Converting to Judaism

The Oys and Joys of Choosing A Jewish Life

Robin Williams

on August 12, 2014

I’m sorry to post something so sad after my last post about Tisha B’Av, but it’s necessary. These are mixed times that we live in, full of both heartbreak and joy. Right now, a little heartbreak.

When I first heard about Robin Williams’ death, I felt shock. Disbelief. A man whom I associated with joking, laughter, and priceless voice imitations lost his battle with depression. It’s like finding out a friend has stage IV cancer after he’s died. I didn’t know. But how could I?

I felt angry. Why would God, who spared my life two years ago by sending me someone to talk me out of suicide, not send a person, a voice, a hand for this man who was a light in the world? Why me, small, insignificant and struggling, and not him?

Just as my perspective is only one among many Jewish ones, so is my voice only one representation of those who are depressed. I don’t like to talk about my depression because I don’t want people to see me as different or sick and treat me as thus. Specifically, I’ve been diagnosed with Seasonal Afffective Disorder (SAD), which is slightly different in itself. But still the same struggles, the same battle every winter that many face every day.

Robin Williams has always been an actor I’ve admired. From The Dead Poet’s Society to Good Morning Vietnam to Aladdin, there was such a spark that he brought to the screen that made me fall in love with not just his acting but the entire feature. When people ask me what my favorite Disney movie is, I say Aladdin. Then they assume because I like Jasmine, or the story, but it’s always the big blue Genie (and later the voice behind him) that draws me to the screen and that particular VHS tape time and time again.

I don’t want to talk about how he died. But I do want to tell you that my surprise over his death taught me an important lesson, one worth sharing. People who are sick ARE normal people. We picture a depressed person as the one sitting in the corner by himself- moping, sad, and alone. But depressed people make jokes. They feel good some days. They put up a freaking good fight just so we don’t have to see them when they fall. They hide behind funny faces because they’re afraid that the one true face, their own, is too miserable to share with those around them.

Sure, some people are more susceptible to depression than others, but don’t be fooled by stereotypes. And though I’ve just spent an entire blog post on it, don’t remember Robin Williams by his depression. There is so much more in his life that is worth sharing and remembering, so much more that I hope far exceeds his life.

I thank God often for sending someone to save me that day, and I’m eternally grateful to the human being who saved my life down by the train tracks two years ago. I’ll never understand why some people die and some live, who decides, and why the world is unfair. But I have learned to celebrate life, to be sensitive to others, to reach out when I’m feeling overwhelmed by my own dark thoughts, and to laugh often. I’m sorry, Robin. Sorry you didn’t win this one. Sorry it had to end like this, sorry you didn’t see in yourself what the rest of the world saw in you. I promise to keep smiling, to keep fighting, and to remind others that they might be the person someone needs.

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” – Robin Williams, DPS

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