Robin Williams: What Nobody’s Saying!

A week ago, Robin Williams died by his own hand. People have been celebrating his genius, his quick mind, his success in comedy and serious performances, as well, his good heart, his friendship, the way he gave to others. However his death affected people, it left us grieving.

My grief and my perspective may well be very different from your own. This is not an organized article, but rather musings of mind, heart, and soul that have come to me as I’ve gone through my week, and are coming again as I sit down to share with you. I offer this in the hopes that my sharing will help you in some way, will help others you touch, and will help our world.

My heart is grieving for the little boy, Robin, who played alone in his large home with his 2,000 toy soldiers. I imagine the dialogues he had with them. I imagine him telling them how frightened he was of his father when he was home. I imagine him telling them he wished his mother would stay home with him, instead of going to work and leaving him with the maids. I imagine him expressing to all the toy soldiers somehow that he was so terribly alone and felt so horribly afraid of being abandoned. I imagine his ability to have dialogues with different characters within himself and outside himself may have been born from his dialogues with his toy soldiers.

My heart is grieving for the man, Robin, who, it seems, didn’t have the kind of help he needed to heal the fears that were still alive inside him, in the little boy who, it appears, was still alive inside him. My heart grieves for his attempts to connect with people through his comedy, like he did with his mother, and for the superficial nature of such a connection, if made. My heart grieves for the man who used his quick mind and humor to defend himself against his own pain and fear, to distract others from his own pain and fear … and from theirs, too. My heart is grieving that it seems people didn’t see his pain beneath his jokes and comedic interactions … and if they did, they didn’t find a way to connect with him and help him.

My heart is grieving that people interviewed him, but when they asked questions and he answered with either serious responses or even scary responses, they laughed … as with one of NPR’s interviewers some years ago when she asked him about suicide and he made a joke about calling a suicide hot line and the person at the hotline saying, “Life isn’t for everybody.” She laughed. I listened this past week to a rerun and was aghast, my heart filled with the pain of what he was saying, what she was hearing, and that she laughed. What did members of the audience hear, feel, do in response to hearing this?

My heart is grieving that people allowed Robin to help them forget their own pain, and in many other ways, it seems. But who helped Robin?

My heart is grieving that the experts have taught us – misled us – and are continuing to do so, when they say that there is help, there is medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. And now more modern technological devices. Even the television doctors, like Sanjay Gupta, are spreading this word. But nobody is acknowledging that the healing doesn’t occur in our heads. Managing and controlling our thoughts and feelings doesn’t heal the pain that still lives within. Understanding the thoughts and feelings and even the cause in our lives, doesn’t heal the pain. It doesn’t help us work through it, resolve it, dissolve and transform it. It only helps us hold it at bay … again. Or bury it … again. Nobody’s saying these deeper truths about the help available.

Nobody’s talking about the deep, healing therapy that can take place if you find the right therapist, one who will go with you to the roots.

My heart is grieving that too many people will think “if Robin Williams, who had all the resources he needed, couldn’t get the help he needed to not kill himself, what hope is there for me?”  I understand that resources are needed for therapy – time, money, energy, commitment. But … my heart is grieving that nobody is saying, it’s not the resources, it’s finding the right help. It’s finding the right person.

As far as I’ve heard – and I’ve listened to many talk of his life and death in this past week …
Nobody’s talked about his frenetic, frenzied comedy and the pain that was so obvious in that frenetic energy.
People have talked about his depression, but nobody’s spoken of the manic nature of his comedy, his energy, even his interviews.
People have spoken of his good heart and all he did for others. Nobody’s spoken about how they gave to him. Steven Spielberg, it has been said, called Robin every night while he was making Schindler’s List and asked Robin to make him laugh.

Nobody called Robin every night and asked him,  “What can I do for you, Robin?”
Nobody called him every night and offered to him, “Share your pain with me, Robin.”
Nobody invited him to call them every night and ask them to be with him as he talked about and expressed the pain he was in.
I wish I had invited Robin to call me.
I wish he had called me and allowed me to listen to his pain and be with him … and help him heal to the root.

© Judith Barr, 2014

A Note to Catherine Zeta-Jones . . . and Everyone Else, Too

On April 13th, 2010, it was announced to the public that Catherine Zeta-Jones had recently undergone treatment in a mental health facility in Connecticut, treatment for Bipolar II disorder. Every news cast and article I’ve read recommends medications and psychotherapy.

But the therapy that has been consistently recommended is not psychotherapy as I know it. It’s today’s version of “psychotherapy” which is about managing the symptoms behaviorally and cognitively. Things like understanding and recognizing the triggers for the symptoms, making preventative changes, and tweaking the person’s medication. There is nothing wrong with these things as steps, but only as steps and only as truly needed. But these are being recommended as the therapy.

This is a version of psychotherapy that has taken the soul out of the psychotherapy I know, honor, and love. Psychotherapy is soul work at its best, at its deepest, at heart. What “psychotherapy” has become in our world today is the result of politics (by pharmaceuticals, by “managed care” health insurance, by a system whose goal is the “quick fix” to get you up and working and “functional” as quickly as possible) . . . and repeated blatant and insidious attacks from many quarters in our society on true psychotherapy, true healing, people truly knowing themselves, what happened to them long, long ago, and what still lives within them calling to be healed, calling to be birthed into being, calling to be fulfilled.

Some days ago I heard a well known medical correspondent say that curing it was probably going too far. In other words, there was not a likelihood of cure for Catherine Zeta-Jones, for people with Bipolar Disorder II.

And so I want to let you know, Catherine . . . if you choose to simply take medication and adjust your lifestyle, that is your choice. But you definitely have other choices. It is possible for you, if you are willing to make the commitment and do the inner exploration and healing . . . it is possible for you to heal what you are suffering from to the roots that live within you.

And that which is possible for you, will also make so much more possible for your children. And that which is possible for you, is possible for others, too.

Don’t settle for the limitations that today’s psychotherapists, drug companies, and media people settle for. If therapists do not do their own work to heal the roots of their own wounds, those therapists cannot possibly help others do the inner work to heal to the roots of their wounds.

Don’t settle, Catherine Zeta-Jones. Don’t settle. You have a choice!

© Judith Barr, 2011