Painful memories. Robin Williams' widow has penned a heartbreaking essay about the beloved comedian's final days battling a rare form of dementia before he committed suicide in August 2014.
Susan Schneider Williams titled the piece in the medical journal Neurology "The terrorist inside my husband's brain." In the article, Williams, who was married to the Oscar winner for three years until his death at the age of 63, writes about finding out in the medical examiner's report that the former Mork and Mindy star had suffered from Lewy body dementia.
The disorder, which affects 1.5 million worldwide, is often diagnosed as Parkinson's disease, as happened to Williams.
"Robin is and will always be a larger-than-life spirit who was inside the body of a normal man with a human brain. He just happened to be that 1 in 6 who is affected by brain disease," Schneider Williams writes.
The actor has been struggling with a series of unrelated symptoms including heartburn, insomnia, stress and a slight tremor in his left hand, before his condition worsened in October 2013. "His fear and anxiety skyrocketed to a point that was alarming," she remembers, later learning that a spike in those conditions can be an early indication of LBD. He soon began having problems with paranoia and delusions.
In April 2014, Williams was having trouble remembering his lines and had a panic attack while in Vancouver filming Night at the Museum 3 and was prescribed antipsychotic medication. "It seemed to make things better in some ways, but far worse in others," she writes.
"In early May, the movie wrapped and he came home from Vancouver — like a 747 airplane coming in with no landing gear," she continues. "I have since learned that people with LBD who are highly intelligent may appear to be okay for longer initially, but then, it is as though the dam suddenly breaks and they cannot hold it back anymore. In Robin's case, on top of being a genius, he was a Julliard-trained actor. I will never know the true depth of his suffering, nor just how hard he was fighting. But from where I stood, I saw the bravest man in the world playing the hardest role of his life."
"Robin was losing his mind and he was aware of it. Can you imagine the pain he felt as he experienced himself disintegrating?"
He was diagnosed with Parkinson's later that month, and the comedian, who'd previously battled substance abuse issues, remained sober and "continued doing all the right things — therapy, physical therapy, bike riding, and working out with his trainer."
But, Schneider Williams writes, her husband was "growing weary" of the battle. His voice weakened, the tremor in his hand was continuous and he had a slow, shuffling gait. He also had trouble finding words and couldn't sleep.
"It felt like he was drowning in his symptoms, and I was drowning along with him," she continues, as the symptoms would wax and wane throughout the day. "I experienced my brilliant husband being lucid with clear reasoning 1 minute and then, 5 minutes later, blank, lost in confusion."
It was recommended the couple sleep apart so that they could each catch up on their rest. On the night that he committed suicide by hanging himself in the couple's home, Schneider Williams writes, "When we retired for sleep, in our customary way, my husband said to me, 'Goodnight, my love,' and waited for my familiar reply: 'Goodnight, my love.'"
"His words still echo through my heart today."
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