In the Words of Robin Williams

Today my mind was on Robin Williams, and one of the introspective quotes of wisdom he authored in his life. It was a life that ended far too soon in 2014. It seems only a short time ago that his spark burned out, so to think about it in terms of years – seven years – is shocking.

“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy. Because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anybody else to feel like that,” is one quote that is attributed to Williams. These are true and important words.

I was talking to my therapist, with whom I am writing a book, and she kept stressing that I have a good heart. This was in apparent observation to the way I go out of my way to help people. To receive a complement like that is pretty special, and I appreciate her seeing that quality in me. As I explained to her, I treat people the way I would want to be treated. And yes, as Robin Williams points out, I know what it is like to feel worthless. So, if I see somebody sad, it is in my genetic makeup to want to make them smile.

According to an NBC News story shortly after the time of his death, some psychologists had theorized Robin Williams suffered from bipolar disorder. However, Williams never publicly said he lived with such a condition.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008. It is not my sole diagnosis, but it’s the only one that matters in the context of this discussion. I recognize the highs and lows of Williams’ behavior as being very indicative of what I experience with bipolar. I would seriously question if it would be humanly possible to achieve the level of mania that Williams could entertain us with, without being bipolar.

Williams also struggled with alcohol and cocaine addictions. People with bipolar disorder are very prone to addiction. Why? Because we self-medicate. I was a terrible alcoholic for most of my life. I hit absolute rock bottom in 2014 and knew I would lose everything if I didn’t change then and there. I checked into rehab and have been sober ever since.

Williams was a cocaine addict early in his celebrity. In fact, he partied with John Belushi the night of the Saturday Night Live star’s death by overdose. Williams said that was the ‘come to Jesus’ motivation he needed to quit cocaine.

Williams may or may not have been bipolar, but if he was, it is not the reason he committed suicide. Williams was suffering from dementia at the time of his death. That led to him experiencing fear, depression, anxiety, and paranoia – a combination of symptoms robbing him of quality of life.

My first exposure to Robin Williams was the television sit com Mork & Mindy, in which be played the goofiest alien to ever land their egg on Earth. I was just a little kid, but I could recognize the insane mania erupting from Williams as being comedy genius. I even sported a pair of rainbow striped suspenders just like the ones he wore on TV.

Of course, Williams went on to a wonderful film career creating magical characters unlike any we had ever seen. He was robbed of the 1988 Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in Good Morning Vietnam (see think piece When Oscar Got it Wrong). He was nominated again in 1990 for his role in Dead Poets Society and in 1992 for his role in The Fisher King. He eventually won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his performance in Good Will Hunting.

I think Williams’ grandest role was that of the Genie in Disney’s animated classic Aladdin. If the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences recognized voice actors, Williams would have been a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actor for that role. His performance defined the role.

The world is a little bit sadder of a place without Robin Williams in it. I miss knowing that somewhere down the line there would be another Robin Williams performance to look forward to.

I’m going to keep on going out of my way to bring happiness to people, because I know what it’s like to be crying inside. That’s a characteristic that Robin Williams embodied, and I proudly emulate – not because I want to be Robin Williams, but because I want to be a good person.

You don’t have to make people laugh to be a good person. All you have to do is show you care in your own way. Making a difference in someone’s life is a thing not enough people embrace. And it’s not that hard to do.

Peace. Love. Trust.

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