In August of 2014, Robin Williams tragically took his own life after struggling with mental health issues. After his death, it was revealed that the actor was suffering from Parkinson's disease. His wife, Susan Schneider Williams, wrote about her husband's struggle, and how they began long before his diagnosis.
“By wintertime [in 2013], problems with paranoia, delusions and looping, insomnia, memory, and high cortisol levels—just to name a few—were settling in hard,” Williams wrote. “Psychotherapy and other medical help was becoming a constant in trying to manage and solve these seemingly disparate conditions.”
After his diagnosis, things really took a toll on the actor.
"Robin was growing weary," Schneider Williams wrote. "The parkinsonian mask was ever present and his voice was weakened. His left hand tremor was continuous now and he had a slow, shuffling gait. He hated that he could not find the words he wanted in conversations. He would thrash at night and still had terrible insomnia. At times, he would find himself stuck in a frozen stance, unable to move, and frustrated when he came out of it. He was beginning to have trouble with visual and spatial abilities in the way of judging distance and depth. His loss of basic reasoning just added to his growing confusion."
All of this lead to Williams taking his own life, and how his son Zak is opening up about the mental health issues his father's suicide left him with. In an online question and answer session with the mental health chat community 18percent, Zak Williams spoke about becoming a mental health advocate after his father's death.
“I decided to become an advocate because I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression personally,” Zak, 36, said. “Found myself self-medicating and generally unhappy, so when it came to speaking about my and my family’s struggles personally it just sort of clicked.”
Zak spent some time teaching after his father's passing, trying to find a way to heal.
“I was very traumatized after my dad’s death and found that teaching financial literacy in prison helped me heal and cope with the trauma,” he shared. “After that I found that being vulnerable and open about my struggles seemed to actually help others. So I just kind of kept on doing it. I love it, as I find it healing personally.”
He also admitted that self-medicating became part of his routine, and he had to learn to take care of himself.
“I was masking the pain with alcohol often and that just made things worse,” he said. “Eating well and getting outdoors around nature is also really helpful for me. If self-medication isn’t an issue then finding opportunities to connect with people is helpful. Also, exercise!”
“What I neglected to do after my dad’s passing was take care of myself,” he said. “You can’t be there for others if you are not paying attention to your needs and struggles. Take the time to do what you need to do to get through the day first. Then you’ll have a fuller cup to be there for others.”
Zak also had some words of wisdom to share about living life to the best potential.
"Being unconditionally loving and kind and considerate is one of the secrets to living a full life," he pointed out. "That and finding connection and common ground. Oh, also, finding gratitude in the day-to-day life is a simple, wonderful way to feel good."
It's been five years since Williams' passing, and I'm sure he would be incredibly proud of what his son is doing in his personal and professional life.