Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My Connection With Robin Williams

This is a post I really hesitated writing. I've gone back and forth 100 times about whether or not to publish it....but here goes nothing.

Like everyone, I was heartbroken to hear about the passing of Robin Williams. Like everyone, I felt my own little connection with the amazing actor and comedian. It wasn't long ago that I gave my kids their introduction to Mrs. Doubtfire. Patch Adams gave me a new perspective on my career. I couldn't tell you how many times I've watched Dead Poets Society. 

It seems all the more heartbreaking knowing this man took his own life. It doesn't seem real. Williams didn't seem like the person wrapped in chains of depression. He seemed like your funny, down-to-earth next door neighbor.

I think I feel okay writing this story now because that's how my dad was too - and he also took his own life.

My dad was wrapped in those same heavy chains of despair and depression. On the outside was a funny, compassionate, outgoing father, neighbor, and friend. A lot like Robin Williams. But that covered up a sadness (largely triggered by a multitude of health problems) on the inside. That despair overtook him. On a cold January afternoon he took his life. He was only 38. I was 14 years old.

I hope what I'm about to say doesn't imply that I think suicide is okay. It has a lasting impact on everyone left behind. BUT I can understand how people get to that point because I saw it first hand. I witnessed that smothering despair in someone I loved. I saw the feeling of being in a deep hole with absolutely no way out. 

It probably goes without saying, but that day as a 14 year old when my dad died changed me forever. I soon realized that I faced a choice: I could let that action destroy and ruin me, or I could, as much as possible, learn and grow from the experience. I decided on the second option. Here is how my life has been different:

1) I think it increased my empathy. I try to understand people better. I try not to judge. I try to support and encourage. I have lots of room for improvement but I'm trying.

2) It impacted my career choice. I'm a clinical social worker and work with the belief that I can make a difference.

3) It put things in perspective. If I'm having a bad day or going through a challenging time, I always remember that it could be worse. I choose to believe that this life experience made me stronger.

So with all that said, my hope would be this: 

Choose kindness.
Choose patience.
Choose love.

I'm not implying that if we hold hands and smile everything will be fixed. I'm saying that we can never know the demons someone may be facing. Appearances aren't always what they seem. We don't know the quiet struggles someone is battling. So you and I should work on spreading kindness. A little happiness could go a long way. In a world of so much sadness and pain, show love. Shine.

It's easy to judge someone else's actions - but I can attest that seeing a loved one struggle with (and ultimately surrender to) depression will give a different perspective. The fact that Robin Williams took his own life is proof that no matter how much awesome and how much funny and how much talent someone is filled with.....this stuff is powerful.

And if those chains are starting to wrap around you, tell someone. Let someone help you. The world needs your shine.


  1. Thanks for sharing Cory. Your post helped put his death in a bit more perspective.

  2. Thanks Cory for the courage sharing your feelings openly. This encourages me and I know others too.

  3. I'm sorry about your dad. I've been struggling with depression going on 15 years now. No one who knows me would believe it. Anyhow, I sympathize with those who carry this pain. It sucks. I'm glad to know you -- you've impacted my life greatly.

  4. Thank you for sharing this; I'm sure it wasn't an easy post to write. You're so right that we always have a choice in how we respond to a tragedy, and it doesn't surprise me at all that you've used it to point yourself in a different direction. The things you live by are things to which we should all aspire.

  5. Beautifully written, Cory. I remember you sharing that with me at CCM. I think your perspective and understanding of losing a parent truly helped me heal from the loss of my dad when I was 15. I felt a kinship with you, knowing I wasn't alone in my grief and that, like you, I had to make a choice to let it control my life or to remember and have gratitude for my time with him and let go of what I couldn't change. I hope you truly know how grateful I am to have had you in my life and that I wouldn't be the person I am today in part without your understanding and support! You were like the big brother who led me out of the darkness that death of a loved one can bring. Love you!

  6. I'm sorry for your loss, Cory. Thanks for sharing your story. I've dealt with a lot of depression myself...and my daughter suffers also. There's a huge difference than being sad now and then or having a rough patch for a long and extended period to that what is truly a mental illness. Mental illness robs you of reason and logic and you can't just decide one day you're going to be better. it takes a long time to understand the root of the problem - sometimes it's never found. Or sometimes it can be temporarily tamed by a long trail run. Or sometimes you wish it away and make difference choices. But severe mental illness isn't a choice that you either have or you don't and it does not discriminate.

    I've told people in the past, and some "think" they're there for you....but truthfully what I've found is that people just don't know what to do or say and over time, they just stop. And that sucks. So I think it's why a lot of people who do suffer from mental illness try to hid it.

    You just never, ever, know!

  7. Thanks for sharing Cory. I think this post reaches much further than the replies will show even.

  8. Bless your heart. Your big, wonderful heart.

  9. Wow this is a great post thanks for sharing

  10. I lost my brother when I was 10. He was just 13. Depression and mental illness can begin at a very young age. This one event in my life had a major impact on who I am today. I hope that I can make the impact on lives that you have, Cory. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Thank you for sharing this. If this incident helps people see that suicide isn't to be stigmatized and mocked, then at least something good can come of it. It's a sad scenario and it needs to be talked about so it can be combated.

  12. This was a really well-written (and I am sure hard to write) post. Thanks for sharing Cory. I am sorry for what you and your family went through. You are 100% right - you can never go wrong with kindness, patience and love.

  13. You made a brave choice all those years ago. Depression is the most destructive and insidious disease with so little known about it. One of my sons suffers from it and it's a daily battle that we all fight.

  14. Choose kindness. Choose patience. Choose love. Well said!

  15. "Choose kindness.
    Choose patience.
    Choose love."
    This. Always this.
    Beautiful post. I'm so sorry for what you have been through and must have gone through. You definitely kicked but on the letting it make you stronger part of things.
    This is an area I am all too familiar with and love that you chose to let this help make you a better person. You're a great person Cory!

  16. Ah, Cory. You are a lot deeper than your posts usually let on.
    Thanks for taking the day of your dad's death and choosing to bring light to the world. It has made a difference.
    ~blessings~ -R