After learning of Robin Williams' passing on Monday I was shocked and disappointed and curious about what happened, much like I expected most people were. I logged on Facebook and posted something short like, "Jesus, Robin Williams is dead" and left it at that.
I deleted the post later because I saw the tsunami of personal tributes take over the news feed and felt whatever I had to say wasn't adding anything constructive. Then news came out about how Mr. Williams died and the shock went away, but my curiosity and disappointment didn't.
I volunteered as an usher at The Sundance Film Festival the year Robin Williams' film "One Hour Photo" made its world premiere. I was able to watch the film because the volunteers are rotated into different positions so everyone can see some of the films. It was a very different picture than anything I had seem Mr. Williams in before. For those who haven't seen it, it's an edgy film that focuses on obsession and how loneliness can lead to mental malfunction.
After the film was over Robin hopped up on stage for a Q&A and lightened the mood of the heavy-hearted audience who had just sat though something they obviously weren't prepared for. He turned the Eccles Theatre into the best open mic night I have ever been witness to. He joked about Utah culture and his "Mormon Posse." He went on for about 45 minutes. The audience: in stitches. Then he took time to shake hands and say hello to everyone he could before heading backstage to the volunteer area where I had snuck off to since I preparing for the next screening and grabbing a snack.
I clumsily said, "hello." I was a bit surprised. He asked me how I liked the festival and where I was from. When I told him I was a local he asked me about good places to go biking in Utah. I can't remember my response, but we talked a little about snowboarding as it was something I actually knew a bit about. It was a brief chat and odd in how casual it was since I was talking to THE Robin Williams.
I'm not relating this story to name drop, but with Mr. William's death this chance meeting came to mind. I was in the right place at the right time and got to meet a movie star who just seemed really nice and comfortable with people. He didn't have a security detail with him or a crew - not even his Mormon Posse.
I mention this story because when I think about those 45 minutes Robin Williams was performing impromptu and the amount of enjoyment he brought an auditorium of people with his presence and humor, immediately after a dark drama no less, a well of sadness invites itself into the front of my consciousness. Knowing some people pay for highs with extreme and dangerous lows is a heavy and confusing train of thought.
I have seen those lows with people very close to me - very low. I don't want to go into detail, but I have sat in emergency rooms. I've seen havoc and worry wreaked. I have been through it as a witness and it sucks. It's shit. And it's debilitating and can be distancing at time when distance is not what someone really needs.
So I thought I would post a link to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention with the idea that there might be someone around you having a hard time or perhaps they have been for a while, that there may be a discussion to be had there. Maybe you've felt off for a while yourself and think, "That's just how I am." Why bother taking a chance? Maybe ask a few questions. Here is a link. Click if you need it.