In the wake of Robin Williams’ death, much has been written about suicide and depression. For a clinical psychologist deeply touched by his singularly frenetic artistry, what has emerged is a desire to show heightened compassion for ourselves and others by honoring our own personal stories, experiences, and inner feelings. I am not advocating increased indulgence of dependent and destructive behavior, but rather urging unlimited respect for the power of the full range of emotions within all of us. Robin Williams was uniquely brilliant at summoning up his astonishingly complex emotional spectrum as an actor and comedian, but can there be any doubt that it was this same fragile emotional dexterity that ultimately led to his death?
What we resist persists. Perhaps you are experiencing emotions that are difficult and seem unmanageable: speak to them now if you can. If you possess the courage to acknowledge personally what you are feeling, and to treat yourself with compassion on your own — bravo! If you need assistance from others to accomplish this, please take the risk of finding those who can join you on this intimate journey; they are out there. And even if you don’t believe you are worthy of such support and self-kindness, please tell someone you respect and trust what you are facing and feeling — today.
No one has to suffer alone, and it’s ultimately not sustainable. While the darkest shadows of despair, loneliness, hopelessness, and shame are powerful forces, they can be reckoned with. You do not always have to be ruled by your emotions, even if you rely upon them for your life’s work. There is a different path that we should all commit to follow with redoubled resolve given Robin Williams’ tragic denouement.