The shock of Robin Williams death by apparent suicide still hovers around today. How can people who appear happy be so unhappy on the inside? People put on a facade that they present to the public. We all do it. We’ll show others that we feel different than how we actually feel. Some of us are worried that showing such feelings will appear weak. Others will put others expectations of how they “should” act in front of how they actually are feeling. The consequence to both of these representations is that they prevent us from feeling connected. One of the needs that we have as human beings is to feel connected with others, yet we work against this without even knowing that we are doing so.
I don’t begin to pretend that I know anything about Robin Williams as a person. I really don’t know much about his reported problems with depression and addiction. However, I do know about the questions that I see people posting on social media. Many people are puzzled as to how someone can be funny and present as happy, yet be something else behind the scenes. The struggle of who we are, versus who we want to be, versus our self-consciousness of others’ perceptions rumbles within us constantly. There is no way to completely get rid of this battle, but to open it up for ourselves, ground ourselves to the moment at hand, and go into that space of vulnerability to realize that we will come out better on the other side of it, and that there is opportunity for connection within it. Humor, like work, relationships, self-isolation, and countless other things, can be armor to protect ourselves from allowing people to see what is really going on within us. The really counter-intuitive aspect of this is that we know that when we take that armor off, it’s going to be uncomfortable, and the outcome will likely hurt. However, by keeping the armor intact and impenetrable, we keep ourselves from the very connections that we crave the most. Therefore, as with any sad circumstance of another person’s pain, there is no better time to look within ourselves, discover what our armor is, and decide if we’re brave enough to begin breaking pieces of it off.