Like all of us, I was shocked when I heard the news of Robin Williams’ suicide. Mork and Mindy was “must see TV” back in 1978 and nanu-nanu quickly became a part of our lexicon. For days after his passing was announced, people everywhere shook their head and reminisced about their favorite Robin Williams’ character. The television and internet were filled with pundits and specialists and fans all discussing and speculating on how this funny, brilliant man could come to such a tragic end.

Robin Williams leaves us with an unbelievably rich and varied wealth of entertainment: stand-up comedy, television and movies that are destined to become classics. Yet, despite all his fame and popularity, he was a complicated person who struggled with depression and addiction.

In thinking about his passing, one of his greatest gifts to us was his forthrightness in speaking about his illnesses of depression and addiction. Over the first week of retrospectives and analysis, the following quote, taken from an old interview with Nancy O’Dell jumped out as worth thinking about.

On addiction, Robin Williams observed, “When you realize you are violating your standards faster than you can lower them.”

It is a quote all us can relate to in some fashion; promising ourselves to eat just one Oreo and then realizing the bag is completely empty. Hating gossip but finding ourselves eager to hear the details of the latest scandal. Affairs, excessive drinking , over spending, losing our temper- all moments when we behave in ways that crash through our belief system, trashing our values and standards. Then in a nano (nanu?) second we are filed with regrets.

We promise ourselves that next time we will only have one, maybe two Oreos. We hope to show more patience, and more restraint when spending, drinking, angry, or gossiping. But when we violate our own standards over and over again, we need to consider, is this just a momentary lapse of control and judgment or is this really something else, something beyond our control? Is this what Robin Williams was talking about?

If you have doubts about your own behavior, especially if it is shrouded in shame or secrecy, ask a professional for advice- not friends. Chances are your friends are not reliable sources of info here; they will want to make you feel better by minimizing your concerns. Defy your fear, swallow hard and reach out to a professional; they will not judge- they will help assess, diagnose and suggest treatment.

Robin Williams’ fame gave him a platform to discuss what is still hidden and many find shameful. Not only did Robin Williams speak frankly about his struggles; he was able to find humor in the very things that plagued him. And rather than shun him for his frailties, we embraced him; we related to him. He may have once played an extraterrestrial but he never forgot nor let us forget his humanness.

We cannot all hope to have the wit of Robin Williams, but we can learn from his brave words.



© 2014 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986.


  1. Angie on the 15. Sep, 2014 remarked #

    I will always be thankful to him for being a bright light in my life, especially in my darkest hours.

  2. Jen E on the 16. Sep, 2014 remarked #

    I always though asking for help was a sign of weakness. I gained the most strength when I ASKED FOR PROFESSIONAL HELP. I know the pain that Robin Williams felt….he was not alone. He will be missed and will always be Mork to me.