What I Learned From Robin Williams’ Passing, Part II: Advice From My Mom

Robin-WilliamsThank you, everyone, for the outpouring of kind words about my Robin Williams post last week (click here to read “What I Learned From Robin Williams’ Passing”). A bunch of people shared it on Facebook and Twitter. It appears to have resonated at a time people were looking to make sense out of a confusing, devastating turn of events.

The most thought-provoking conversation I had about it was with my mother, who was driving home when we spoke on the phone. Sometimes cell reception in her area is spotty (and sometimes it’s downright crappy), which will be evident as I recall our conversation:

Mom: “It sounds like Robin Williams had things under control… hello? Are you there? Can you hear me?”

Me: “Yea I’m here. You’re going in and out, though.”


Mom: “How about now? Is this better?”

Me: “Yea, that’s better.”

Mom: “What I was saying was that doesn’t it sound like Robin Williams had his issues under control for long periods of time? I mean, he would go back into rehab when he needed to, but he seemed aware of the problems he was fighting.”

Me: “You’re right, from what I’ve read he’s been battling this for decades, and…”

Mom: “Hold on, I want to say ‘hi’ to this neighbor.”

(I hear my mom’s window roll down, and she issues a friendly “hello.”  I can picture her waving in my head.)

Mom: “Sorry about that. They just moved in.”

Me: “No problem.”

Mom: “Anyway. He was doing well for a long, long time. But this still happened.”

Me: “Yea, it’s terrible.”

Mom: “My point is that…”

(I can tell by her voice that she’s looking for the right word.)

Mom: “…just, um…”

(Her voice turns again. She’s found the word.)

Mom: “Don’t be cavalier, David.”

My mom didn’t have to say much else, and, as it turns out, she didn’t, because we were distracted by another neighbor, my friend Sean, whom I’ve known my entire life.

Her point was simple: don’t mistake acknowledging or understanding your issues for having conquered them. Just because you’re able to articulate your challenges, your triggers, your downward spirals, or other elements of your depression or mental illness doesn’t mean you’re immune to them. Self-awareness may provide insight, but not always strength.

It’s a valid point, and one definitely worth remembering. I can’t dismiss my depression or take it less seriously just because I think I may understand it better than before. I don’t want to be blindsided because I’m overly confident or unconcerned.

If this year in any indication, then I’ve been doing well at listening to what’s going on and fighting back. I’ve identified and muscled my way out of two depression episodes, both of which I wrote about. The bigger of the two was back in January (Read my post: “I Wish I Could Stop”) and there was another one in June (Read my post: “Mental Health Check”).

And that, my friends, is an excellent reason to say…

..Keep it up, David!

(And THANK YOU, Mom!)


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5 Responses to What I Learned From Robin Williams’ Passing, Part II: Advice From My Mom

  1. Nurse Karen says:

    I agree with you, David: your mother batted a salient ball in your direction with her words concerning chronic depression: “do not be cavalier”. Insouciant attitudes to depression are one of the reasons we see completed suicidal attempts. I think we have to realize that Robin Williams’ complex rational for suicide was probably more aggressively focused since by his [needless to say, possibly clouded & perhaps accompanied by any of Parkinson’s side affects, such as hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions] reasoning, he knew he had another incurable all-encompassing disease {Parkinson’s Disease} that would eventually render him incapable of doing self-care, engaging in traditional sexual relations with his wife, playing with his children, much less doing what he so loved to do–physically make people laugh, and think, via his acting & comedy. Parkinson’s also has its high rate of depression, what with the dopamine receptor sites in the brain being compromised, the medications that are supposed to help control the symptoms yet have their own rate of depressive side affects, and the current lack of definitive causes or treatments for Parkinson’s Disease. The end result is that we are all so unique, that one-size-does-not-fit-all for depression treatment, and we have to be aware of our own special needs for self-care, diligently support those efforts, and if we grow weary & feel like giving up, or, as your mother wisely noted–“cavalier”, we must choose to have the courage to reach out for help that is often waiting to be lovingly given. Thank you for your candor and being vulnerable with us, as your plight reaches the secret center of us all, who feel frail at times, yet we have Hope. Your bravery in the self-revelations shows a path that leads into conquering the demons of depression. I am in awe of you and learn so much. Keep It Up, David! xoxo

  2. Stephanie says:

    Wow. Just… wow. You’re so right. That’s great advice to us that struggle with depression. It reminds me now of something Liz (priorfatgirl) said in her post about this subject: in the words of Harry Potter’s Mad Eye Moody… “Constant Vigilance”

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