Yesterday I was out for most of the day. I left the house before 11AM and returned a few minutes before 5PM. I didn’t turn on the computer when I woke up like I usually did because I’d been trying to trim my hours spent immersed in the internet. So I was surprised when the first item in my news feed was the death of American actor Robin Williams, apparently of suicide. As I read the details of his tragic passing along with the reactions and the tributes, I found myself getting increasingly choked up. Eventually I succumbed to my tears and wept as quietly as I could while the rest of my family watched television a few feet away.
I was surprised at my reaction. I grew up watching and loving his performances on TV and in movies but I never considered myself his rabid fan. I mean it’s been a while since I’d been a rabid fan of anyone and the last time I cried over the death of a celebrity was when Lady Diana died.
Late last night I realized the root of my grief. His apparent suicide, which was probably due to his long battle with clinical depression, reminded me keenly of my own struggle against it. Four years ago, in Cambodia, I came very close to killing myself. Depression can be a black hole that sucks out all hope in a person. That time I felt there was nothing I could do to feel better and killing myself was the only way out. I think, on hindsight, that only my excessive concern over the logistics of transporting my cadaver from Phnom Penh to Manila (I didn’t want to be a nuisance to anybody) prevented me from doing so.
Even now, many years later, I’m still struggling to find the good and happy among everyday things. I have good days and bad days. My birthday last Sunday was, on a badness scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the worst), was a 7.5. I spent most of the day in bed, sleeping intermittently, and avoiding my family (which proved impossible). The reason? I wish I could tell you. It was just the way it was.
Compared to my old self, however, I think I’m now better equipped to cope with these bouts of psychological and emotional malaise that crop up from time to time. I have learned to recognize the ‘triggers’ or precursors of these episodes and knowing allows me to prepare. Writing is one of those tools that I use. Another is a good flashback of good and happy things that are connected to whatever it is that might upset me. Many times it is a circuitous route and the journey can be taxing. However, the rewards are always awesome.
So rather than dwell on Robin Williams’ suicide, I will think about how me made me laugh in movies like Mrs. Doubtfire and The Birdcage, how he made me swoon in What Dreams May Come and Bicentennial Man, and how he fueled my sense of adventure in Hook and Jumanji. Not to forget how he totally unsettled me in One Hour Photo and Insomnia and how he made me cry in Awakenings, Patch Adams, and Good Will Hunting. His Genie will be my best genie ever while his TV moments in Mork & Mindy and The Crazy Ones will live forever. His un-censored stand-up comedy I will always watch on DVD while his unforgettable talk show appearances will just be one click away on YouTube. We should all be thankful for these memories of his brilliant madness.
He is free indeed. And it is my hope that he has flown off to a much better place.