Robin Williams is famous for warming hearts and making an impact on so many who have seen his films. The depth of him allowed him to take on many different roles in various movies, from comedies to dramas. From very sad to hilariously real, not to mention the voice acting of Aladdin’s beloved Genie. His wife has decided to share the truth about why he took his own life.
Robin Williams and dementia
Robin Williams made a name for himself in Hollywood. With roles in blockbuster films like Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, Good Morning Vietnam, and Patch Adams. He even did the voice of everyone’s favorite genie from Aladdin! No matter what it was in, people appreciated the movie more for it.
In 2014, Robin Williams tragically committed suicide. He was 63 years old and, at first, it was assumed that he was related to depression. However, his widow, Susan Schneider, explained that depression was just a small part of a much larger problem. “It wasn’t depression that killed Robin. Depression was one of, let’s call it, fifty symptoms, and he was little.”
Unfortunately, Williams suffered from Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), which was only diagnosed after he had already died. During the autopsy, the doctors could see that his brain was full of Lewy bodies. In an interview, Susan explained his reaction when she first found out. “The doctors told me after the autopsy, ‘Are you surprised that her husband had Lewy bodies all over her brain and brainstem? ‘I didn’t even know what Lewy bodies were,'” Susan admitted. “But I said, ‘No, I’m not surprised.’ The fact that something had infiltrated every part of my husband’s brain? That made a lot of sense.”
The Good Morning Vietnam actor was an extremely quick thinker. This made him a great actor because he could improvise most of his lines. However, Lewy body dementia affected his ability to do this, and memory loss didn’t help either. Schneider explained how Robin’s character began to change.
“It was so out of character for Robin to be so paranoid. And that was the beginning of this 10-month drumbeat of increased symptoms. And the thing about LBD is that the symptoms don’t appear all at once, they change. So they are incredibly confusing for the patient and the caregiver.”
Correction of misconceptions
Susan Schneider Williams embarked on a mission to try to rectify any misconceptions about Lewy body disease. This form of dementia accounts for 10-15% of all cases of dementia. The term “Lewy bodies” refers to abnormal clumps of protein that build up in brain cells. Some of the symptoms include hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia, memory loss, insomnia, and Parkinson’s. In many cases, LBD is misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
Schneider decided to make a film about LBD, but she settled for a documentary about her late husband’s experience with the disease. The autobiography was called Robin’s Wish and was released in September 2020. “If my husband wasn’t famous, he wouldn’t have put me through this. But there were so many misunderstandings about what had happened to him and about the Lewy bodies. So this felt like the right thing to do,” says Schneider.
Susan Schneider and Robin Williams
Susan Schneider and Robin Williams met in 2007. She was walking into a local Apple store and there he was. “I walked in and saw this guy and thought, ‘I think this is Robin Williams,'” Schneider said. “Then on the way out, I looked at him again and he was smiling at me and something inside me said, ‘Oh, just come over and say hello.’ He was wearing a camo print, so I said, ‘How about that camo? you?’ And he was like, ‘Not too good, you found me.'”