flashes in his eyes as he let himself go. The reckless abandon that he had a hard time recovering from and allowing his own personality back into the room. Robin was “on” all the time. He had a hard time turning it off according to what I’ve read and seen since his death (and before).
It is common knowledge that Robin suffered from depression and was an addict in recovery and when he died that was the information that flew across the internet- depression had finally taken Robin Williams. I remember thinking once that in my lifetime Robin Williams would die and it blew my mind. I couldn’t imagine a life without him in the media or the world. I couldn’t imagine him as a very old man, decrepit and slow. I cried at the time about how I would bear witness to that aging and then that death. Never did it occur to me it would happen so soon. I often thought that when Robin passed, I would want to die too.
When news hit the media that Robin had succumbed to mental illness, I was devastated and numb. I wasn’t ready to go with him. I’d told myself that I would go with him that I would be old enough and it would be ok.
But it happened so soon. I wasn’t ready yet. And that’s when news that Robin had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease hit the air waves. Aha!
Well, now it made sense to me why he had taken his own life.
Parkinson’s attacked my grandmother, and I watched as she shook and turned into the opposite of the strong woman, I had grown up knowing her to be. In that moment I could see how mental illness distorted Robin’s mind into thinking Parkinson’s had been a death sentence. I
understood why he wouldn’t want to live that way and figured he had been hiding it and that fear for quite a while and had, in a moment of particularly poor thinking, given in. It didn’t make the reality that Robin was gone any better, it just gave some perspective to the situation that made it sit that much easier.
Parkinson’s disease did not kill Robin Williams. Robin didn’t have Parkinson’s. That was a misdiagnosis. Robin didn’t have Parkinson’s, Robin had Lewy Body Dementia.
Lewy Body Dementia killed Robin Williams. Lewy Body Dementia is almost as if the brain is eating itself. It is a progressive form of dementia that causes the person suffering from it to have symptoms very similar to Parkinson’s. “Protein deposits, called Lewy bodies, develop in nerve cells in the brain regions involved in thinking, memory and movement (motor control).” – according to the Mayo Clinic. This form of dementia includes a progressive decline in mental abilities, visual hallucinations, changes in alertness, Parkinson’s like symptoms (rigid muscles and tremors), confusion, dizziness, bowel issues, sleep difficulties, depression, and apathy. Lewy Body dementia can make you aggressive and uncoordinated. It usually causes death- on average about 8 years after onset, but it takes every bit of you with it before it does. And this form of dementia can only be 100% diagnosed after death.
When Robin chose to end his life, he may have had several things on his mind. He may have been confused by the way his body was reacting. He may have been thinking he didn’t want to live with the way he felt. He may have been thinking he was gone and didn’t want to live as a person that didn’t include his spark. He may have wanted to save the world from what he was going through and the media circus that would follow him in his decline. He may have had all those things in his mind, true, but more than likely, Robin wasn’t there.
Robin Williams was human, and he probably was mortified by how his body was acting and his inability to control it. Doctors have now said that they are surprised he