Robin Williams: The Mask of Humor

Robin-Williams-robin-williams-32089778-2798-2798Beloved actor Robin Williams struggled with depression and substance abuse throughout his illustrious career, and recently was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. On Monday, August 11, he committed suicide at the age of 63.

We all wear masks at one time or another, pretending that everything is OK. It’s common to hide our personal pain. But the bad feelings don’t just disappear.

Whether you’re facing a financial crisis, giving up roles that define you, or adjusting to great loss and a new reality, examine how to deal with what’s missing. Decide what changes you need to make and refuse to give up on yourself. I hope the following tips can help you move forward:

Look deep inside. Perhaps you’re afraid to face what’s going on in your heart or in your head. If you’ve been sad and withdrawn or holding back, think about what you’re hiding. If lately you’re more impulsive or acting out, what’s making you so frustrated and angry? Although denial can be a defense, get past it for your own sake and for your family.

Reduce your stress. Tension from work pressures can be a catalyst for negativity and bad behavior. Remember to honor your body. Pay attention to your exercise routine, what you eat, sleeping habits and what gives you pleasure. Actually, schedule a short meditation or relaxation practice into your daily routine until it becomes a healthy habit.

Seek the support you need. Spend time with friends who understand what you’re going through or colleagues who have had similar experiences themselves. Or talk with family members who know what’s in your best interests and whose opinions you respect. Connect often with those you trust so you can feel safer and more secure.

Speak your truth. If you’re confused about what to do next, get the help you need. Seeking expert guidance from a therapist or a 12-step program and learning effective coping skills can be a lifesaver. As you put unfinished business to rest and make amends, you’ll feel free to be more honest with those who are important to you.

Accept who you are becoming. It won’t be easy to re-define your long range goals, but gradually you will feel stronger and more resilient. Continue to set short term objectives, and act on them, as you go from being afraid of your future to feeling excited about what’s ahead.

Be congruent in your life. When you feel one way and act another, you can be out of sorts and not comfortable in your own skin. Work on synchronicity; that is, making what you feel match what you do. Integrate your personal values and core ideals into how you view the world, and live them.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, serious depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. It is estimated that over 16 million U.S. adults have had at least one major depressive episode or bout of significant depressive symptoms in the past year.

Men with depression are more likely to mask their sadness by engaging in risky behaviors or abusing alcohol and other substances. And they’re more likely than women to commit suicide. More than 750,000 people attempt suicide in the United States each year and 30,000 people are successful.

It’s impossible to feel optimistic when you’re suffering from a void that you can’t fill, no matter what you do. And if those around you don’t understand how dark and deep depression can be, it is incredibly lonely. The road to healing is long and hard. And tragically some lose all hope, can’t find meaning and purpose or see the point in going on.

William’s wife, Susan Schneider, commented that, “as he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.” Let’s also not forget that, with our own loved ones who are in pain, humor can mask the unbearable suffering inside.







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