One sad day, a man who had battled years of illness, struggled with years of pain and depression, and was physically and emotionally beaten and exhausted defied the wishes of those who loved him and chose to end his life. After years of putting on a brave smile, we finally got to see the genuine sadness in his beautiful eyes, and he left those who loved him to find his peace.
Robin Williams? No. That was my dad. His body, ravaged by the effects of his diabetes, was finished without medical intervention. His mind was weary. He had no fight left in him, no matter how much those of us who loved him wanted him to pick up arms and live to fight another day. He instructed the doctors to discontinue his medical treatment and allow him to slip away, which he did, in hospice.
Yet people are saying Robin Williams took the “easy way out”. I’ve seen comments that allude to the fact that he had money, he could have hired all the help he needed, and he opted not to get the help that might have saved his life. I’ve heard people call him a coward.
It’s funny, because I heard none of those things about my dad. No one accused him of taking the easy way out. No one said he was a coward. Even though my dad blatantly refused medical help that would have prolonged his life, no one would dare say he chose not to save his life.
My dad’s illness could be seen by everyone. His arms were riddled with the bruises from constant medical treatments. His legs had been amputated. He needed dialysis. You could look at my dad and know he was sick.
That’s the rub with depression. It’s a pain you can’t see – an illness that eats you from the inside, leaving your outside in many cases looking perfectly normal. Yes, there’s medication to ease the pain, but many of them cause a whole different kind of pain – some of them even have the side effect of wanting to commit suicide. All too often, people suffering the excruciating pain of depression turn to booze or drugs to help with the pain. Then, instead of looking sick from a very real, incredibly devastating illness, you look like a drunk or a druggie. We don’t have much sympathy for those kinda people in our society.
As my dad lay dying in hospice, he was medicated to help alleviate his pain. Robin used alcohol and drugs, both of which were removed as options for him, again, because that’s not an acceptable way to conduct yourself in public. I cannot begin to imagine them not easing my dad’s pain with some kind of medication. My heart breaks that Robin didn’t have something legal and morally acceptable that worked to ease his pain.
You see it in comedians all the time. Richard Jeni. Freddie Prinze. Charles Rocket. Mitch Hedberg. Belushi. Farley. Bruce. No matter how much they make us laugh, they remain ravaged by this illness that doesn’t let them feel the warmth of the humor.
I loved Robin Williams. The sadness in his eyes was always there, but it was hard to tell if it was part of a character or him really struggling. No one can say he took the easy way out. This man lived in agony for years with a disease most of us don’t even fully acknowledge exists.
There is no easy way out of that.
I hope the way he took was the path to his peace.