I heard the news he was gone and it hit me like a solid punch in the gut. Always a favorite actor, someone I viewed as possessing true brilliance, and one who I respected for reaching the true breadth of human existence in his art. On Monday, I heard the sad news of Robin William’s passing.
There is another reason why I always felt a connection to this artist and humanitarian that I had actually never met in person. When I watched his brilliance of improvisation unfold, how he was able to touch human nature and emotions while harnessing the true beauty and power of words, I also saw the price he had to pay for such a bright light. Anyone who lives with bipolar chemistry residing in their brains recognizes the physical transformation that takes place when the bright light and powerful push of rapid-fire thoughts take hold. On stage, he was constantly thinking, speaking, sweating… I could only imagine his heart pounding and how his speech much feel pushed against the back of his tongue forcing its way out. The thoughts must have felt as if they would simply explode. And while I loved witnessing the brilliance, I knew the bright light also would give way to times where darkness would encapsulate this individual. And yet, for sixty-three years, he fought every day. How courageous.
The trickery of the chemistry of the mind is that we think we can control it. When we live with a chemistry that is off-balance, that can be perilous for our well-being, we tend to take cues from society that any method we can find to control it on our own has to be better than letting another person in on the secret. Some look to other chemicals: alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, sugar, and countless others. Others look towards physical stimulation to spur the chemical response: cutting, eating, sleeping, exercising, and so much more. Over the years, Mr. Williams worked to reign in his highs and desperate lows while bringing us his amazing brilliance. Exquisite exhaustion, I am sure.
But today, for me, there are tears. However, I also hope that you, Mr. Williams, have found the peace that has eluded you. As one who has been at that brink, and only through medical intervention have I not crossed over, I know the decision you bore was one of selflessness. It was one of hoping for peace for all, including yourself and the ones you love. The pain was beyond pain and the exhaustion beyond exhaustion.
I can also hope that we, as a society, will find a way to help one another… to provide support that is so often lacking. May we find peace, someday, on this side.