Being a recovering alcoholic that also suffers from the grave effect of Bi-Polar I and General Anxiety Disorder, I know what it is like to have everything you could ever want or desire, yet be so deeply depressed and feeling like you are so far down in a pit you will never see the light of day. I know what it is like to feel that your only option out is by ending your life. I to felt at times that suicide would end my suffering as well as the suffering I am putting my family through as I battled the bouts of depression. I have had people ask me how anyone can commit suicide; it is a selfish act and leaves the family with so many unanswered questions. Let me try to explain based on a close call I had myself. I was battling my ex-wife over the visitation of my son as her and her new husband were getting ready to move to Oregon. We had been at a picnic during the day and my wife’s best friend asked me about my son Danny. I was in no mood to talk about it and I told Cathy’s best friend that I did not want to talk about it. That night at home, my wife told me she felt I was pushing our friends away; this was based on my conversation with her best friend. Once again I felt my feelings had been denied and I felt betrayed by my wife because she did not stand up for me. At that moment in time something inside of me snapped and I had absolutely no control of my thoughts and all I could think about was killing myself right there and then. Had there of been a gun in my house at that time, it would have been over instantly. No thinking, no questioning, no bargaining, just point and shoot and it would have been done that quickly. Fortunately I had just started therapy and sacred and shaking even the next morning, I called my therapist who saw me immediately and started me on psychotropic meds that relieved my depression and my suicidal thought slowly dissipated.
My grandmother once told me that unless you have ever been depressed, there is no way you will ever understand it. I say that unless you have ever come close to pulling the trigger of gun pointed at your own head, you will never understand how anyone can commit suicide. The reality is. It just happens, and the reality is we will never really know why anyone commits suicide.
I grew up with the likes of Mork and Mindy in my living room on a weekly basis and watching movies like Popeye, Good Morning Vietnam, and Mrs. Doubtfire. Robin entertained and made myself and so many others laugh uncontrollably with his many characters and humor. God knows that living in the limelight can put a lot of pressure on anybody and it is as though alcohol and drugs are used in the entertainment industry as a way to escape that pressure. I wonder though if it was the pressure of the business or his childhood demons that drove him into a life of addiction and depression. In an interview with Diane Sawyer on 20/20, Dr. Jennifer Ashton was asked if depression fueled addiction or if addiction fueled depression? It is the belief of Dr. Ashton that they can go either way. When I look at my own life it was the pain of my childhood abuse that sent me into a depression and it came on ever so subtly until that one day when it hit me and literally dropped me to my knees. I had just finished a bike ride and was taking a shower when out of nowhere I began crying uncontrollably and slid down the shower wall sobbing and feeling lost and confused. My depression then became exasperated by alcohol and drug use which by in large are both depressants. And so the cycle began.
I was fortunate enough to be able to see Robin speak and perform at the 25th Anniversary of the Betty Ford Center. During his talk he talked about his addiction and alcoholism, there was rarely if ever a moment that he was serious. It is as though the only way he knew how to communicate with anyone about anything was with humor. This was made even more evident in the 20/20 special: The Life and Death of Robin Williams, which aired on August 12, 2014 where his interviews with Barbra Walters were conducted with ninety five percent humor. The only way he was able to communicate with his mother was with humor and using humor to discuss serious issues in life is considered to be a defense mechanism, a way to not deal with the reality at hand. In my own life my counselor at the BFC pointed this out to me. I would talk about my abuse and at the end unaware I was doing it; I would laugh about it. My counselor asked me why I was laughing about something that was not a laughing matter and explained to me that it as a way of hiding behind the pain and acting as though it did not bother me.
When Robin was telling his story, he shared how he spent countless hours isolated in his bedroom growing up and made up all these different voices and characters to keep him company. In an article written in a Lifetime magazine the author states the following: “Williams was bullied badly during childhood for being chubby and would often spend much of his time playing alone in the family's large home to avoid his tormentors. Eventually, he conquered his overweight label though by joining the wrestling and tracks teams, and realized he could make the other children laugh as a way of gaining respect from them.” Having a father that was Ford Motor Executive, a mother that was a successful model and Robin being bullied, I wonder if he felt less than or that he could not measure up to his father and mothers expectation. Like the above statement says, he used his humor as way of gaining respect and that humor appears to have been his primary source of communication.
Alcoholism, addiction, and clinical depression are all serious medical diseases that plague millions of people through out the world. There is treatment for each of these and if we remain diligent with our treatment plan, our chances of living a sober and sane life are good. For myself this treatment included treatment from alcoholism in the rooms of AA, and that included getting a sponsor that had walked the path before me. It included thoroughly and diligently completing the twelve steps as suggested. I had to become rigorously honest with my self about my past and my abuse leaving no stone unturned. I spent countless hours with my therapist Deborah learning how to love myself, all of me. For my depression/Bi-Polar and General Anxiety Disorder I take psychotropic meds as prescribed by my psychiatrist who is an addition specialist. I wish I could tell you that my depression and anxiety had been completely removed from me, but they have not and because of my past drug use and childhood abuse, it is likely that I will be on meds for the rest of my life barring a miracle from God, and if that is what I must do to remain sane, then I will do it.
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous for me provides a design for living that if followed will change your life in ways you never thought possible, that is what happened to my life when I followed the instructions to a new and better life. Again I will quote what is in my opinion the two most important sentences in the Big Book which you can find on the top of Pg. 64 and are far to often over looked. “Liquor is but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions.” I believe that Robin’s suicide is a result of what happens when we never address our underlying causes and conditions but only address the obvious, drinking and drugging, and use our success to hide behind living in a world of denial. I will also add here that none of us will really ever know the answer to this question. Robin knew who Mork, Mrs, Doubtfire, Adrian Cronauer, Garp and countless other characters he played were. Sadly I question if he had any idea of who he was. He learned and developed all his characters while being isolated in his room as a child. Sobriety is so much more than not drinking and using, why oh why can't people see this. I'm saddened by his death in more than just the superficial exterior way, I'm saddened because he did not have to live that way, but it appears as though no one was bold enough to tell him that, or maybe they did and one of his alter ego personalities convinced them other wise. I see so many men (and women) in recovery that do everything they can to avoid working on themselves. Quite often when they struggle with who they are an old timer will tell them to go work with a newcomer to get out of there selves. Or they will get in a relationship where all their focus turns to their new partner and they forget about the work they have to do on their selves. They say you can run but you cannot hide and eventually these men (and women) will be left in a dark room all alone facing demons that they thought would just somehow magically go away by way of osmosis. There is work that we must do and if we do not do it, we will surely drink, use or return to our old ways of living.
This work cannot be done alone. For myself it took my therapist and my sponsor to get me through the many stages of my journey, and the walls and believes about men that I had developed over the years I had to come down. I can only imagine what it must have been like for Robin in the world he lived having to keep up this façade that everything was wonderful, feeling if he were to grow up he would loose his identity, but then again, who was Robin really? Was he Mork, Garp or did he really even know his authentic self, the person behind all those characters. If I had to guess he was still living in a very isolated world with no one to talk about how he was really feeling, the fear he might have been living in, his career coming to an apparent end and loosing everything he had work for years to acquire. I intimately know what that feels like as in 2011 I lost a career I had worked in for forty years and a business I had built for twenty years. The person I thought I was, a president of a million dollar corporation, well known contractor, an employer and a successful businessman suddenly equated to nothing. All I had was myself, Randy with nothing left to define me, now what? I sat n my office and walked around my house dazed and confused trying to figure out who I was. I was just a contractor in the Coachella Valley, Robin was a star of international fame, I can only imagine what it must have been like for him. A place of deep dark despair.
There will come point in everyone’s life where you will be left with just yourself, no career, no business, just a history and a past. And no matter how much you have achieved financially or otherwise, there is nothing lonelier than standing in front of a mirror and wondering who the person in the mirror looking back at you is.
Robin was a famous world known entertainer and philanthropist, I was a very well know and respected contractor that employed eighty people and fed hundreds. What more could we have been. Being an entertainer and a contractor is what we did, it was not who we are. Okay, then who is the authentic self? The authentic self is the person underneath the façade of what we do. Dr. Phil defines it this way, “When you're not living faithfully to your authentic self, you find yourself feeling incomplete, as if there is a hole in your soul. You may have found that it's easier to fill the roles your family and friends expect of you, rather than becoming who you really want to be.”
The authentic self is who you are when all the facades of your life are stripped away, but for so many abuse survivors, and yes Robin was abused (bullying is abuse), we have no idea who that is. We have covered up the effects of our abuse with our successes in life, yet we are still left with that gapping hole in the soul. It is not until we are able sit in front of that mirror and embrace the person, the little kid looking back at us and while looking him straight in the eye telling him/her that I love you, all of you. I love everything about you, flaws and all. You are a child of God and in his eyes you are perfect. It is when we can stop needing other peoples approval, including our parents, to feel complete and whole that we are authentic. This is not an easy journey because the rules and dreams of society tell us how and we are supposed to be in the eyes of the world. I would encourage you to search your own heart and be rigorously honest with yourself about who you are listening to. Yes we all need guidance, but that guidance does need mean persuasion, it means acceptance, approval, direction, understanding and love based advise. To often we seek help while going down one path only to be told, “oh no you really don’t want to do that, you’d be better off doing this.” Who knows better what you want for yourself than yourself. Become the person you want to be, follow your dreams, not your parents even though they are well intentioned, in many cases they are your parents dreams, not yours. Just remember to always keep love, kindness, joy and respect at the center of all you do and always check your motive. Have fun and enjoy the journey, you will be surprised whom you will find.
In an article written in MindBodyGreen by Kelly Obrien, she gives five steps to help you become your authentic self, which I have included below.
1. Make Lists: What you love about yourself, who do you love to spend time with & what brings you passion and joy? Once it is all written down - breathe - and be that person you just wrote about.
2. Ignore the Naysayers. This is an important factor in being true to yourself. If there is a ripple effect of negativity as you make positive changes, this is ok. I know it is uncomfortable but being YOU is much more savvy than creating an image so others are satisfied.
3. Align Your Heart with Your Steps. Which direction are your feet walking? Are they walking towards what you are passionate about in your heart? They should be.
4. Accept Your-self. Stellar Slang. Figure out who are you and when you do, accept yourself with unconditional loving arms. Do not waste another second comparing yourself to others or concerning yourself with what others think. It truly does not matter unless you want it to. You get to decide.
5. Let Go. Let go of the past, it's over. Let go of other's expectations. Let go of your worry for the future. Just be. Simply being in the moment and showing up as your true self is beyond romantic, lovely, sexy, brave and honorable.
"There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a person being themselves. Imagine going through your day being unapologetically you." - Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free