Robin Williams. Wrestling with the darkness.

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“We wrestle not with flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers and the rulers of this present darkness.”

Paul got it right. We struggle against the forces within and without ourselves. We stand under assault by voices that tempt and taunt and by impulses to strike and to harm. As one friend said about Williams’ suicide “When I look in the mirror, I see Robin.” Depression is his constant companion. The voice he knows the best.

I didn’t know much about depression until I shared an office (and a job) several years ago with a man who was clinically depressed. Getting out of bed was a decision. Making the commute into work was a supreme act of the will, and occasionally answering the phone or confronting a problem was simple beyond his bandwidth.

Watching him struggle to look people in the eye, or muster the energy to meet well-meaning visitors made me so aware of what I take for granted like this:

  • that (generally speaking) each day is going to be pretty good
  • that each day holds enough goodness for the inevitable garbage
  • that a moment is just a moment; the whole is deeper and broader
  • that God is more invested and more in love with this world and everyone in it than I ever imagine

When a friend first heard about Robin Williams suicide, she sadly noted the “selfishness” that’s inherent in this action. I agreed. But at the same time we both acknowledged that in the moment – the victim has little understanding about what selfishness is. Depression so rearranges what we perceive to be normal that it bears little resemblance to reality.

We also know that depression is increasing. The American Journal of Psychiatry study reported that major depression rates for American adults increased from 3.33 percent to 7.06 percent from 1991 through 2002. Presently, the CDC believe almost 1:10 Americans are depressed. 

That’s a lot of people to be fighting against the powers and principalities and the rulers of the present darkness. And that’s a lot of people who will be particularly affected by the news on Robin Williams.

Let’s help each other. Let’s be kind. And a bit more patient. Let’s remember that for some on some days even smiling takes some energy. Let’s cut us all some slack and help each other fight the good fight.

5 thoughts on “Robin Williams. Wrestling with the darkness.

  1. Thanks for this, Laura & the reminder to extend kindness, patience & grace because we really don’t know what daily hell people we encounter are dealing with. I appreciate the statistic that Anne Lamott passed on – that ‘a third of the people we adore & admire in this world & in our families have severe mental illness and/or addiction’. Sobering & true. And also true that we can’t fight the good fight without the help of others, as you say. Thanks again, Sandy Reed

  2. Thank you Laura! Your words always speak to me! From one “usually happy” person to another! Sometimes I have to stop and try to put myself in the place of a quieter, and possibly depressed person; to stop and empathize and try to understand. Thank you!

    • Thanks you two. I agree Linda, learning to be attentive to the various shades of sadness is a challenge for those of us who are pretty upbeat. But wow- that’s a challenge worth working on isn’t it?

  3. I’m not a pop music person and especially not a pop video guy but, a (long) while back there was a video to a Genesis(?) song that I don’t remember which consisted solely of typewriter text scrolling one aphorism after another appearing as the song played. I didn’t watch the the whole video (of course) but one line which stated, “Right now is harder than it looks.” has stuck with me ever since. It’s probably true for most of the people we deal with. It’s certainly true for me.

  4. Thanks for highlighting something that people deal with everyday. Your description of what depression is like is spot on. Many times the choices themselves feel overwhelming for someone who is depressed.

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