Fear—the hitman of depression.
Like most of the nation, I’ve been thinking a lot about Robin Williams these days. He was one who discovered vast seams of artistic gold and mined deep into the heart of creative brilliance. But on August 11, 2014 those veins were sealed shut. ‘Why?’ is the question that keeps being asked. Depression, with its rolodex of demons is the answer we keep hearing. And while depression may have manufactured and sold the gun (or whatever instrument is used to carry out suicide,) fear is often called upon to pull the trigger.
Success in creative fields, especially when accompanied by fame, often carries with it an irrational desire to sustain it. But if that success becomes unsustainable, at least in the minds of those like Williams, fear can also set in. And depression only compounds those fears. Williams attributed his relapse into alcohol abuse to concerns about his ability to keep working.
“It’s fear,” Williams said in a 2010 podcast interview with the comedian Marc Maron. “You’re kind of going, ‘What am I doing in my career? Where do you go next?’”
Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote the international best seller ‘Eat Pray Love’, expressed having similar fears and noted that these feelings are common throughout an artist’s career. But in this TED Talk presentation she gave in 2009, she suggests that rather than taking ownership of creative genius, artists should view themselves as instruments of the divine creative genius.
To use Walt Whitman’s metaphor, one verse is all that should be expected of anyone. “What will your verse be?” from Whitman’s poem ‘O Me! O Life!’ is the question Williams character John Keating in Dead Poets Society asked of his class. The powerful play will go on and Williams’ verse is one of the most eloquent ever spoken.