The world was stunned to discover that Robin Williams had committed suicide on August 11, 2014. Millions of people were heartbroken by the loss and were in grief. How could someone so lively and cheerful sink into such despair?
In reality, Robin’s story was not as straightforward as it appeared. According to an autopsy, he had Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), a neurological disorder that affects thinking, memory, and mobility. Given that medical personnel had previously misdiagnosed him with Parkinson’s disease, this was a stunning conclusion.
LBD offers distinct challenges, such as fluctuations in focus and alertness, as well as visual hallucinations. In his latter years, Robin’s health began to deteriorate. The man who had little problem knowing lines by memory now found it difficult to recall them on stage. This dissatisfaction caused anxiety and a period of obsessive answer-seeking.
Susan Schneider Williams, Robin’s wife, shared insight into his misdiagnosis and the implications it had on him. Pathologists reviewed his medical records and determined that his condition was among the worst they had ever seen. Lewy bodies, which are protein deposits, accounting for 40% of his brain’s dopamine neurons. This caused damage to his brainstem and whole brain.
Susan recalled how Robin’s health began to worsen, beginning with digestive difficulties and stomach pains and progressing to a tremor in his left hand when resting. His sense of smell and vision worsened, making it difficult for him to sleep and causing him to periodically freeze in midair. LBD symptoms were unpredictable, like a game of whack-a-mole.
On that fateful day, Robin Williams took the dreadful decision to commit himself, devastating the world in the process. Few knew about his inner demons. It serves as a reminder that even the brightest grins can disguise the greatest pain.
Nonetheless, Robin Williams’ legacy will live on. We shall always remember his keen wit, improvisational ability, and the various personas he brought to life. Let us pay honor to him by telling our loved ones about his experience.
Robin Williams, rest in peace. I hope you find the peace you seek.