Oh Captain, My Captain

"What's wrong with death sir? What are we so mortally afraid of? Why can't we treat death with a certain amount of humanity and dignity, and decency, and God forbid, maybe even humor. Death is not the enemy gentlemen. If we're going to fight a disease, let's fight one of the most terrible diseases of all, indifference." - Patch Adams

In a time of my own personal heartbreak and survival, I am utterly shocked and saddened by the passing of Robin Williams in what is being reported as a suicide.  He was one of those people who brought happiness and laughter to people all over the world.  That is a great gift and that is how he will be remembered.  His publicist said that he was suffering from severe depression.  Just because he had a mental illness doesn't make his passing his fault or any less sad.

It has been said that many comedians have demons and its those demons that make them funny.  Depression and addiction, things which Williams suffered from, are not the individual's fault.  They are chronic illnesses, which anyone can get.  I will repeat that.  Anyone can become depressed.  It's like cancer in that way.  When it is managed depression can be like diabetes, but it requires attention as spikes can always occur.  It is a devastating illness, which is why it is labeled a disability.

I can understand wanting to die as a way out.  It's freedom from all the hell that the illness puts you through.  In fact, depression tells you the world is better off with you.  Positive thinking can only do so much.  I wish Robin Williams was still here because he made people laugh.  Wealth and fame do not make someone immune from the darkness of depression.  In fact, I believe it isolates the sufferers more because many people will say that Williams had nothing to be depressed about.  Depression doesn't follow reason, it just exists.  So, I can understand many of the tweets saying Genie, you are free, which is fromm Aladdin.  However, suicide is not the best course of action.  Many survivors of suicide attempts even say that they were hoping anyone would stop them at the last second.  It breaks my heart that Robin Williams is dead.  He is gone, but will never be forgotten.

I know that Williams was working on a 12 step program, but depression requires more help than that.  My favorite movies of Williams are the ones where he can be more serious like Dead Poets Society, which I saw in English class.  I also adored him in Patch Adams.  He was talented and gifted.  I also remember him doing a documentary about dolphins.  He was manic and high octane, but underneath that there must have been an enormous amount of pain. 

I wish that there was not so much stigma about mental illness.  I know I have faced discrimination because of it.  I believe that this stigma adds so much to the isolation of the sufferer that it is detrimental.  I hope the stigma ends, but tonight I am sad that someone who brought so much light to the world, ended by his own hand.

The title of this piece comes from Dead Poets Society and is a poem by Walt Whitman about Abraham Lincoln following his assassination.  As Mr. Keating in the film, Williams inspires his students, but is ultimately dismissed after one of the students commits suicide.  The students he taught remained loyal to him.  It's a tug at the heart strings, but incredibly necessary.  RIP Robin Williams, you were extraordinary and will be much missed by many.


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