Sharing the Abyss with Robin
“What some folks call impossible, is just stuff they haven’t seen before.” ~Chris Nielsen as portrayed by Robin Williams. (What Dreams May Come, 1998)
What Dreams May Come—derived from the book with the same name was written by Richard Matheson. This movie is about the Nielsen family who loses, two children in a car crash. Annie, the mother (played by Annabella Sciorra) and the father, Chris (played by Robin Williams) have a tumultuous year attempting to stay together because of the deep, dark depression that swallowed his wife Annie.
Just a year after the Nielsen’s lost their children, Chris (Robin’s character) is killed in a second car accident, trying to help save others.
After losing her entire family, Annie cannot take any more, and commits suicide—all the while, her husband Chris is watching from heaven above, and can’t do anything to stop her.
The rest of the movie is about who Chris Nielsen meets in heaven, and how he can retrieve his wife, Annie, from hell—or can he?
Not an upbeat, comedic movie that Mr. Williams is known for, but it’s by and far one of my favorite roles he ever played. It was the realism of the roles and the impressionism of the set that captured me. (As a side note, the visual effects won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects—and rightly so.)
I could totally relate to Annie. No, I hadn’t lost my children in a car accident, thank God. But there were other similarities that her character and I shared. Annie was an artist, a painter. And Annie was in (what I call) the dark abyss, more commonly known as depression. I reflected it against my life: two amazingly awesome children, and a wonderful husband who would undoubtedly give his live for another (at that time, my husband was even a volunteer firefighter.)
What also resonated in me was how beautiful heaven was in this movie. I had never seen anything like it, but if I was to have heaven “my way,” it would be much like Richard Matheson, Ronald Bass and Vincent Ward put on-screen. Heaven was so brilliantly amazing – and looked much like an impressionistic painting. Robin’s character would slide down the Monet-esque painted landscape and just laugh and laugh. It was a genuinely beautiful portrayal. I also loved that the first heavenly greeter was his beloved dog who you come to realize had died before.
The beauty of heaven—in paint form, and the deep, dark abyss. Those two subjects reflect in my artwork. I have battled the same abyss that Annie (in the movie,) and Robin (in life battled.) I’m not ashamed to speak about it or share my condition with others. If we keep quiet about this disease, more people may die. We must help people to understand depression. It’s no different from asthma or diabetes. It’s a disease.
What I’ve been contemplating is how many folks—who have not dealt with any form of depression—wants you to “snap out of it,” or let you know it’s all in your head. I’m sure those same folks wouldn’t say those phrases to those suffering with diabetes or cancer. If the ailment is physical, we all grasp the pain. If it’s a mental illness — Ah! You’re insane!
Yeah, Crazies. Many artists are considered “crazy.” Did you know three out of four creatives (artists of all forms) suffer from depression? Chances are there’s many more famous people who battle depression—not just the late Robin Williams.
Earlier today on Facebook, I described depression and contemplating taking one’s life as such: It’s very difficult to explain why you don’t want to exist when you have a beautiful and loving family, great job, decent art and awesome friends… But none of the aforementioned is a culprit or cause, they’re innocent by-standers.
It also pisses me off when folks mention “cowardice” or “selfishness.” The depressed person DID think of those closest to them. That same depressed person believes the masses would be better off without them. They concern their self with loved ones who won’t have to deal their affliction any longer. The focus is more about peace to all involved: peace to those we put out of their comfort zones and forever peace for the sufferer. Peace from this condition that haunts them.
If you know someone in the depths of the dark abyss, FIND THEM HELP. The National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. Don’t let them fend for their self. They need YOU. They don’t need judgment or a lecture. They need your care, help, love and understanding.