Robbing Robin

It was five years go today that Robin Williams took his life. He was 63, an age when most of us would be enjoying retirement or at least thinking about when. He suicided in Paradise Cay, I reckon the enclave falsely marketed its name for that was where he ended his life. His last movie was Absolutely Anything, should have been Absolutely Anything But Suicide. He’s gone. I still miss him, he was one of a handful of people who could make me laugh. A bloke who made the whole world laugh by seeing the lighter side of life couldn’t make himself see the lighter side of his life. He couldn’t, so what chance do we have? The autopsy’s findings was that he had Lewy Body dementia. I had not heard of Lewy Body disease until now; the early symptoms would have been difficult to live with, sudden spikes in fear and anxiety, insomnia, constipation and urinary problems. In the end, it was so debilitating that the paranoia, delusions, memory loss, and acute depression took their toll on him.

Losing Robin was devastating for me five years ago, it was then that I had my own demons to deal with, to exorcise. My demons were just small ones to chase away, which may explain why I never did anything great. Like Robin, Sergei Rachmaninov too suffered from severe depression all through his life, noticeably after the death of his idol, Tchaikovsky. His aunt suggested he try a new treatment from Sigmund Freud called psychoanalysis. Sergei took her advice and underwent hypnotherapy and psychotherapy. He was lucky that professional help was availed to him. When he finished his Piano Concerto No. 2 , one year after starting therapy, he dedicated it to his doctor, Nikolai Dahl. We are lucky, actually. Sergei never recovered from depression, all through his life, he continued to struggle with periods of delusions in his mind contrasted with periods of intense creativity, leaving great works for all of posterity to enjoy. Other great artists that left us huge legacies despite their severe depression include Robert Schumann and Vincent Van Gogh. Vincent severed his ear and suicided at a young age of 37, after a manic life of psychotic delusions. He shot himself with a revolver, and died a failure and a madman. It took the world decades after his death to realise the genius in the madman, a tortured soul somehow brings the best out of us. The tortured soul brought out the best from Robert too. He is widely regarded as one of the best composers of the Romantic Era. A failed attempt to suicide meant his consignment to an asylum for the remaining two years of his life. He never recovered from his mental illness. Robin, Sergei, Robert and Vincent, I am on first name basis with them. Why not, they helped me immensely when I was at my lowest. They are welcomed in my home and in my mind, unconditionally. After all, I feel indebted to them. Not only for the gifts they have left behind, the laughter, the great music, the paintings, they also guided me to safety. Yes, they are constant companions of mine, a reminder that although life can be bleak and dark, and when it seems there is no point to carry on, we must carry on. Yes, I must carry on, unlike them, I have achieved nothing that can be left for posterity. Unlike them, I don’t deserve to rest yet.

Depression is a mental illness that is treatable, no one should feel alone as a sufferer. Find a close friend, online forum or support group eg Beyond Blue if you’re in Australia, to share your sadness, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, pain, sorrow and whatever brings you down. Talk therapy helps. Know that your illness is due to genetics, brain biology and chemistry, and bad life events that caused trauma, a loved one’s passing, a difficult partner, or stressful situations. If your Robin or Vincent can’t help, try meditation before medication. Meditation has been proven to help the brain respond to stress, reducing anxiety. Failing that, find a doctor, anti-depressants may help correct the chemical imbalances in our brain. If all else fails, pray.

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