Back in 2004, I was struck by the death of my hero and, along with many others, remembered all of the amazing feats this man had managed in his short lifetime. I was 14 when Christopher Reeve died. And today, almost ten years on, I’m shocked by the loss of his college best friend, Robin Williams.
The great comedy legend and Hollywood actor Robin Williams was found dead in his Californian home on August 11, having committed suicide. For a moment, when I (bleary-eyed) checked the news on my phone at 7am, I was stunned. I didn’t think it was real, in fact, my mind couldn’t process it was real. But sure enough, global news channels confirmed it. Robin Williams was gone.
Immediately my natural curiosity was sated. The man behind such classic films, Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Jumanji, Mrs Doubtfire, and Hook, had battled severe depression and alcoholism for many years. Nobody knows why he committed suicide – even though the newspapers are throwing a few curve balls into the media frenzy, along with a statement from his wife that he had early Parkinson’s Disease – but, in a weird way, I understood.
As a former sufferer of depression, I found it incredibly difficult to talk about my problems to my friends and family. In fact, it was years after my Nana’s death when I realised I actually needed help. That the ongoing days and nights of crying into my pillow was not normal, that the idea of death was a glorified way out of my crap life. But, when I look back, I actually had a pretty good life. I had an amazing support network of family and friends, plus I had my writing and drama workshops, acceptance to university, and so on. However, I just couldn’t see that it all existed. Every night when I’d cry, I’d only see the darkness, the pain, the need for clear and refreshing physical pain rather than the emotional one. To me, nothing was right in the world. And I was selfish for taking up space, for living in it.
I can’t begin to understand what Robin Williams felt in those moments. But I do understand what it’s like to only see that insufferable darkness. I only hope he finds peace, wherever he may be, and can feel joy in seeing pigeons shit on other people’s heads while he looks on us from afar. And I also hope he reunites with Christopher Reeve once again, after all he needs to re-enact the scene as Reeve’s Russian proctologist. On that note, I’ll leave you with the very scene written in Christopher Reeve’s autobiography, Still Me:
“As the day of the operation drew closer, it became more and more painful and frightening to contemplate. In spite of efforts to protect me from the truth, I already knew that I had only a fifty-fifty chance of surviving the surgery. I lay on my back, frozen, unable to avoid thinking the darkest thoughts. Then, at an especially bleak moment, the door flew open and in hurried a squat fellow with a blue scrub hat and a yellow surgical gown and glasses, speaking in a Russian accent. He announced that he was my proctologist, and that he had to examine me immediately. My first reaction was that either I was on way too many drugs or I was in fact brain damaged. But it was Robin Williams. He and his wife, Marsha, had materialized from who knows where. And for the first time since the accident, I laughed. My old friend had helped me know that somehow I was going to be okay.”