“Behind Closed Doors”
I was deeply saddened this week to hear of the suicide of Robin Williams, by far one of my favorite actors. Who can forget the nontraditional inspiring college professor in Dead Poets Society who made me to want to stand up and shout “O Captain, My Captain!” Or his endearing role as Mrs. Doubtfire, a divorced father, desperate to spend time with his children who poses as a nanny. Etched into my memory is his tender dialogue with Robert De Nero as a patient resurrected from a coma by a creative and genius doctor whom he portrays in Awakenings. Lastly, in Good Will Hunting, I know I’m not the only who had tears in my eyes (and sometimes still do) in his role as a psychologist when he speaks into Matt Damon’s troubled childhood “It’s not your fault! It’s not your fault! “It’s not your fault!”
Watching various news channels, they talked about his genius, wit, energy, physical humor, acting prowess and philanthropy (it’s reported that he always said “Yes” to the requests of others). Yet behind closed doors Robin Williams was tormented by depression, anxiety, severe mood swings and substance abuse. Like Robin, most of us have a public versus private self. We all have the potential of being amazing in public but when the curtains go down and the audience stops clapping; as Robin, we’re not always comfortable in our own skin… in the quiet… in the dark… behind closed doors.
Research provides the backstory that begins to shed light on the diverse facets of his soul. We begin to get a glimpse into the animating forces that drove his heart felt dramas, the redemptive themes, his manic comedy and his battle with a troubled soul.
• In middle school he was bullied and sought out new routes home to avoid his tormentors.
• He told jokes to his mother to make her laugh and pay attention to him.
• As a child he spent much of his time alone in the family’s large house playing with his 2,000 toy soldiers. He says, “My only companions, my only friends as a child were my imagination.”
• His father traveled a lot for work and when he would come home, Robin found him to be “frightening” and avoided him.
• His mother worked and as an only child, he was attended to by the maids they employed.
• Williams claimed his upbringing left him with “an acute fear of abandonment” and a condition he described as “Love Me Syndrome.”
• When he graduated from high school in 1969, his class voted him “The Most Likely Not to Succeed” and “The Funniest.”
Let me be clear, not all people who commit suicide had dysfunctional childhood homes and not all people who had difficult families harm themselves or others. There can be many factors that contribute to internal conflict where a person experiences depression, anxiety, despair, anger, cynicism and hopelessness. But as is seen in his personal testimony, family of origin played a major role. While each of our families of origin has a lifelong impact upon us, the “training” we received occurs slowly, secretly and without notice… behind closed doors.
Regarding this training ground, it shapes our view of “self” and “other.” Questions like who am I? Who are you? Will you see me and love me? Am I worthy to bring myself to you and ask for help? Who am I as a human being? Am I accepted by God? Do I have a purpose for my life? Based upon his childhood and teen experience, Robin may have been struggling with some or all of these questions… just to name a few.
If our parents did not nurture us or help us wrestle and resolve these questions we can idealistically march into adulthood believing our childhood is “over.” We then think marriage, parenting, careers and accomplishments will make us feel complete. Yet, instead of bliss, relational conflict and life’s realities eventually expose our unresolved inner self. As a result, relationships are damaged, deep pain ensues and addictions, compulsions, obsessive thought patterns, busyness and distractions function as a means of medicating our aching souls.
At How We Love and Relationship 180 (our non-profit counseling center) we are dedicated to exploring and beginning the healing journey in each of our lives. Here, we begin the process of growing up a second time by seeing the roots of unresolved painful patterns. We help to foster emotional and relational healing so we are gradually transformed toward a more secure and confident version of ourselves within healthier relationships. This is God’s heart’s desire for each and every one of us. The counselors at Relationship 180 are all committed to these principles. All of our sessions are private, confidential and of course conducted in our offices behind closed doors.
Our heart goes out to the “little” Robin who was struggling in an adult world. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and those who were close.
If you or anyone you know shows signs of depression, anxiety, isolation and negative thinking, please intervene. Ask yourself or them directly “In your current emotional state would you intentionally harm yourself or others?” If the answer is “Yes” or you are still uncertain, be an advocate and reach out for help from other sources.
Thanks for listening,