It’s Not Very Funny

The suicide of Robin Williams a year ago shocked and devastated a world that revered him for his outlandish movie roles, his hyperactive stand up comedy routines, and his endearing compassion for others. No one anticipated such an announcement. We were all shaken.

People assume the funny ones are such happy folk. But we’ve lost a lot of comedians to depression and addiction. We are horrified every time such news is made, and confused. But we shouldn’t be. Truth is, creative professions have statistically higher numbers for depressive and bi-polar disorders than most others.

Writers are particularly prone to severe depression and addiction. According to, polls indicate that Writing ranks in the top 10 professions with the highest rate of depression and suicide. Researchers indicate that writers are 10 to 20 times more likely to suffer from depression and depression related illnesses. Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, Anna Sexton, Hunter S. Thompson, Virginia Woolf, Edgar Allen Poe (even though the cause of death in his case was never confirmed)… Wikipedia alone lists over 300 authors that died by suicide.

Writers are typically introverts who spend a lot of time locked in their heads. In the end, they second guess the product of all that solitude, glazing all that hard work with self-loathing and degradation. And not for the love of money, or fame. There is little of that to be found. E-books and online publishing have turned the craft into little more than an arts and crafts class in grade school. Publishers are dropping authors, and the money that used to be out there for a writer is dwindling.

Those still at it are doing it for the sake of art. Perhaps for a bit of immortality. For the need to expel their own inner demons on someone else’s unfortunate storyline.

To create something that wasn’t.

My own personal theory… achieved by no amount of research or polling… is that many artists suffer depression because they attempt to create worlds that don’t exist, in hopes to lose themselves there. And perhaps they never achieve that euphoria of escape because they were present for the creation. There is no magic for them. It’s all syntax and structure and endless editing.

As a reader, you can lose yourself in images and emotions.

As a writer, you are lost in production. Stuck in the green room. Stranded between the realms you create, and the reality that they will never exist. It’s like when you first realize there is no such thing as Santa. Disenchantment is a bitch.

I recently recognized that the depression that I’ve fought has returned. It’s a culmination of stress and dissatisfaction, and I have experienced these swings much of my life. I’m not clinically depressed, so I can still function, but it’s harder to get out of bed. It’s harder to go to bed. All changes in momentum are almost terrifying. Even slight hiccups feel like ominous pitfalls. I’m not interested in a litany of doctor’s visits or pills, so I’ll navigate this some other way. Maybe this time, I will find the right answers.

Mr. Williams did not. It took some time for his medical condition to come to light. Chances are slim anyone could have changed his mind. He was a lantern out of oil. If there is any consolation, it is that his passing will teach millions not to take anything for granted, or at face value. Don’t ever assume that person you know will be there tomorrow. Appreciate who they are now. There usually isn’t a goodbye.

I miss his smile. He had a fantastic smile.

Thanks for being here, Robin Williams.


One Response to “It’s Not Very Funny”

  1. Thanks for writing this. Depression is something I fight off every day and sometimes lose the battle and sometime it makes you feel like it’s not worth trying. But I can’t imagine how much worse you have to feel to actually end your life. I wish he would have called us, you know? Called and talked about it. Problem is, most times once the decision is made, it’s made for good. You said it best, “disenchantment is a bitch.”

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