When the laughter stops...
“Laughter was the thunder that sustained him...” These, I believe are Steven Spielberg's words, to describe Robin Williams, who recently and sadly, took his own life.
I do not know or wish to know any personal facts around this very sad death but I am just aware that a human being has taken their own life. This particular person made a life out of laughter, creativity, fun and make-believe; his personal thunder. Underneath the laughter, fun and joy, was a sad soul, who at times it seems, suffered from addiction and depression.
How many of us use laughter, jokes, smiles and make believe, to hide what is really going on under the surface? How many of us have said 'I'm fine' with a cheery smile spreading across our faces, whilst underneath, we are secretly 'drowning'. Of course, laughter and smiling when we are not 'really feeling it' can be a positive when used as a short term defence against life. In small doses it can help us get by. It is when we use it as a complete 'mask' to hide behind over a long period of time that conceals what is truly going on for us.
We can become quite expert at laughing and smiling our way through our day, our week, our month and our year. The more we laugh and smile, the more others expect that from us. It can become part of who we are; we are just very happy and get on with life. It can start to feel that there is no space for us to not smile, for us to let our face drop and let our true sadness come through. To allow others to see the pain in our eyes and the sorrow we may carry in our hearts.
Unfortunately, the more we go along with the pretence of happiness, the harder it can be to either recognise when we really need some support or to feel we are allowed to let the 'act' drop and reach out. To give ourselves permission to stop smiling and really open ourselves up to looking at what possibly needs healing.
Regardless of what we do for a living or whether we are famous or not, we are all human beings with frailty. We all have vulnerabilities that can come and go throughout our lives.
In letting the mask drop, not only can it provide relief for us but it can also give permission for others to do the same. As we show our honest pain and heartache, others can feel relief that they are not alone with this. So the next time you find yourself saying 'I'm fine' with a big smile and a hearty laugh, just check out with yourself....how honest are you being?
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