Almost 15 months ago, Death took away a beloved actor, comedian, father, and husband. Many people were sure that Robin Williams was driven to take his own life by a hybrid mix of depression and personal substance abuse problems.
Apparently, depression wasn’t the culprit.
After a year of silence, Williams’s widow, Susan, spoke out in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning, America.”
She revealed that the comedian was in fact struggling with a demon even more sinister: Lewy body dementia, a little-known and often misdiagnosed disease that manifests as a combination of the worst symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and schizophrenia. Susan Williams shared this diagnosis, which was revealed in an autopsy, Tuesday in her interviews with ABC and People.
“My best friend was sinking.”
Williams was suffering from a myriad of symptoms, according to Susan.
She recalled thinking her husband was a hypochondriac, when, starting in November 2013, every month he was complaing about a different symptom.
For a few weeks it was gut pain, then it was sleeplessness, then constipation, and anxiety, and paranoia. It was like a very dark game of
Susan broke down in her interview when recounting Robin’s miscalculation.
She was in the shower when she noticed her husband lingering by the sink. She opened the door to find him holding a bloodied towel, a severe gash on his head.
“Robin, what happened?” she screamed.
She said he motioned toward the door, and said just two words, “I miscalculated.”
The widow claims that depression was one of “let’s call it 50” symptoms, and after seeing a doctor, he was diagnosed with early stages of Parkinson’s Disease.
Lewy Body Dementia reportedly causes a progressive decline in mental abilities and may also cause visual hallucinations.
ABC’s Amy Robach: “Was he losing his mind?”
Susan Williams: “Yes. And he was aware of it.”
According to Cleveland Clinic neurologist Dr. James Leverenz, Lewy Body Dementia is caused when normal proteins in the brain begin to aggregate, forming clumps called Lewy bodies that, as they spread, “muck up the ability for the brain to transmit signals.”
Like Alzheimer’s disease, symptoms of LBD include cognitive problems like confusion, reduced attention span, and memory loss, Lewy Body Dementia Association director of programming Angela Taylor said. LBD also affects a patient’s movements, as well as their mood, making it a “triple threat.”
Taylor reports that LBD is one of the most common forms of dementia and affects more than 1.4 million people in the U.S. according to the association’s latest statistics.
“Lewy Body Dementia killed Robin.” – Susan Williams
*The autopsy showed that there were no drugs or alcohol in William’s system. Susan says her husband had been clean for several years.*
Like Williams, many people with LBD are initially diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The diseases progressively begin to show symptoms including trouble sleeping and the vivid hallucinations. Hunched posture, rigid muscles, a shuffling walk and trouble initiating movement, are similar for both conditions. Some are also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or a psychiatric disorder.
As Lewy bodies form and take over different parts of the brain affecting body movement, mind and mood, patient suffers from the symptoms of a person with both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, conditions that alone are devastating.
Dr. Leverenz: Robin Williams was a very active and very successful person, it’s understandable that he would have grown depressed about his “changing capacity to do things he used to do.”
LBD usually kills the sufferer within five to seven years. Had Robin not taken his own life, LBD eventually would have. There is no cure or effective treatment.
To me, the saddest thing is that Robin Williams did not know he had LBD, but he did know he was losing the battle with whatever was happening in his head.
Being the man he was… the comic, the friend, the genie, the man who brought smiles laughter to people of all ages for so many years…to lose his grip on his own ability to simply be Robin Williams, has got to be the most devastating part.
Susan Williams said herself that despite his diagnosis, her husband was happy.
I have to believe that. I think most of us have to believe that despite all the symptoms, despite the nightmare the poor man had to live through, that he was still the happy man we saw on the television.
His decision to use a belt to hang himself from his bedroom door was, in Susan Williams’ opinion, his way of taking his power back; his way of saying “no.”
“And I got to tell him, ‘I forgive you 50 billion percent, with all my heart. You’re the bravest man I’ve ever known.'”
I miss Robin Williams. And I apologize for reminding you all of the tragedy that many of us are still coping with.
But I hope this was at least informative, and helped shed some light on what caused that tragedy.
Rest in peace, Popeye.
Rest in peace, Jack Dundee.
Rest in peace, Tommy Wilhelm.
Rest in peace, John Keating.
Rest in peace, Genie.
Rest in peace, Mrs. Doubtfire.
Rest in peace, Alan Parrish.
Rest in peace, Professor Brainard.
Rest in peace, Sean Maguire.
we’re all human.