I’d been thinking about this all day. The more I thought about it, the more I knew I wanted to write something about it. The news probably wasn’t as important as military actions and humanitarian disasters occurring in the Middle East, but it mattered to troops deployed there. Through his USO shows, Robin Williams showed how much he loved the troops, and they loved him back – and now he was gone.
Williams’ self admitted drug and alcohol addictions and subsequent treatment sessions had been in the press from time to time, but not much was said about his battle with depression. These deep waters were where he swam alone, apparently for quite some time. News articles seem conflicted over whether his drug and alcohol abuse was a result of his attempts to escape depression, or if his depression was a result of his drug and alcohol abuses’ failure to relieve his anxiety and stress. He had been clean and sober for twenty years, but relapsed just 8 years ago. I struggle to reconcile memories of the funny man we loved with the reports of a man who took his own life to escape the emotional pain caused by mental illness.
He must have felt like he was drowning. I mean – here’s a guy who had all the creative and artistic theatrical talent anyone could ever want, loving friends and family and more than enough material wealth. He had all the components of what looked like a happy life, but those couldn’t keep him above water emotionally. Depression dragged him under despite the superficial buoyancy of all those things.
I’ve seen first hand how well real buoyancy and the buddy system work together. I responded to a distress call once from a commercial dive boat that began taking on water near the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Southern California. We were having a hard time locating the vessel; their flares had expired and didn’t work. We saw some lights in the area, but they were on a freighter moving away from us. We lost radio contact with the distressed vessel, but her crew didn’t give up hope. They donned their dive suits, inflated their buoyancy compensators, lit fire to the part of their boat that remained above water and jumped into the ocean. Once in the water, they tied themselves together so as not to drift apart. Their distress signal worked! We spotted the glow of the fire from several miles away, sped to their location and rescued them. Even though they knew they were going under, they believed there was a chance for survival if they could get the attention of someone who could help them.
Many of us have probably found ourselves dealing with brief periods of difficult emotions such as grief, sadness, hopelessness or feelings of isolation. I’ve been there myself and got through those tough times with the help of pastor friends who gave counsel, prayed with me and kept my faith focused. I knew these feelings would pass, and I sought the help of friends to get through them. Celebrities and publicly high profile individuals have shared that they often live lonely lives, intentionally cutting themselves off from people in an attempt to maintain some semblance of privacy. Loneliness can turn into sadness which can turn into depression if dealt with in isolation – even if that isolation is self imposed. Robin Williams may have given up hope and drowned in a sea of despair even though he was surrounded by people who loved him. If you find yourself struggling in deep water, keep treading water, send out a distress signal and don’t give up hope. Despair sinks, but hope floats.
© 2014 Curt Savage Media