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13 August 2014 @ 02:28 pm
"... I AM Pagliacci."  
A common reaction to Robin Williams' suicide is surprise, most particularly surprise that he suffered from depression.

That part … did not surprise me at all.

Look at him. Pick any movie, any scene, especially the ones where he's smiling. His smile, more often that not, is almost apologetic.

That is the face of a man who is constantly, keenly aware of the fragile, transient beauty of life and existence … and the more beautiful the moment, the more that transience weighs upon him.

That is the face of someone who feels sadness in the midst of the most sincere joy, because of that joy.

That's depression.

It's not just languishing in the dark and reading Goth poetry. It can also be smiling with tears in your eyes. It's not an inability to feel joy or happiness – it's when even joy brings pain.

Some people think that if it weren't for the lows in life, we couldn't appreciate the highs. When you suffer from depression, it’s exactly the opposite: the highs in life just bring the lows into sharp relief.

If you look at Robin Williams' life – his loving family, his career and fans, his financial security, his supportive community – and think that, in the face of all that, being depressed "doesn't make any sense" – you're absolutely correct.

Clinical depression isn't an emotional state. It’s a chemical imbalance. Those serotonin levels don’t respond to logic or reason or perspective, and even when you know all these things intellectually, they don’t magically make the emptiness go away.

I was lucky. I had acute depression, not chronic, and I don't seem to have whatever quirk of psychology or metabolism that leads to substance abuse or addiction issues. I can empathize with the late Mr. Williams, deeply, but I can't ever know what it was really like in his head, to have the Black Dog sinking its teeth in your throat, even when surrounded by those you love and who love you in return.

Subject line courtesy of Patton Oswalt's Twitter.
I feel: contemplativecontemplative
Moral Explorer: defaultnotthebuddha on August 13th, 2014 10:04 pm (UTC)
Those serotonin levels don’t respond to logic or reason or perspective, and even when you know all these things intellectually, they don’t magically make the emptiness go away.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy isn't magical, no, but it does help some of us. Not doing so great for me just now, for instance, but if someone can give me some external reasons why things suck, that leaves me with more spoons for other matters than pondering, why me? what did I do? what did I not do? .
Stalbonstalbon on August 13th, 2014 10:14 pm (UTC)
It was much more his live-action skits that showed me his sheer mania. When put into an ad-lib contest or a live-action comedy show, he was almost constantly trying to vie for the attention, to overshadow others, or to simply spin a yarn for every possible minute. That is a man trying to constantly be funny, perhaps, because it is what people expected of him, or simply because at the time, it was all he knew. I'm not saying he was like that all the time: his very existence as an actor shows he could control it...but those shows will always be the way I remember him: striving for attention, trying to prove to people that he is a comedian (a good one, to be sure!).
The Mystery of the Supranational Rabbit: Cadbury bunny - eyes aheadporsupah on August 16th, 2014 03:51 pm (UTC)
His little monologues in films, where he'd be trying to convince you of the wonder of life, the beauty and craziness of it all - it's nonetheless evident that, despite his end, he so strongly believed in it, and likely felt it even more poignantly than most.

Ah well. Time tonight, perhaps, to watch one of his lesser-rated works again, for the first time in probably 20 years: Toys. I recall that as being a very Williams film.