BUT IT LOOKED LIKE HE WAS HAVING SO MUCH FUN. Don’t be sad that the world lost such a great talent, be sad that this incredibly gifted man, who so easily won the admiration and affection of so many, was so terribly unhappy.

Robbin WilliamsROBBIN WILLIAMS. Whatever it takes to have a true sense of inner peace is obviously illusive. If it were talent, fame, money or the adoration of the masses, Robbin Williams would have been happy. Lincoln said, “folks are generally about as happy as they are willing to be.”  Why is it so hard to be willing to be happy?

The key to happiness, then, is learning how to decide to be happy.

It truly saddens me to learn that a man who brought so much joy and fun to so many people, and who inspired us in Dead Poet’s Society to “seize the day” and in Good Will Hunting to savor the imperfections of those you love, was so desperately unhappy. And I never noticed. He always seemed to be having as much fun as he was producing. I saw only what he wanted me to see.

Those who think that success, money, fame, even universal adoration, can make them happy must learn the lesson that happiness is not a product of what you have — it’s a function of whether you know how to enjoy and appreciate what you have.

(After I posted this, a reader correctly pointed out that depression is not simply a lack of the will to be happy. It is a serious and debilitating disease that requires better solutions than positive aphorisms and demands more understanding than I demonstrated. I apologize for my ignorance and insensitivity.)

Comments 16

  1. I am somewhat satisfied you wrote the last paragraph. I was incensed at what you wrote. Now that you have apologized, take it down. Pen a better one of understanding, and (researched) words of truth.
    But this is not one that should remain up, or someone will read it, not seeing the whole, with your comments. It may trigger something in them.
    Or harm some sensitive soul who is not doing well right now and feel inadequate, or perhaps cause more harm.

  2. I disagree with Catie’s DEMAND of taking this post down. The post shows compassion to an emotion. A natural human response to the terrible outcome of someone’s demise, whether it be because of a clinical classification of “Depression”, or a state of mind, heart or general feelings – whatever they may be, sad, euphoric, angry… Those who seek to classify every little thing wrong in their lives as a disability do themselves an injustice by never making the attempt to grow stronger and fight the bad days. They will never learn to enjoy the good days because they use some psychological diagnosis as a crutch. Have I been classified as having depression – You betcha (about 25 years ago) when it was all the rage. I can also provide 10 other Physchiatrists that will disagree if I sat in their lounge chair. What I do not allow is for it to take over my life, I don’t allow myself to give in to some phsycho babble of telling me how I should feel according to some chart, what useless pill I maybe I should take to “get through the day”, or how many “sessions” will prove me cured. Instead I immerse myself in life, good and bad. Life is not perfect people, we have to be strong, stop acting like robots doing what your told because you don’t feel like facing adversity, or tough emotions. Stop thinking that being sad, or mad is a bad thing. It’s not. It’s ok to FEEL things. You have the ability to face the day – sometimes the fight is pretty damn hard, but it can be done.

    1. Apparently you have no understanding whatsoever of what actual clinical depression really involves. No one chooses this – who would choose misery over happiness? I am glad you are able to fight your sadness (Because what you are “Fighting” cannot be clinical depression.)
      Having spent the last 34 years working in the mental health field, I assure you with absolute certainty that you have provided your own personal history, and no information whatsoever about the Disease of Depression.
      And the Doctors that treat depression are “Psychiatrists,” not “Physchiatrists.”
      Please implying that the depressed are somehow weaker than you are – you are simply reinforcing what the disease of depression is telling them already.
      Depression tells a person that they are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, and sadly, it often convinces far too many people that the world, their families and friends would just be better off without them. Depression tells you that you are just a burden, and you have told them the same.
      In spite of my feelings about your post, I am extremely relieved that you have not experienced that kind of suffering and torture.

    2. I am appalled by your statement that a psychological diagnosis is a “crutch”. Really? The last thing a person who is suffering from clinical depression needs is to read an ignorant comment like that. Some people cannot stop the disease from taking over their lives no matter how hard they try to “become stronger and fight the bad days”, (as you say) Those people are not feeling what they feel because “they don’t feel like facing adversity, or tough emotions”. You are insensitive and uncaring for human beings, and I think your reply should be taken down as well! Who really knows what the triggers are that cause a person to do what Mr. Williams did, and who are you to say differently? Are you a Scientologist, like Tom Cruise, who thinks depression is just “psycho-babble”? (Note the correct spelling of psycho) Just because you, as a lay person chooses to refute the diagnosis of a trained psychiatrist (again-correct spelling), and you managed to get through your issues, doesn’t mean that everyone can. I just pray that a horribly depressed person doesn’t read your uninformed comments and make the same decisions he did. Maybe you need to search yourself for some Character-because it counts.

    3. Julia your rant against those with depression is just cruel. It was all about you. How you….this or that. How you are fighting the fight. I am glad that you are trying. But to dismiss someone else’s coping technique is hurtful. If it is not your way and from what you have written; your way is the right way. I will repeat what was in bold; depression is simply not a lack of the will to be happy. It was quite brave of Michael to add the addendum and acknowledge his mistaken beliefs about depression. Julia, instead of showing compassion for Robin and his struggles you instead are dismissive. Robin did feel and possibly felt to deeply and I am saddened that we have all lost that spark and sparkle of his talent.

  3. Most people that are unhappy have not chosen to not be unhappy, because they ignore their choices and blame everyone but themselves. Severe depression is very different! I find in incredibly sad that medical science was not yet able to identify, measure and treat the brain chemistry imbalances before Robin Williams took his own life. He brought the world so much joy and laughter, too bad we were not able to return the favor in time.

  4. I agree that you should take it down. Depression (and now we learn he had the early stages of Parkinson’s) is a debilitating condition that often renders the sufferer without choices or control. Unless you have suffered or had a friend or family membered who has suffered from a condition like this you can have no idea the devastation it causes.
    I find it heartbreaking that people are so quick to judge someone who brought so much happiness and laughter to the world, and gave of him self through charity, entertaining the troops etc. He GAVE the world happiness and you accuse him of not choosing it. He deserves better.

  5. Thanks to all the posters above for intelligent, civil commentary. After reading all the comments, the question I focused on most was “Can someone who is genetically predisposed to depression “choose happiness”?

    I don’t know the answer, but I do know that, as caring bystanders, WE do have a choice: we can give up on them, or we can cheer them on (as Josephson’s “Will and Fern” frog-in-the-well story suggests), reminding them of their worth.

  6. I can say one thing with certainty – depression is treatable. It is unfortunate that Psychiatry isn’t an exact science, and that after a while with no success, people / patients often give up because the treatment that works hasn’t been discovered – YET. Please, if you are clinically depressed and you are in treatment, waiting for relief, stick with it. Relief is out there for you, it just takes a lot of trial and error for many people before the right treatment is revealed. People mistakenly believe that Psychiatrists are “In it for the money.” I have worked with these caring souls my entire career – 34 years – and I promise you, they want you to find relief, and I have watched every Psychiatrist I have ever worked with toil over the books, the medications, the internet, any source of information they can to see what new treatment modalities are out there, investigate treatment resistant depression, and go the extra mile to assure a good outcome for their patients. We care in this field. We care about you.

  7. can i just point out the obvious. i stand by mikes post for a simple reason. depression or not. there is treatment for it. ive known a great many people who suffered from it, i speak not from ignorance. how ever. he could of chose to get help. the post was just the author expressing sadness over a loss of a great man. i cant see how that could be labeled ignorant. im not saying depression is a trifle, or not serious, just saying the posts feeling and gist and concern are all valid and i feel it should remain up

  8. also to answer a later readers post i just saw after writing. my previous.. i think a depressed person can indeed chose to at least try to be happy. it may be a long road and take help. just like any mental illness ( i suffer from one or two my self . ) but its a very hard choice and you have to deep down want to. i mean whats the alternative? to give up.

  9. Sadly, for the clinically depressed, the choice is too often just to give up, as evidenced by the suicide of Robin Williams. There is a reality view of depression, and an idealized version that says, “Try harder! Just shake it off!”
    If that was even remotely possible, people who are so morbidly depressed would – they would give anything to just “Shake it off.” They would give anything just for the Motivation to “Try Harder.” The Reality is – that just isn’t how this works. Depression is a disease. Try telling someone with any disease other than a mental disorder to “Try Harder” not to be sick – the outrage one would receive from making that remark would be hard to take. However, mental illnesses are so Stigmatized, even when the severity of depression expresses itself through SUICIDE, others still aren’t getting it.
    How bad does an illness have to be before you must admit, SOMETHING very, very wrong is happening in another human’s head when he take’s his own life to end his suffering? Does anyone really believe he didn’t seek treatment? As I mentioned before, depression can be treated easily in one person, and very treatment resistant in the next.
    This isn’t a decision. No one – not one person – would choose to feel the blackness of this type of depression. I promise you.

  10. I truly do believe if somebody is suffering from clinical depression they cannot choose to be happy without treatment because of the chemical imbalance. Medication can change the balance of those neurotransmitters in your brain and therapy can also change the levels if you work at it, so the research says, and both is optimal, for awhile at least, until you can gradually fade off the medication and continue with therapy. Then there are those people who may be depressed because of an incident that occurred, in that case apparently medication is helpful also, as the depression may have caused the chemical imbalance in that case. I just strongly believe that clinical depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and we cannot choose for it to correct itself without treatment. Personally I know without medication I would quit my job and sleep all day but with medication I can function productively, and others may need more intense therapy if they don’t respond to just one. And yet still others can benefit and correct an imbalance with Cognitive beh therapy and working hard to be in state of balance while chemicals are adjusting naturally. In that case, I suppose you can “choose” to get support and that may result in less depression.

  11. @ Michele – great reply. You hit the nail(s) on the heads! Depression is so complicated. People will probably really dislike this remark, but one of the most effective answers to treatment resistant depression is (this is a fact,) ECT (AKA “Shock Therapy.) this cannot be given under any circumstances except through the signed consent of the Patient – no Doctor, Judge, or other entity can force anyone to have ECT. However, the results are miraculous. ECT causes a Grand Mal Seizure – medication given prior to / during the procedure prevents the convulsions, but the brain has a “Seizure” which is essentially an electrical storm in the brain. That’s how ECT came to be; people with depressive and seizure disorders were.noted to have a reduction in depression after a seizure. It’s not as barbaric as Hollywood would have us believe, but it has some fairly scary side effects, like memory loss. I understand that is usually temporary – but not always. Suicide is always Permanent, so the Risk : Benefit analysis in a chronically suicidal person makes the decision easier for some people. There might be things they’d like to forget, maybe?
    I’m glad this discussion is happening. I hope there are a lot of readers – not understanding a thing usually means people just haven’t learned the facts yet.
    I don’t understand why my checkbook never gets balanced… Probably omission of facts from the check register.
    Good discussion. For those who don’t know, Robin is now forever a part of the San Francisco Bay. I think he would have liked that.

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