THIS IS A NEW SERIES WHICH CONSISTS OF ME LOOKING BACK AT ARTISTS I LOVE AND HAVE INFLUENCED ME THAT ARE UNFORTUNATELY NO LONGER ALIVE.
This is quite a difficult post to write; I’ve had to do a lot of research on the matter and I was quite surprised with what I found about the comedian’s untimely death. My earliest memory of his acting was either in Jumanji or Mrs Doubtfire when I was still a child.
The assumption was the Robin Williams ended his life due to struggles with depression, which he was known to have dealt with when he was still alive. And I will repeat again: this was the assumption.
In a recent interview, Susan Williams, Robin’s widow, revealed that he was actually struggling with dementia with Lewy Bodies – also called Lewy Body dementia. While making the loss of such a beloved individual no less tragic, this does throw a different light on matters.
So what is Dementia with Lewy Bodies?
Dementia with Lewy Bodies is not as common or well known as depression, or the more familiar forms of dementia, most obviously Alzheimer’s disease. However, even among the grim spectrum of neurological disorders and mental illnesses, dementia with Lewy Bodies is a particularly nasty condition.
Put simply, Lewy Bodies are lumps, known as aggregates, of misshapen protein (of the type Alpha-synuclein) that occur in nerve cells (neurons) of people with certain conditions, most often Parkinson’s disease, and but also (obviously) dementia with Lewy Bodies. Cells as complex and important as neurons produce a bewildering array of proteins, to aid in the necessary functions and form the delicate cytoskeletal structure in place to maintain everything.
The most likely people to develop dementia with Lewy Bodies are men, aged early 60s to 70s. Sadly, Robin Williams fell right into this category.
So it wasn’t depression after all?
As Susan Williams said, if Robin Williams had depression at the time of his death, it was one of countless other symptoms he was dealing with. A look at the very brief summary shows just how all-consuming dementia with Lewy Bodies can be.
But depression and dementia with Lewy Bodies often occur together, as is the case with most dementias. This is entirely understandable; it would take someone of superhuman mental fortitude to not let such a diagnosis affect them very deeply. It’s like depression with anxiety: they often co-occur together.
We will never know exactly what Robin Williams was thinking when he opted to end his own life, and at this point it seems disrespectful and more than a little sinister to keep asking about this. However, given the number of things dementia with Lewy Bodies can put a person through, accusations of “selfishness” now seem more unwarranted than ever.