The Zombies Ate My Brains

Rescuing what might remain of the grey matter.

Tsunami

An interesting thing… as I’ve been watching and reading all the tributes and tweets and online outpouring regarding Robin Williams’ death, it surprised me to see how much he’d aged since I last saw him. Which was when exactly? Probably last year, a Pinterest post of a Whose Line? segment from 2000 or 2001. I just looked through IMDB. The last film of his that I watched was Bicentennial Man. That was fifteen years ago. My point, I guess, is that his death strikes me so personally and yet I haven’t “engaged” with him in years.

So tell me, why was I, rather why am I a wreck? My attention to his death is disconcerting. I don’t know, but I may have crossed a line. I am grieving his loss as much… no, even more than I did when my father died. In terms of emotional display, at the very least.

tsunamiAs usual, I hear all of the big news on Facebook. The Japan earthquake and tsunami of 2011, for example, was big news. The one on August 11, 2014? Bigger. Is that what’s going on? Am I picking up on a global sorrow? The ripple effect of waves of grief?

I suppose that’s part of it.

When I lived in London, I watched the dinner-hour newscast regularly. I can vividly recall one program when the co-anchor announced the death of anchorman Neil Stevens. He had apparently fallen asleep at the wheel of his car and crashed into a tree.

I was incredibly upset by the news even though I didn’t have any connection or particular fondness for the guy. As I recall, his delivery was dry as dust. A couple of nights after that broadcast, the news station aired a special segment related to viewer response to Steven’s death. They ran an interview with a therapist who talked about how some people might be more upset by Stevens’ accident than they felt “normal.” She went on to say that these viewers are likely responding to a past emotion that has been triggered by Steven’s accident, not emotion directly related to his death.

I was enormously grateful for that bit of therapy. This was in 1987, a year after my mother had died.

But, back to August 2014. What’s up with my reaction to Robin Williams dying? I can’t put my finger on the trigger, so to speak.

Pretty much every post/blog/tweet/video mentions depression and addiction. I am cyber and “real” life friends and/or acquaintances with people who know depression and addiction. I know depression and addiction enough to be very frightened for how many people out there, people who I know and like or love, people who might be inclined to follow Robin.

This is day two of wall-to-wall Williams. It’s scaring me a little, how obsessed I’ve become. Of course, if I unplugged the modem, my problems would be solved.

Wouldn’t they?

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46 replies

  1. I hope they would, Maggie …

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  2. His life affected so many people in such a good way. He is worth mourning.

    Liked by 2 people

    • He did. No question. I’m just surprised by the depth of my reaction. I really am grateful that you stopped by to comment, thank you.

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    • I was on vacation last week with limited internet, and the one day I connected and saw a headline with “Robin Williams” and something about “how depression affects us” in the same line, I stared at it in disbelief. I knew what it meant, but I couldn’t click through to read; I had to step back and process for a moment.

      I think if it had been a regular week, I would have been just as affected as you, Maggie…and I feel as if I lost an opportunity to truly mourn. “… if I unplugged the modem, my problems would be solved. Wouldn’t they?” I know this is a week later, and maybe it was a rhetorical question, but I think if you’d unplugged your problems wouldn’t have gone away.

      I agree with pavanneh. All aspects of his life truly affected so many. We should embrace that; it reflects the connection we humans are capable of feeling (and which you reflect on with a more recent follow-up post.)

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  3. If it’s making you sad, Maggie, then step away from the computer. Take a break for your own sake.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been feeling very sad too. He was brilliant.
    How great his suffering must have been, to want out so badly. Maybe his death will bring about some compassion for the many people suffering from depression.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I find I’ve been agitated about it.I grow weary of the all-encompassing violence in the news as it is, and now I find that on top of that, I’m enraged that so many people seem to have callous opinions about mental health issues.
    I suppose there’s a silver lining of proposed openness about struggles with depression, addiction, et al, but yeah, it’s a great week to read delicious fiction and watch the grass grow.

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  6. When my beautiful golden retriever, Kelly, suddenly died one evening in between the moment I came in the front door and returned with their food (less than two minutes) I fell apart. I held her next to me on the living room floor and wished I could bring her back. I feared I’d killed her (it’s unlikely but not impossible) by pulling her too hard. Did her head hit the heavy Chinese coffee table just right? Or was it a heart attack (as the vet said was most likely). In any case, I held her on my lap and cried and cried and cried. Then my older dog, Truffle, lab/springer, came over to where I sat with my head on Kelly’s head. She lifted my chin with her nose until I was looking at her. She knew what had happened. She knew how I felt. She gave me SO MUCH time to grieve and then she directed my attention to her as if to say, “I know you’re sad, I understand, but that’s enough. I’m alive and I’m here and so are Molly and Ariel. So are you.” I wiped my eyes and put Kelly’s hind-end in a black plastic bag to protect the floor from the inevitable out rushing of bodily fluids. I tried to find a way to dispose of the body. I called all kinds of places and learned that the landfill was where she would end up anyway. I could not do much with an 80 pound dog corpse, so I wrapped all of her in plastic bags, brought a trash can to the steps, and carefully slid my precious dog into the trash can. Inside her bags were all the tennis balls I owned. The land fill overlooks the place where she and I had gone hiking hundreds of times AND you can see the ocean from it. Kelly would have a place that honored her great loves in life. After that experience I never looked at death the same way. Grieve and mourn, feel it, don’t question it, then turn toward the living people who love you. Robin Williams was a great actor and, I believe, a courageous man. I know something of what he struggled with and such an ending is in harmony with that struggle, though abysmally sad. Feel your feelings and then go take a walk. ❤

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    • Dear, dear, Martha – I can only barely imagine the terrible shock when you found Kelly. Your story is heartbreaking to read.

      But it is uplifting too. “…such an ending is in harmony with that struggle”. What I am about to say may sound odd or even insensitive. In my mind, Robin’s death has a feeling of “appropriateness”, of fulfilling a prophecy. Of, “well of course, it is as it should be.” I am grateful that you helped me put those sensations into words.

      I take enormous comfort from your comments, and I do feel stronger for this. I thank you from the bottom of my heart; I thank you for the heart at the bottom, too. ❤

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      • We have a lot of religious, cultural and social taboos that form our opinions about suicide; this is why it shocks us. It’s difficult for most of us to accept that someone would not value his/her own life. Suicide goes against the primary imperative of survival. Ironically, suicide doesn’t necessarily mean that the person doesn’t value his/her life. It can mean the opposite. One of the poems in Dead Poets Society that I had always loved, but had forgotten until I saw the film, was Tennyson’s “Ulysses.” Ulysses and his old mariner friends will go out on one last voyage, but there is only ONE last voyage. The “newer world” is likely to be death. Ulysses may have set out in search of that very thing. That is an unpopular reading of the poem, but it’s a valid one. I’m happy my little story helped you. ❤

        http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174659

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  7. I found it so sad that someone like Robyn Williams, loved from afar by so many people, felt so little self-worth or joy in his life. Maybe he had spent his whole life acting a part, and he couldn’t take it anymore. Maggie, his death brings home how fragile our hold can be on our own minds, and how we need to pay heed to our loved ones.

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  8. I am not so sure why I didn’t mourn at Robin Williams’ death. Sure, I have been sad. I think it’s very sad that so many suffer from depression, and our society takes no notice of those others. Maybe we mourn him because we’re all a little bit depressed and he is us. I mean. In my lifetime I have seen so many leave. The feeling for me was that here goes another one. But I like to think that he had a great life as long as he lived it. Maybe it was just time for him to go. The two I miss, even to this day, are Robert F. Kennedy and John Lennon. I miss them because I think what could have been as well as what was.

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    • “Maybe we mourn him because we’re all a little bit depressed and he is us.” You might be on to something there. I appreciate that you wrote, thanks.

      I understand, too, because there have been any number of deaths and tragedies that have left me unaffected, even, I shall confess, feeling rather bored. Another one bites the dust, so to speak.

      Know what else crossed my mind as I’ve been mulling over all of this? The anniversary of Elvis’ death is in a couple of days. I was aware of the event, even mildly shocked by it, but not nearly as engaged with the aftermath. You know how after Elvis died there were all of these sightings? I wonder if the same will hold true for Robin?

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  9. Maggie, I feel as you do – surprised at the depth of my grief over a person I didn’t really know at all. He evokes such a tenderness in me, I guess. I feel almost maternal towards him. That is really weird, I know, the man was older than me and yet….I sense the manic little boy in him and want to wrap him up in my arms and tell him, like in “Good Will Hunting”, it’s not your fault, it’s not your fault.

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  10. I wish I knew what to say, Maggie. Grief / love … they’re emotions that we can’t explain. 😦

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    • Good Morning, my friend. Thank you for your note of wisdom. I want to “name” it, so I can file it away, to make use of it, to know it. I know better. I really do! Emotions not only defy logic, they are the opposite of logic. I know that! What a goof, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Dear Maggie, try not to worry so much about how you’re feeling about Robin William’s death. He was “the good guy” in the celebrity world, he should’ve not gone out the way he did. We were all laughing out loud with him but none of us knew about his depression, so I guess that triggered a feeling of guilt in us, for not having the opportunity to share that pain with him while he was alive. Perhaps that’s the cause of your “obsession”. But as someone here said, Robin Williams is worth mourning.
    Do take care of yourself. and I hope you’re feeling much better by the time you get to read this.

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  12. Perhaps it comes back to the therapist’s words after all. Robin William’s death comes at time when we’re all conscious of the tragedies of MH17, Gaza, Syria – but these are people we know nothing about in numbers we can’t relate to, and can only feel outrage. Perhaps Robin Williams is the focus we CAN relate to – a person we almost felt we knew – to carry the weight of our otherwise nebulous sense of grief and confusion and untimeliness.

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    • Yes! Thank you Helen!

      I gave up cable television in order to shut out ads and horror stories. I take up blogging and the tragic tales have rerouted to my monitor. This time, however, the stories are first-hand accounts, told by people who in some cases I have grown to know a little. People who make me smile, people whom I admire. I feel a connection and a fondness. Then I learn that they are struggling… I feel that. I want to help. I feel impotent. One little story of despair at a time. It builds up.

      Robin’s death is the event that triggered a cascade of pent-up grief.

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  13. I think the reaction varies according to your preparedness for it. My father died instantly whilst gardening. My mother was in hospital 18 days. The grieving process was very different. Sudden tragedies are a shock and especially so with suicide. I think switching off might help but surely the news gets delivered through another channel – it is just the timing. Or is the sheer volume, the tsunami as you put it? I don’t know but if it raises the understanding of depression then I’m grateful.

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    • Thank you Andrew for responding here. There are any number of factors at play, aren’t there? Not only the external circumstances of who, when, how, how long and so on, but the state of mourner. I’m not usually moved by such remote events. Usually, I am puzzled or confused when I see others react in the way I have been these last few days. Perhaps it’s a sign of personal growth or openness. Or, perhaps it’s just a matter of being caught in the “perfect storm” of circumstance.

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  14. Dear Maggie, A death can bring long forgotten feelings to the fore of our own loved ones who have died. Don’t be afraid to grieve, but remember you are loved and be kind to yourself. I loved reading Martha’s comment, remember the living….. I would hug you, if closer!

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  15. Robin Williams was an all-around excellent comedian. It was not only of depression from which he was suffering, apparently he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer. Imagining what he could have been feeling at the time of this diagnosis. From a mind of creativity, no longer a mind. Perhaps a mind living and remembering the past for a short while only. From an active body to a body being in a diaper; being fed pap foods;which is slowly disintegrating to nothingness. It took courage for him to do with he did. It is nonetheless very sad and very much overwhelming for the people who loved him so much.

    The Current on CBC radio will be having a documentary on Alzheimer next week. A radio caption from a lady age 52 with this diagnosis, said she will not get a chance to see her grandchildren’s graduations and marriages. Another caption was from a retired PSW who worked the Alzheimer ward. She too had been diagnosed and her daughter, a nurse, said she would rather see her mother die of a pneumonia than seeing her become a vegetable.

    I did “Friendly Visiting” with a Alzheimer person and met others on the locked dementia ward. The lady whom I took out and visited on a regular basis died. On this same ward, there was another lady whose obituary was in the local paper. It saddened me.

    Presently my mother is extremely forgetful. So while up north visiting with her, I approached the subject as to when she became so forgetful. She is covering it up by saying this quote on a regular basis: “People who know little, have little to talk about.” In a half-hour span, she can repeat the same thing parroting the exact words.

    Am I grieving: yes. Will I be proactive: yes to the best than I can possibly do.

    Everyone grieves in different ways…there is nothing wrong with grieving. It’s part of life, however, many see it as a weakness. It is not a sign of weakness!

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  16. I’m surprised too by how much it has affected me; how much I liked and admired the man; how scared I am about where his life brought him. I think I understand your feelings and think I might be going through a similar reaction.
    I think that “bit of therapy” is also to the point. A lot of personal feelings of loss are caught up somewhere in my sadness. I’m also frightened of depression.

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    • Dear Simon – thank you for writing and letting me know that you understand. It’s Monday. Almost a week from the day that I learned, and I’m still not over it.

      We, as in humanity, are connected in ways far more powerful than we realize. When a connector like Robin Williams is removed, it’s as if the rug has been pulled out from under. It will take some time to regain our balance.

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