There are no answers to Robin Williams’ suicide, only questions.
Little is known of Robin’s family history of depression, but there are reports of childhood loneliness, shyness, sadness and melancholia. He played alone for hours. Did the inability of his parents to allow him to attach to them lead to a lifetime of attachment-seeking through substances and entertainment?
Little is known of his father, Robert Fitzgerald Williams, who as a Ford executive responsible for the midwest traveled a great deal, and appeared to be distant emotionally and physically absent. Williams only mention of his father was when he recalled his father’s wrath when Robin bought his first foreign car rather than a Ford. Did his inability to identify with him lead to his inability to form intimate enduring attachments to women?
Did his mother Laurie McLaurin, a former model, narcissistically embrace Robin’s humor and use it to enhance her own self, depriving Robin of a deeper satisfaction from his gift? Images of his mother indicate an appearance-conscious, well-preserved woman, who used Robin’s humor to enhance her own status. Reports state that she was “very close” to her son which, given Robin’s loneliness and detachment could indicate the enmeshment of a narcissistic mother. Narcissistic parents rob children of the ownership of their own talents, by usurping them and using them for their own needs. Did this lead to a tremendous need for approval through humor which never really satisfied him because it never belonged to him? Was Robin able to attach to others only through drama? Did this make him inaccessible to therapists and those wanting to help? It is known that those closest to him had no idea the depth of his depressions.What happened during his last admission in July 2014 at the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center in Minnesota?
Because his diagnostic picture is clouded by both cocaine and alcohol, it is unclear whether he suffered from bipolar disorder or unipolar depression. “Cocaine for me was a place to hide. Most people get hyper on coke. It slowed me down.” But Robin apparently quit cocaine after John Belushi’s death in 1984. Like Ernest Hemingway, Robin refused medications, which he felt limited his thinking. Some people with bipolar disorder feel that medications prescribed for the disorder create a mental fog and flatten their emotions. Instead, did he medicate depression with cocaine and mania with alcohol? “Do I perform sometimes in a manic style? Yes,” Williams told Terry Gross on “Fresh Air” NPR radio show 2006. “Am I manic all the time? No. Do I get sad? Oh yeah. Does it hit me hard? Oh yeah.” Without cocaine, how was his depression treated?
Did Robin refuse to accept depression as a diagnosis and thus accept appropriate therapy, or was he just unwilling to admit it publicly? When Gross asked Robin if he had been diagnosed with ‘clinical depression,’ Williams answered: “No clinical depression, no. No. I get bummed, like I think a lot of us do at certain times. You look at the world and go, ‘Whoa.’ Other moments you look and go, ‘Oh, things are okay.’” Did he ever receive good therapy? Was his sense of self ever built? Amid the 1994 Mrs. Doubtfire publicity he said, “You have an internal critic, an internal drive that says, ‘Okay, you can do more. Maybe that’s what keeps you going. Maybe that’s a demon. Some people say it’s a muse. No, it’s not a muse! It’s a demon!”
Williams stopped drinking for 20 years. He joined AA and was seen at an AA meeting in San Francisco this summer. Was he was a long-time sober member, who had worked the steps? Or was there part of him that failed to fully accept the disease? Describing his 2003 relapse, he said,”I was in a small town where it’s not the edge of the world, but you can see it from there, and then I thought: drinking. I just thought, hey, maybe drinking will help. Because I felt alone and afraid. It was that thing of working so much, and going. Maybe that will help. And it was the worst thing in the world. You feel warm and kind of wonderful. And then the next thing you know, it’s a problem, and you’re isolated.”
Did the series of losses he experienced over the past 10 years trigger his melancholy? At age 63, the loss of youth. In 2004 he lost Chris Reeve, a long-time close friend. A painful anniversary of his older brother Robert’s death on August 14, 2007. A long-term marriage dissolved in 2008 accompanied by a severe financial loss. Heart surgery aortic valve replacement in 2009. His children ages 31, 25 and 23 grown to adulthood and not ‘needing’ him any longer. Financial losses and fears of being unable to support his family and his inability to ask for help. The need to take on roles he didn’t want because of financial need, for example the TV series ‘The Crazy Ones’ which failed and was cancelled in 2014.“Robin slipped into a deep depression,” one source said. “He felt humiliated that the show had been a failure. It was very hard for Robin to accept. Here he was in his sixties, and forced to take a role on television for the money. It’s just not where he thought he would be at this point in his life.”
Robin Williams lived to help others, to please others, to make others laugh. I wish he had been accessible enough to have allowed any one of us to reach in far enough and help pull him out.
“It’s the same voice thought that … you’re standing at a precipice and you look down, there’s a voice and it’s a little quiet voice that goes, ‘Jump,’” Williams told Diane Sawyer. “The same voice that goes, ‘Just one.’ And the idea of just one for someone who has no tolerance for it, that’s not the possibility.”