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Column: Something ‘wicked’ this way comes

Posted: August 16, 2018 1:11 p.m.
Updated: August 17, 2018 1:00 a.m.

It’s been four years and a week since we lost the comedic genius of Robin Williams.

I was shocked that day in 2014 when I learned Williams had taken his own life. He was 63 and, according to his wife, his suicide could be attributed to his struggle with Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), sometimes referred to as Lewy Body Disease.

According to the LBD Association, LBD symptoms closely resemble -- and often are misdiagnosed -- as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases. It “is a progressive brain disorder in which Lewy bodies (abnormal amount of a protein...) build in areas of the brain that regulate behavior, cognition and movement. A complex disease, LBD can present with a range of symptoms, including problems with thinking, memory, moving, sleep and/or changes in behavior.... LBD also affects autonomic body functions, such as blood pressure control, temperature regulation, and bladder and bowel function. Progressively debilitating, LBD can also cause people to experience visual hallucinations or act out their dreams.”

Williams’ addiction and health problems -- which he didn’t shy away from acknowledging, but fought throughout his life -- is well documented. As such, I can’t help but wonder if his decision to end his own life was due, to be blunt, to not being able to take any more abuse, self-inflicted or, in this case, not.

But I’m not qualified to make such conclusions. I’m no psychologist and have only really struggled with what I think was prolonged depression just once in my entire life (which I believe was caused by a combination of not being on a specific medicine for a physical ailment while undergoing pretty extreme emotional stress).

I can’t know what was in Williams’ mind except that I suspect he felt he was suffering and didn’t want to burden his family with what would come with LBD. Again, it’s just a guess.

In June, actor and author Wil Wheaton published the text of a speech he gave in May to a National Alliance on Mental Illness conference in Ohio about how he lives with chronic depression and anxiety. It was something he said he could finally speak about publicly after suffering for 30 years. Just by saying he lives with it made things better, he said.

“...one of the things depression does, to keep itself strong and in charge, is tell us lies, like: I am the worst at everything. Nobody really likes me. I don’t deserve to be happy. This will never end,” Wheaton told those assembled in Ohio.

He’s used the phrase before: depression -- indeed, all mental illness -- lies. It whispers in your ear, an unending voice telling you the most awful things about yourself and the people and world around you. In a way, depression, mental illness and physical ailments like LBD are wicked.

But Wheaton also said that while depression can’t be forced away, there are things that do help -- from taking a shower to playing a tug of war with your dog -- and that the “awful, overwhelming, terrible way you feel is not forever. It will get better. It always gets better. You are not alone in this fight, and you are OK.”

Wheaton said he’s been helped by certain medications, but he also touted the support he has from his wife, Anne (who’s an author, too) and the community of fans who follow him on social media.

Does everyone have that support? No. But I hope they’ll reach out to someone, anyone, even if it’s a voice on the other end of a hotline.

As a fan of Wheaton’s, I’m glad he hasn’t suffered to the point where he’s committed suicide. There’s been a rash of this lately -- Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, just to name two from the celebrity circuit.

Of course, anyone can hear those insidious whispers in their ear or learn of a horribly debilitating illness leading them to decide to take the ultimate out. I don’t say that rudely, just bluntly: Suicide is not painless, certainly not for those left behind.

One of my nieces got me thinking about all this on Monday when she posted a link to a story about the anniversary of Williams’ death. I commented that I still can’t believe he’s gone and that I thought he was a great guy. She said it’s terrible when this happens and it seems like the “happiest” people in the world are actually the saddest.

And, she said, she wished she could have talked to him. I said, “Me, too; that would have been so cool.”

She responded by saying, “Word of the day: wicked. That would have been wicked.”

As in, it would’ve been “wicked cool” (or something like that) to meet Williams and get to talk to him.

And it would’ve been. I was a fan of his from his first appearance on “Happy Days” as Mork and loved just about everything he did, most especially “Good Will Hunting.”

I think we would’ve had a great conversation.

So, this one’s for you, Caitlynn: It would’ve been wicked for me to talk to Robin Williams, an absolute original who made us all laugh when we needed to. I miss him.

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