I’ve been hit hard by the passing of a man I’ve never met. By a man who played many different parts. A man who, on the outside, seemed to be one of the happiest people you’d ever meet, I mean, who could be sad when so many funny things come rushing out of your mouth. You have to be happy to have such funny words, right?
Well, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why this passing has been the absolute worst for me, a total stranger, but I’ve figured it out. I’ve been there. I’ve been that happy person on the outside, while secretly fighting demons on the inside. And I’m not talking about the few times in high school when I fought the depression monster because of a bad home life, I considered that, but it didn’t line up with how I was feeling. How I ached for this stranger who I felt so connected with. Then it hit me, I remember what it’s like to smile on the outside while struggling to breathe on the inside. To feel that the world laughed a little too loud, smiled a little too much. I remember this, because I fought through it for three hard years.
Infertility makes you feel this way. It alienates you, and forces your thoughts and feelings in on themselves. You feel as if your body is against you. Your mind races to figure out why something so seemingly simple is so hard. Why everyone around you can become pregnant by simply saying the word “pregnant”, but you can’t. You start to feel that you aren’t meant to be pregnant, whether by some sort of bad genes, or misfortune in evolution, or maybe you even think that God is trying to test you, whatever it is, it turns you against yourself and you spend every waking moment, and even dreaming moments, torturing yourself.
The worst part is though, that life on the outside of your mind has to go on like you are not being ripped apart on the inside. You go shopping for a baby shower, marveling at all of the tiny things that you imagined would be strewn about your house. You wonder if your little one would like the rattle with the cow, or the rattle with the horse. You can’t believe how cute the onsie with the dinosaur on it is, and when the cashier comments on how their little one has the same onsie, you smile and say “it sure is cute.” Then you may rush to your car, hoping you can make it before the tears that are welling up, spill over into an unstoppable sobbing flood. Later, you have to attend the baby shower. Maybe it’s for a friend, maybe for a relative, it really doesn’t matter, all you know is that you don’t want to be there. You don’t want to hear her story about how she and her husband weren’t really trying at all, and how she was actually kind of upset when she found out. After all, they were going to go on a trip to London in the Fall. You smile and say something like “well, this will be much more exciting than London!” And your friend replies “yes, poopy diapers will definitely be fun!” You know she’s joking, because she is actually over-the-moon excited, but you feel that you’d be ten times more excited, and a thousand times more grateful. You count the minutes until you can leave without being rude. You have obligations of some sort that just can’t be changed. You hug your friend, feeling their big belly bump into your empty belly. You say congratulations, tell her to call if she needs anything. You smile and wave to the rest of the party, walk quickly to your car, and cry on the way home.
You struggle each day to be a happy person on the outside, to laugh, to joke, to smile, but you are constantly tormented on the inside. I know that actual, life-long depression is so much worse than battling infertility, but I can’t help but feel those bad feelings well up inside me at the news. I think about every time I’ve ever seen Robin Williams, how he always seemed to be trying so hard to make everyone around him laugh. I always thought it must be so hard to be “on” all the time. I wondered if it was exhausting, as exhausting as the torment of infertility was to me, and it turns out it was. No doubt it was soul crushing. He must have wondered what he did to deserve such a sad mind. Did he wonder if it was some sort of test from God? Did he assume genetics played some part? Did he suffer from depression before the drugs and alcohol? Was that why he did those things? To help ease the pain? I don’t know, but I know that living a life with depression at your side is hard, and I ache knowing that this wonderfully funny man had to live this way, all while trying to make everyone else smile, maybe that was what kept him going for so long, maybe he fed off of the laughter of others. Maybe that’s what kept his demons away for so long. Whatever it was, I wish there had been something that would have eased his mind while he was still here, and I hope that wherever he is now, he is at peace. Maybe he’s watching himself in Mrs. Doubtfire and thinking back to how hard it had been to struggle through some of those days, relieved to finally not have any doubt or sadness in his heart. Maybe he wonders how he ever made it as long as he did, thankful that he did make it as long as he did. Now he is free of the burden of his own human mind. He is free to do whatever it is that we do when we are no longer breathing in our fleshy bodies. Perhaps he’s sailing around the universe and checking out comedians on a distant planet, perhaps he has been reborn in another body for another chance, as his character was in What Dreams May Come. Maybe this time, he will feel as good on the inside as he does on the outside. Maybe this time, life will be kind to the funny man, and repay him for the countless amount of joy that he gave to others.
Wherever you are, Robin Williams, I hope that your mind is at peace, and that you can now smile on the outside as well as the inside. You beautiful man, you.