Life Is Worth Living

Today, when I heard that Robin Williams had committed suicide, I spent hours choking back tears. I met him a few times when I would visit Wil when he was filming Flubber up in San Francisco. Mr. Williams was kind, funny, and gave his full attention to me and to our kids when we talked. My heart breaks for what his family and friends are going through at this loss because he is a reminder of the funny things I watched him on as a kid, but also a reminder of my own experience with this kind of loss. There are so many signs of depression and addiction, that I hope in sharing my own story, maybe it will help even one person who may be living something similar and will get help.


I grew up in a seemingly “normal” household. I don’t have any negative memories of anything being wrong or off with my parents when I was little. My grandma would visit us often, always by herself. When I was about 5 years old, I asked my grandma if she had a husband. She told me that she had had two husbands, but they had both passed away. I didn’t really get what that meant, but she had answered my question which seemed to be enough to satisfy my curiosity.

By the time I was about 7, I was aware of my parents having a martini in the evening when my dad would come home from work. Occasionally on the weekend, they would have beer while they did work around the house or in the yard. But by the time I was in 6th grade and my grandma had married for the third time,  I saw a sadness in my mom that I had never seen before. Shortly after my grandma’s wedding, my mom began a rapid downward spiral of drinking excessively and becoming withdrawn and angry.

By the time I was 15, my mom’s drinking was pretty bad. One evening, I came into her room where she was sitting next to the phone, crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she explained to me that she had just tried to have a phone conversation with my grandma to tell her that my grandma’s second husband had molested my mom when she was twelve. This husband had died by the time my mom was 18, but my mom had felt so bad for my grandma for having lost two husbands that she never shared this information before. This secret had been eating at her for so long that she had become depressed and addicted to alcohol, and just wanted to get it off her chest and have the support of her family to help her through it.

When my mom told me this, I had no words. This was not something I knew how to handle as a teenager, so I just hugged her, and then I figured my dad and my grandma would know how to help her through it. I was completely wrong. My grandma was so shocked by this news that had happened 25 years earlier, that she was in total denial and blamed it on my mom having issues with alcohol and an unhappy relationship with my dad. My dad was the opposite of supportive of my mom, which had made her become so withdrawn that I didn’t have much of a relationship with her myself  for years after that day.

I moved out when I was 18, hoping not being under the same roof would ease her anger issues and we could have a new, more adult relationship instead of a parent/child one. I would schedule lunches with her, but she would either cancel last minute because she was sick (hangover) or meet me for lunch and spend the whole time downing margaritas or wine. I didn’t understand that her addiction was merely how she had decided to “deal” with her depression and the unresolved issues she experienced as a child. I honestly felt like she was choosing booze over a relationship with me.

When I was 20, my mom had told my dad she needed a break and decided she was going to take herself to Laguna Beach for the weekend. Her relationship with my dad had turned to angry, drunk fights and she was miserable. At the end of that weekend, my dad called to tell me my mom was in the hospital because she had “fallen” off part of a cliff at the beach. She wasn’t injured badly, but the police were involved because a couple had witnessed my mom trying to jump off of the cliff. She was in the hospital on a psychiatric hold, finally getting released to my dad with the promise of her getting help.

The help never came from my dad. It came from me two years later, when I went to their house after she had canceled our lunch date again and I saw how bad her alcoholism had escalated and how much her health had deteriorated. I immediately called my grandma, who found a rehab facility near her (grandma was now in Oregon while we had since moved to California). She got my mom registered after my mom agreed she needed help, and booked two plane tickets so I could fly up with my mom and help get her settled in.

Between March and October of 1993, my mom had been in and out of 3 rehab centers. She had been trying to get help for her addiction but she also needed help for her depression and therapy to deal with her childhood. We would talk on the phone weekly, but she mostly wanted to know how I was doing and didn’t go into detail about her ongoing treatment. My last conversation with her was on October 22, when she told me she knew her relationship with my dad was toxic and never going to be good for her to be around again. She had purchased a car from a graduated college student and was planning to go out the next day to look for an apartment and start a new life.

On the afternoon of October 23, 1993, I got a phone call that my mom had died in a car accident. There were multiple cars involved, but my mom was the only one hurt. Instead of starting a new life on her own, she had gone to a liquor store and consumed a 32 ounce bottle of vodka. She then started her car and drove, without a seatbelt, over a narrow bridge, bouncing off the walls of the bridge before hitting the two cars waiting on the other side (who had seen her coming but had nowhere to go, so they braced themselves for impact.) No one else was hurt, but the impact on my mom was fatal. She was 47 years old.

I knew my mom had consumed all of that alcohol and chose not to wear a seatbelt, and to drive a car while intoxicated. But I was shocked when the coroner called to tell me the cause of death was partly due to the accident, but the death certificate was going to read “acute ethanol alcohol poisoning” because that is really what killed her. He then went on to ask me if my mom was depressed and/or suicidal, and the rest of the conversation was and still is a blur to me.

It’s been 21 years since her death. I was just 24 years old when it happened. My older brother and I have never had any problems with addiction or depression. I always hear people talk about how it’s genetic, but my mom was the only person in her family to have this happen and I know it’s because of the things that happened to her. One of her counselors from the last rehab center she was in (she died 10 days after checking out of the last one) told me “there are some people that just can’t be helped.” Not exactly the ideal thing to tell someone at their mom’s funeral, but I later understood what he meant after reading all of my mom’s rehab journals in the weeks that followed.

Because of the things I saw my mom go through, I saw the signs of depression in Wil and encouraged him to get help for himself, which he did. We all deserve to enjoy life, to enjoy our time with our family and friends, and to get help when we know something isn’t right in our body and our brain. If you or someone you love is experiencing issues with this, please seek help. You matter and you absolutely deserve it.

41 thoughts on “Life Is Worth Living

    1. Thank you so much for sharing Anne. I have had 93 foster kids here in South Pas so have dealt with these kinds of problems, losing one kid to suicide.

  1. Beautiful post Anne, my brother drinks and it breaks my heart that he won’t seek help no matter how hard we try to help him. Depression hurts everyone.

  2. Thank you, Anne. I, too, have loved ones I worry about, but I’m not sure how to help them. I do what I can, but it’s up to them in the end. I can’t force them to get help. Sigh…

    Today is a sad day, but if things like this help even one person, it’s worth it.

    Thank you again.

  3. Wow, very thoughtful and well written. Thank you for sharing such a personal thing. It is helpful.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I imagine the pain of your loss never truly goes away. Thank you for being willing to revisit it in the hope if helping others.

  5. Thank you, Anne. Your generosity in sharing what must be painful memories is appreciated and hopefully will help someone who needs it.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this. It can’t have been easy. I’ve been suicidal and have attempted a few times. We forget how things look from the other side because the pain just overwhelms and we can’t see beyond ourselves.

  7. Thanks for being so open and sharing. Hopefully your story will help someone who’s grieving over the loss of a loved one and/or help someone seek needed help.

    Keep being you, Anne.

  8. Every time I read one of these, I break into tears. I’ve been battling depression since I was old enough to know what depression is. Before that, I was a sometimes quiet, intelligent kid with his head buried in a book, sometimes an angry kid who would have rage induced blackouts and attack anyone within range.
    During my teens and early 20s I drank a lot. Most people thought it was social, because that’s what teens/20-somethings do, but I was drinking vodka before leaving for school. High school.
    Eventually I lost all my friends, my job and my place to live.
    I was given a second chance at life by my elder brother, who let me live in his house, and helped me find a job. Tragically, he committed suicide himself just a year later.
    Today I am 30 years old, still fighting, but determined to win.

  9. Thanks for sharing your story! I know from personal experience how alcoholic parents can effect your own life. I’m glad you attempted to help your mother. Both my parents died in their 60’s as a direct result of too much drinking, my dad from kidney failure and my mom complications from a stroke. Growing up and being an adult with alcholic parents is not an easy task! I just think of happy memories with my parents!

  10. Having stood on the edge many times, and twice stepped off, I understand the darkness that dwells and blocks out any reasoning. Depression and suicide thoughts are not logical, there is no rhyme or reason, but to the brain they don’t have to be, they just are, they are a way out.

    I spent many days, hours, years, a lifetime, telling myself to hold on for one more day. Just one more day, and life would turn around. That day didn’t come until after my life totally shattered apart a few years ago and I had no choice but to reach out for help. Was that brave of me? I don’t know. Was it a good thing to happen? Yes. I’ve been to Germany twice. I’ve started writing. I’ve reconnected with my loved ones. I have learned to breathe. I am finally finding peace. Do I still have dark days? Yes, but I’ve learned to deal with them, be it a tweet, or sleep, or something, it will be anything that breaks the hold of depression and suicide thoughts. At least I recognise the symptoms now and to wait it out, though reaching out is still hard.

    It took forever, in my mind, to find my way, and I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for one thing that stopped me from taking my own life. I am forever grateful for that ‘one’ thing, and I urge those who cannot find their way through the darkness to keep looking for that ‘one’ thing: An actor you’ve seen before in a different role. The phone ringing. A knock on the door. Anything! And when that happens, just hold on, reach out, and the darkness DOES lift.

    Thank you, Anne, for sharing your story, and I can only hope that your experience, and those leaving comments, will help those in need.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this, Anne. I’m heartbroken to read what you’ve been through. You’re such a good person and I respect you.

  12. Thank you so much for this. You are a wonderful person, I admire your strength and your honesty. I send you and your family all my love and prayers. x

  13. I love you so much for being so open about the things you and Wil have gone through. The moment I heard of Robin Williams death and his depression I instantly thought of you two. How you’ve both been open, honest, and encouraging to others to get help. A voice I’m sure has helped a lot of people.

  14. Thank you for sharing your personal life with the world. I too have dealt with depression and been on the edge. I got through it all with help from friends and family.
    The biggest change was to actually stop eating the “feel good” foods and to start myself on a new regime.
    I sincerely hope your post will help others in need.

  15. I’m trying to word what I want to say without sounding like a jerk. In a way, you having to go through all this with your mom turned out to be helpful in the end. It enabled you see the signs of depression in someone else you love and prepared you to know what to do to help them recognize they needed help and to get them that help. As someone who had to deal with a bi-polar alcoholic parent, I wish you never had to go through it, but at least you can turn it into a little something positive. I know I’m not writing this they way I what it to sound, but I hope you take it the way I mean it.

    1. I do get what you’re saying and I completely agree. I have always thought that myself. Turning a shitty situation into something positive is the best way to get through it, I think. 🙂

  16. Thank-you for sharing this story, Anne. It takes courage to revisit such experiences enough to share them. Thanks-you for sharing your pain to help others.

  17. So eloquent! Thank You! I hope your beautiful words reach the people that they need to! I am sharing them in Australia.

  18. Thanks so much for sharing Anne. Part of how depression lies is that you think you are alone – unique – and that no one else could possibly understand what’s happening to you. Sharing stories makes those lies disappear. I know, I myself have depression – but it does not have me. Be well!

  19. Thank you for sharing, Anne. I lost someone I loved to suicide over 25 years ago and appreciate the efforts you and Wil have made to increase awareness of depression and encourage people to get help.

  20. Thank you for sharing this. I’m sorry you had to go through so much pain and that your mom did too. What happened to Robin Williams is tragic and sad but I hope it will help us to open up and reach out when we need it.

  21. You are amazing! I knew you had lost your Mom, but not how. I loved you before but love you more and respect you so much!

  22. You write:

    “I didn’t understand that her addiction was merely how she had decided to ‘deal’ with her depression and the unresolved issues she experienced as a child. I honestly felt like she was choosing booze over a relationship with me.”

    That was me from early childhood until I was 21 years of age… when I saw how my then-girlfriend and her father interacted, could see the whole system in motion, and was mature enough to withhold judgment.

    By then it was too late.

    Eight years later, aggressive cancer overtook her, but I suspect it was really despair. There wasn’t much of her left even before the cancer took hold.

    That taught me some lessons that I’m better off for learning, though I would rather have been spared.

  23. I understand how hard this was to write. I thank you for putting it all into words. Sad days like these hell for the ones in the future.
    You and Wil are an amazing team and the world is so much better because of it.

  24. Thank you for sharing your story.

    You wrote “I honestly felt like she was choosing booze over a relationship with me.”

    I can totally relate.

    3 months after a a failed rehab my mother gave up. I cried with unending numbness as I watched her take her last breath. She was 56. I was 24, too. I was (and still am, I guess) so MAD at her. I gave birth 2 weeks after her death to a perfect baby boy who will never get to know how awesome of a woman she used to be.

    I still get bitter. I feel like she abandoned me. It’s nice to know I am not alone in my feelings.

    Stay strong.

  25. Thank you for your bravery and willingness to be so open. Hopefully by sharing your story, and the sharing that has continued in the comments, people will know they’re not alone and to seek help if they need it.

  26. Thank you for honoring Robin Williams and your mom. I had a chronically depressed mom but she found a wonderful 2nd husband who made her happy. I love the last line of this post. How true! And wonderful for Wil to have you.

  27. I’ve been to two suicide funerals, in my lifetime – a friend from high school’s and the brother of another friend. They were hell beyond words. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for you to write about your mother. About your husband. When we write, we relive. Writing is also therapeutic. It is in the reliving that we gain a deeper, more meaningful perspective. It is in the reliving, that we come to understand how strong we can be.
    I began blogging, in 2010. I wrote a campy blog, entitled Happy Skinny Mrs – Wit & Wisdom (blah, blah, blah). I wrote about happiness and health. In truth: I wrote bullshit, because it was only a half-truth.
    My husband was suffering from depression & drinking heavily. As a nurse, I recognized the signs. I begged him to get help. All I did was push him further away. He was angry with me insinuating he was depressed. His mother is bipolar. His childhood scars are deep. He is terrified of mental illness. He drank even more and had an affair. When I learned of the affair, I kicked him out. He was no longer the kind, funny, intelligent man I married. He needed help but he refused to acknowledge it. Ultimately, losing me, & the respect of our 3 children, changed him. It did not make him want to get better. It made him want to end his life.
    Six weeks after he left our home, he said his goodbyes. I recognized the hollow, pained look in his eyes. and I begged him not to put one more burden on my shoulders. He left in tears & I fell to my knees. I prayed for strength. For my children. For me.
    The next morning he called me. He had called a mental health hotline that night, because he said saw the deepest love & strength he’s ever known in my eyes.
    He began intensive therapy as an outpatient. In time, I joined in his therapy sessions. We treated his depression as an illness – because it was.
    I gave up writing my blog and started writing the truth. I published my first book and I came clean about my own lies & secrets.
    Today, we are stronger than ever, because we faced and overcame his depression together.
    Thank you for sharing your story, Anne. It helps to know we’re not alone.

  28. Hi Anne. My mother also was an alcoholic, and even after she went to rehab she was a “dry drunk.” She died in 1984 when I was 23 years old. So, I sympathize with you. I’ve never had clinical depression, but I do watch my drinking carefully since alcoholism runs in the family. I’m glad you are doing well, and I’m thankful you helped Wil see the depression in himself. Thanks for sharing this personal and painful story. I, too, will miss Robin Williams though I never met him (or interviewed him when I wrote for Starlog and Fangoria – though I did talk to Clancy Brown about his part in Flubber). Both of you take care!

  29. So sorry for your loss. I have had many, many experiences both with victims of molestation, and alcoholism. It can be really really tough but the sooner someone gets help the better.

  30. Hi Anne,
    This post really spoke to me. Two years ago I had some medical issues that left me I a foreign country with my left leg paralyzed and no sign of getting home. I laid in a hospital bed there for two weeks never leaving my bed for anything, not knowing that language and suffering immense pain with no type of pain management at all. At night I could hear people moaning and screaming in pain. Once my company figured how to get me home, I was air ambulanced home for emergency spinal surgery. Was a major life changer for me. I can no longer run or lift more than 20 lbs for the rest of my life and have continuous pain to some varying degree. About a year ago I was in a checkup and the nurse told me I needed help for depression. I started therapy and in three months went through 8 different prescriptions. I’m apparently very sensitive to the side effects. I was almost checked in by a therapist and a dr for suicide watch. It’s a little better now but still am struggling in and out of it. Thank you for sharing.

  31. You and wil both are strong and amazing people! Seeing the signs of depression is hard and knowing what to do is even harder, but by giving support to a person who is suffering is the best thing a person can do! I’m so happy you both have each other!

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