The recent death of Robin Williams devastated millions who appreciated his unbelievable talent and incredible gifts. His restless energy and countless characters amazed all of us. However, we never fully understood his internal struggles with depression and addictions nor could we fully understand the depth of his pain. He was always performing and probably felt more comfortable being someone else rather than himself. Chances are, his humor and acting were an outlet and coping mechanism to cope with his emotional pain. He’s not alone in looking for whatever works to deal with mental illness as so many others seek relief.
Many people who struggle with emotional pain or trauma rely on constructive and/or destructive ways to survive. The obvious unhealthy ways include addictions and destructive choices, but sometimes even constructive behaviors like work, humor, exercise, or hobbies at extreme levels can be harmful. Using these mechanisms to avoid, escape, distract, and numb emotional pain doesn’t work. Individuals can be very creative in their attempts to run and hide from their pain. Others maintain a cloaked facade and even people close to them have little awareness of their internal turmoil. Even today people perceive mental illness as a weakness and associate it with a negative stigma.
The loss of Robin Williams may serve as a reminder to all of us that mental illness does not discriminate, regardless of success, intellect, financial resources, or even having the admiration, respect, and love of millions. The suffering and pain persist in spite of it all. Hopefully this loss will motivate others experiencing emotional pain to seek treatment and acknowledge the need for help. Time alone does not heal all wounds. Healing starts when we acknowledge and confront our pain, but often we need professional support. You can run, but you can’t hide from emotional pain, it will catch you. Take action and get the help you need today!