“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it”.
On August 11th, 3 years ago, the world lost its undisputed king of comedy and one of the greatest actors we had ever known, Robin Williams. Williams took his own life after a decade-long battle with depression and the onset of Lewy body dementia along with Parkinson’s disease. However, he left us with a legacy of inspiring, one of kind movies such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, and Good Morning, Vietnam, to name a few.
Every single movie of his has inspired us to try harder, given us hope when we felt like we were stuck in a bottomless pit, cheered us up when our self-confidence had hit an all new low and made us laugh till our stomachs hurt. Williams pours out his heart and soul into each and every character he has ever portrayed, leaving us with a medley of emotions.
“Dead Poets Society”, was one such movie that hits you deep within your soul, leaving an everlasting impact in your life. Robin Williams delivered one of his most memorable performances in the film, playing the role of John Keating, an English teacher in the elite conservative boarding school Welton Academy. He inspires his students to embrace their passion, and allow themselves to be consumed by poetry, love, music and art. Whenever you feel chocked by the mundane everyday grind of life, make it a point to watch this movie. Being one of my personal favorites, this movie continues to be a huge source of inspiration to all, edging us on to dream big and follow our heart.
“Patch Adams”, is another noteworthy role that was received with mixed emotions. Patch Adams tells the inspirational true story of this once clinically depressed, newly invigorated caregiver on his journey through medical school and beyond. Breaking all the molds, Patch’s excessive cheer and optimism challenge conventional medical practices. Practicality or compassion? Indifference or concern? He chooses to love and respect those in pain, improving life instead of just delaying death. And the payoffs are tremendous. He believes that hospitals should personally interact with their patients and that laughter and kindness were easily the most effective medicines. Patch Adams has the potential to inspire medical professionals help prevent the alienation of patients from their caregivers. Though critics dismissed this film as a mawkish tear-jerker, it captures the human spirit at its finest.
“Good Will Hunting” gave Williams the coveted Oscar for his role as Matt Damon’s therapist. This is a powerful film about Will, a working class janitor, who leaves MIT professors dumfounded with his IQ. However, his aggression and complacency leaves no room for personal growth. This is where, Williams enters, guiding Will into the path of self-discovery. This film boasts of two of Robin William’s best speeches, so juicy they look set to become actors’ audition pieces: one about the virtue of imperfection, the other a hostile lecture to Will on the difference between knowledge and experience.
Be it a hilarious RJ who tries to bring some much needed humor into the lives of Vietnam war soldiers, the rib tickling yet honest portrayal of a father, trying to spend more time with his children under the guise of their new nanny in “Mrs. Doubtfire” or the cheerful “Teddy Roosevelt” in the “Night at the museum” series, Robin Williams was a gem of an individual, who was taken away from us too soon.
I was completely taken aback on hearing of his suicide, and that was when the magnitude of depression really hit me. Depression distorts your thoughts. It makes the world black and white. It sucks all the optimism and will out of you. Maybe there’s something that triggered it, something that was ongoing, but worsened to a point where you could not take it anymore. Sometimes there’s no reason, and that’s even worse somehow. In an interview, Robin William’s wife had said “Depression was one of let’s call it 50 symptoms, and it was a small one.” He had been suffering with debilitating brain disease called “ Lewy body dementia” accompanied as it usually is, with paranoia and depression. Frequently misdiagnosed, it is the second most common neurodegenerative dementia after Alzheimer’s and causes fluctuations in mental status, hallucinations and impairment of motor function.
We cannot completely criticize his choice to give up his life instead of fighting his problems without personally understanding what he might have gone through. However, remember, there is always another path that leads to a happier ending. The dark tunnel will ultimately lead to light. The process of finding that might seem emotionally draining, but with the help of loved ones, you will surely get there.
Robin Williams himself had once said, “If you are that depressed, reach out to someone. And remember, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. If you feel like you are slowly falling into the waiting hands of depression, stop, think of all the happy moments in your life, the people who love you, mainly your parents, to whom you are the single most important source of happiness.
I would like to end this tribute with a quote from the “Dead Poets Society”.
“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world”.
Thank you, Robin Williams, for changing ours.