Robin Williams was a bipolar man. This is a fact which is being erased. The situation is being treated as if he had unipolar depression, or as if suicide just came out of nowhere and he did not know how to get help. Robin was very open about his depression. But anyone with bipolar could also recognize his mania. The idea that he might just not know how to get help is ludicrous and insulting to Robin. When you have bipolar disorder, you struggle with it every single day. You struggle when depressed, and you struggle when manic too. There are two poles. And it seems obvious to me from the way that his bipolar disorder is being erased that this and my other life experiences are teaching me mania scares people more than depression does.
A lot of people have depression. And they want to speak up about it, and that's great. But Robin's mood swings were larger than from depressed to normal and back. They were from mania to maybe normal and then depression. Extreme highs and lows that are torturous to endure. The differences are so vast that life can seem unliveable, unmanageable. Depression itself is like a black dog in the corner who you are always aware of. Bipolar can be an out of control roller coaster. It is exhausting. It is torturous. And when we lose a bipolar role model, it's impossible not to think it could be us, that a swing will just be too much.
I wrote the following two posts since Monday when I found out, and I feel that both sentiments have value. I am going to save those sentiments:
Oh my God. Robin Williams died. This year is a really bad year for deaths, not just celebrity deaths... just wow.
And they think it was a suicide. Oh, my bipolar buddy. D: It's a tough fight, my friend.
LIVING WITH BIPOLAR:
When we collectively mourn Robin Williams we are mourning for someone who gave us many formative, thought-provoking moments in our lives. Yes, Robin was a comedian, but his movies also tackled very dark subjects. (You don't get much darker than What Dreams May Come, a movie that makes me sob from beginning to end.) But also, those of us with experience of depression or bipolar have lost a comrade in arms today. This must have been why Robin was drawn to the darker movies that he did. So many which addressed suicide, either as an entire plot device or in passing. He was incredible to be able to bring us those topics and make it through. Incredible strength. I don't say that because of his entertainment ability, I say that as a fellow bipolar person. I could never have addressed half of the things Robin did regularly in his career. I would not have the strength of will.
I have already almost succumbed to suicide more than once and the only reason I am here is the trauma hospital. It really scares me that I may have to battle this again. I can't/won't judge Robin for losing the fight, but the strength that he had was amazing, and to see him succumb is pretty terrible. Can I make it another 33 years with this brain? Will it all be way too much by then? I don't know. I'm just relieved that right now I get to have a clear head...but every med change is roulette (even moreso for me than most, as I already sustained additional brain damage from med fail), so I don't think too far into the future.
This isn't a hypothetical for me. It may be an eventuality. Just ugh.
I am immortalizing these posts here. Because Robin didn't secretly become un-bipolar. He was bipolar. He had incredible swings, intolerable swings, and when you reach the point of that unending low you do not see a way out other than the one he took. There is only one solution to you then. Yes, he was depressed, but imagine that he didn't just have to contrast that with normal, but with the amazing highs during which he got his work done. It's that much more torturous. The fight is that much tougher, broader, and deeper. And I won't see it erased.
You fought hard, Robin, and I honor you--all of you. Not just the funny parts. And not just the parts that other people like. All of it, the messy, rough truth. Thank you for all that you've done. No one else could have done it.
Other blog posts on this topic: