Robin Williams – A Black Dog Day

Today the world mourns the passing of another tortured genius.  Robin Williams, a man who brought a smile to the face of millions, took his own life whilst in the grip of a serious bout of depression.  Once again the Black dog of depression has claimed a life.  It is widely acknowledged that those with high levels of intelligence, creativity or artistry are, for reasons we may never understand, more susceptible to diseases of the mind, especially to depression and bi-polar disorders.  It would appear that many are also susceptible to addiction.  It would seem that Robin Williams fitted into all of the categories mentioned. An intelligent, articulate man, a comic genius who had a unique gift to make people laugh, especially, for me at least, in his more slapstick roles.  Seemingly hugely successful in everything he did and yet his struggles with alcohol, drugs and depression are well documented.

Thankfully the subject of depression and mental illness is less of a taboo now than it once was.  Williams spoke openly about his problems, he paid regular visits to rehab and no doubt employed the best Doctors in their field and yet depression still claimed his life.  Those who have not suffered from or lived with depression may well look at Williams life and ask the question ‘What did he have to be depressed about’?  Why on earth would a man with all the resources available to him feel the need to take his own life?  The answer in Williams case may never be known, but from my own experiences I will make some educated guesses.

When in a depressed state a sufferer feels like a failure, no matter how brilliant or successful they are or how wonderful their lives seem to others.  No matter how loved you are you feel worthless.  No matter how much you are supported you feel alone.  Depression rarely lasts for a few weeks, recovery takes many months, sometimes years and all too frequently it is a lifelong struggle.  Medication helps in some cases, talking therapies help in others.  For me a mixture of medication and mindfulness meditation exercises has helped me to bring my condition under some measure of control.  That said just last week I had a couple of really bad days, my black dog days.  Singer songwriter Gaz Brookfield’s song really touches a chord with me.  Depression is that black dog that you can never outrun, it is always there ready to pounce, but with help it can be leashed and brought under some measure of control.

That old dog knows how to find me
It matters not which road I travel on
And I thought those days were behind me
But it turns out I could not have been more wrong
And he sits right there on my shoulder
His cold, wet breath upon my neck
And they said he would leave when I got older
But he still creeps up when I least expect

And it’s hard to say why it has to be today
And I can’t explain how it feels
But a black dog day could be just one sleep away
And I’ll never see him coming but I’ll keep running with him snapping at my heels

And there’s no good reason for his visits
He requires neither catalyst nor cause
And he’ll push me to my very limits
And leave with nothing but the scars left by his claws
And he steals the wind right out my sails
And he leaves me at the mercy of the waves
And I’ve tried but I have failed to outrun him
But I’m not fast enough on my feet to escape

And it’s hard to say why it has to be today
And I can’t explain how it feels
But a black dog day could be just one sleep away
And I’ll never see him coming but I’ll keep running with him snapping at my heels
At my heels

And it’s hard to say why it has to be today
And I can’t explain how it feels
But a black dog day could be just one sleep away
And I’ll never see him coming but I’ll keep running with him snapping at my heels
And it’s hard to say why it has to be today
And I can’t explain how it feels
But a black dog day could be just one sleep away
And I’ll never see him coming but I’ll keep running with him snapping at my heels

Robin Williams I am so sorry that your black dog caught you and that you felt you could not fight him any longer.  I am sorry that you couldn’t make through the day, I am sorry that your loved ones now mourn your passing, no doubt asking themselves what they could have done to prevent this tragedy.  It will be very hard for them to understand that they could not have done anything, you would have found a way.

A light has gone out in the world, we will miss you.  Rest in peace.

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