Pink & Blue Mummyland

Pink and blue parenting through pink and blue moods….

News Of The Day

I got a text this morning. It was from a friend who had clicked on her Facebook icon before me, only to find that the legend, Robin Williams, had taken his own life. Like a true friend, she warned me that it might be a good idea to stay away from social media for a bit. She was right.

I’m someone who is consciously and decisively protective of my mental health – especially at the moment. I avoid any sites that might risk bringing me down, and despite following numerous bipolar, depression, and general mental health groups on Facebook, I am careful what I choose to click on and what I choose to avoid. I’ve given up Twitter altogether for the moment, because – as famously said by another of my favourite actors – “you never know what you’re going to get.” I am not willing to let my iPad dictate my emotions.

But today has got the better of me. I find myself clicking on every link and watching endless YouTube videos. I have heard again “O captain my captain,” “it’s not your fault” and “goooooood mooorniiiing Vietnaaaam!” I’ve even watched him singing with a gorilla. It’s hard to believe such a powerhouse is suddenly not there any more. It’s harder still to believe that someone who had such power over an audience, such an ability to draw out emotion, such humour as to draw people in, eventually lost the fight.

A poet who lived round the corner from where I grew up describes it perfectly: “I was much further out than you thought, and not waving but drowning.” Robin Williams always did a very good job of waving. He waved hard and fast, with innumerable affected voices, hilarious mannerisms, and what has now shown to be bittersweet slapstick. When life knocked him down he got back up again – and again and again and again it would now seem.

One of my best memories of seeing Robin Williams is probably different from everyone else’s. I saw him on a TV documentary, in a studio recording the Beatles song “Come Together.” Beatles producer George Martin, on retiring, chose his favourite songs, his favourite (not necessarily singing) celebrities, and gifted us with one of the best mash-up albums ever. Robin (I feel strangely comfortable referring to him by his first name now) was mesmerising, although I’m now unsure how universal a response that would have been. But I remember thinking, “how does he come up with so many voices, so many faces, so many ideas, so quickly? How does he keep up?” Of course, with my recently acquired, enforced knowledge of bipolar disorder, I can understand. I’ve felt that quickness of mind, rush of thought, challenge to get everything out. I don’t know whether his coherence in that slightly manic state was due to practise or plain giftedness. I’m fairly certain it was the latter, but thinking it was the former gives me at least a glimmer of hope that one day I might find an edge whereby I can harness what hypomania gives me rather than losing it all in a rush of words. (By the way, the documentary is here, and you can find Robin at 9.27)

I wonder how many more people will give up their fight to live today, after having had the news of Robin Williams’ suicide spread unexpectedly before their eyes as they opened their Twitter and Facebook apps this morning? I wonder just how many of us will have seen his face scrolling over and over and had the thought, “if he can’t carry on, how can I?”

I also wonder, how many people will make more effort to understand mental illness? How many people will take the step from believing that suicide is selfish and weak, toward finally seeing it as the final symptom of an invisible, life threatening disease?

I can only hope that the first number will shrink and the second will grow. That somewhere, from the fate of this funny, clever, troubled man will come a new understanding and a softness of heart towards those of us who struggle every day to keep going.

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

(Stevie Smith, 1972)

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