This is a guest blog from Armchair Del, a close friend of mine who has been recently diagnosed with bipolar. When I heard that Robin Williams had died I was sad, but not surprised. I saw the many posts of admiration and condolence on social media and I wanted to do the same but I couldn’t because I felt like there was so much more to say than I could fit in a short post. So when Armchair Del sent me his writing relating Williams’ life and death to his own struggles, I felt like it was a fitting tribute.
I woke up this morning full of positive energy about changes I need to make to ensure I love and enjoy life, something I haven’t done at my core for many, many years. Following my normal rituals of checking emails and news I was stunned by the news of Robin Williams’ suicide.
Why? Well a year ago if you had asked me who my favourite actors or comedians were they would include, John Bishop, Sir Ian Mckellen, Anthony Hopkins but certainly not Robin Williams. I found a connection with this man via Wikipedia, on a list of famous people who have Bipolar (or as of today, had). I found this list a few day after I was diagnosed with rapid cycle bipolar, a condition I had apparently had for over 20 years and one I had self medicated for years through, you guessed it, the abuse of alcohol and the odd foray into illegal substances.
For some reason, going through the list of names on there, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Stephen Fry, Frank Sinatra, Van Gogh, Jean Claude Van Damme, Frank Bruno, Mel Gibson, to name a few, I felt they were interesting but no more. When I saw Robin Williams there, I stopped, thought about all his TV, movies and stand up and thought there is someone you can really see happiness and joy when he is doing the thing he loves.
I loved Mork and Mindy. What a really quirky show, with and oddball of a character, I thought. The next movie I saw him in was Good Morning Vietnam, what a fun but sobering movie. I had to look through IMDB to remind myself of all the productions he has been in and there are a few! His critically acclaimed performance in Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society, through to what I consider the lame ducks of Jumanji and Flubber.
The reason I grieve for him is simple. He lost a battle I am fighting and that scares me immensely.
But.. it also gives me hope and energy. As another loss to the disease is a reminder to us all how dangerous and stealthy it can be and that life is short, live it.
Looking back, my impression of Robin Williams is this. He was his own man (something I am try to recapture), he was either up or down, mainly in the public eye he was savouring and enjoying the happiness and pleasure he would bring to his audiences, infact he would thrive on it, pushing him to higher levels of achievement. It does make me wonder, is celebrity/ entertainments industry the best society for bipolar and other suffers for mental illness. On the one hand, it is, they accept individuals for who they are, allowing them to live how they want, using the outcomes for their own gain. Egg white omlettes, BLT, without bread, tomato or bacon, fine; need to bath in mud from Mexico mixed with water from the dead sea, not a problem. The downside, though is no boundaries, and nothing to be kept in check. The flip side to this is society for Everyday Joe, which also does not work for people with mood disorders. A society which sees those with mental health issues as not normal is brutally incorrect and put even more pressure and barriers on those suffering to overcome. The simple thing to accept with people with mental health issues is they are normal, there normality is different to a lot people in society, but given the space and opportunity they can and will lead a successful life.
The loss of Robin Williams also has given me additional focus to how I need to live my life.
Here is a man that didn’t have all of my concerns to contend with, in particular money. But also had on the surface a good support environment, a loving partner (although it was 3rd time lucky), adoring and adored children, a professional career that was well recognized and had so much respect from his peers, other celebrities and well know individuals. Yet, after all, something went wrong and death seemed the answer. It’s a shame, I understand it, and I fear it for me and others. The lesson is you just don’t know when it will come.
As for me. The news is full of people sharing their views on what he did, why he did it. That’s fine, all I know from my experience is that I don’t believe he wanted to die, in fact, like me he loved life and wanted more and more of it. But, like the proverbial bus. You don’t see the f***er coming. If you suffer mental illness, “the proverbial bus” is not just a phrase but a real and present danger that those without the disease have the pleasure not to worry about. I empathise with his friends and family, its always tough to lose someone you love, its even harder when they go in these types of circumstance.
For me, I will continue on my journey, changing and adapting to keep looking out for those buses, but I’m getting better at that, time to have fun and enjoyment whilst I do. People to make up with, people to apologise to, people to move on from and new people to meet. Update the bucket list, fettle the structure of life and live as honestly as possible. Oh, and find time to watch nearly 200 hours of Robin Williams!!