|Robin Williams dead, courtesy of Kiss 92.5 FM|
You’ve already heard the sad news that Robin Williams has passed away on suspicion of suicide. I was a bit shocked when I read it online, but at the same time I’m not surprised. Given there were other actors who have also passed due to drug or alcohol overdose. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Cory Monteith are just a few of them who have died this year. There are so many memorable performances of Robin Williams, which you can find here in a Wikipedia article.
I’d like to share my views on this once and for all, because although we are remembering his many memorable performances, it’s such a shame he had to go through depression, mental illness, and alcoholism, even went to rehab. I mean, the one question I have in mind is that “Do actors and other performing artists really have to suffer for art?” I remember the author Elizabeth Gilbert saying on her Facebook page one time that “we don’t need to suffer for our art.”
I read this interesting article on Stuff Online Magazine here in New Zealand about the so-called Curse of the Clown. The fact that many comedians suffer from varying degrees of depression, mental illness, alcohol and drug addiction, it’s a bit shocking for me. But at the same time, I now understand why viewers get it and laugh when comedians do their roles.
What I now know in light of Robin Williams’ death, after having suffered a little bit of depression myself during teenage years, is that having a belief in Someone bigger than yourself (God, the Universe, Higher Power, whatever you call it) can really help anyone who is going through any life challenge, whether physical or emotional. I’m not preaching here, I’m simply sharing my experiences so anyone suffering from depression can learn from it.
Of course it’s important to have other people who love you and support you in whatever you do, and effort is necessary to make oneself feel better, such as going to therapy, counselling, medication, or rehab when necessary. But when faith is combined with action, you can always get out of any situation or challenge. I don’t know why a faith in God or a Higher Power can always make you not only survive but thrive. All I know is that if anyone of you have tried for years to fill the void of your life with alcohol, sex, too much shopping, and drugs but is not working, then it’s time to have a very honest look within yourself and pray. Yes, pray. Just like what Elizabeth Gilbert did in her book Eat, Pray, Love. Talk to God about your life. There’s nothing wrong with talking to Him as you would to a close friend. I am doing that every day every time I wake up, before I go to bed, even during the day. I also try to meditate, write my thoughts on paper and through this blog, sing, dance, do anything to help me think of the positive side of life.
I also experienced those “demons in the head” and listened to them, believing them to be true. Although the idea of God was introduced to me from a young age through Catholicism, during high school I started asking myself questions like “What’s the point of praying if I am to repeat these common Catholic prayers over and over again?” And it took me a long time to realize that these so-called “demons in the head” were out to destroy me, and if I’m not careful they may want me to kill myself. There were also very critical voices in my head, manipulating me into believing I’m not pretty or good enough for anyone, that I don’t deserve anything good, all those nasty thoughts. Inspite of this, I’m very grateful that I don’t like drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, and my school friends were very good influence.
Only very few people have known of my struggles during high school. The one situation where I decided enough is enough was when I was boarding a ferry going home from Boracay Island. I went out to the side deck and leaned on the railing to look at the water below. And a thought came to my head, saying “Jump.” And I was like, “What? You’re kidding me.” “No, jump,” a man voice commanded again. At that moment, I realized there must be some way I can get out of this kind of thinking, and so moved back inside the ferry. That was a really scary thought to have. If I was really, really vulnerable that stage, I would have jumped and died.
People particularly in the Western world equate spirituality and a belief in God with going to a church or subscribing to a particular religion. And would even balk at the idea that God exists. I can assure you it doesn’t necessarily mean going to church if it’s not your cup of tea. Although I haven’t read the Bible in its entirety, I know few passages that I always meditate and remember when I feel like being negative or going through some challenges, which I now realize are trivial when compared to others. There are also personal growth authors such as Bob Proctor, Norman Vincent Peale, and many others who also believe that we are spiritual and somehow at some point we will yearn for meaning and purpose.
Depression can hit anyone, even a successful person like Robin Williams. But there are scriptures in the Bible I believe are worth looking into, such as:
Matthew 19:26 – “With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
I would like to talk about the the third scripture about trusting the Lord with all your heart. Although I do understand for a person to do his part in getting out of depression or mental illness, at some point if he or she is relapsing, it’s better to surrender, ask God for guidance and do what it is you are guided to do. It’s the idea of surrendering that’s maybe quite hard to understand because we’re used to making things happen through our own efforts. But recalling my experience of surrendering to God everything I felt that time because I felt I couldn’t handle anymore, He has not only made me feel more peaceful but also was guided to do things I never thought of doing before.
Matthew 16:26, Mark 8:36, and Luke 9:25 – “What good will it do to someone if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?”
About the last scripture on gaining the whole world yet losing one’s soul, each one of us is a spiritual being, whether you believe in it or not. It is tuned in to a yearning for Someone up there to help guide it. Otherwise, as I said earlier, if you try to fill the void with alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, and all other addictions, it can and will never be filled. You will still feel unhappy. It’s not surprising that Robin Williams has sought rehab again after relapsing. He didn’t recognize that his soul is yearning for something else beyond what he’s used to doing.
If you know someone who’s going through something, reach out to them. Or even when we don’t personally know someone, all you have to do is smile, be friendly to people wherever you go for there may be someone you meet who’s going through a tough time and seeing you smile and being kind to them may help them feel better. To those who are suffering from depression and mental illness, don’t be afraid to reach out for a someone whom you can talk to. A family member, friend, work colleague, anyone you feel they will listen to you. It’s your turn to reach out, don’t be afraid. There are depression, mental illness, and rehab centers near where you live, all you need to do is to call or visit. There is no shame in asking for help, and keeping on fighting to live until you succeed. Everyone of us can also pray for those who are suffering emotionally, to let them know that Someone up there cares for them, and that there are people willing to help.
We are meant to live a purposeful, meaningful life if we choose to. As long as our souls are fully nourished, and we have loving supportive family and friends, hopefully we will live longer lives.