It seemed like Robin Williams changed almost overnight.
Before his sudden death in 2014, Williams’ friends and colleagues knew he was fighting some kind of internal battle.
He couldn’t remember his lines. He thought he wasn’t funny anymore. He cried uncontrollably.
“He was sobbing in my arms at the end of every day. It was horrible. Horrible,” makeup artist Cheri Minns has recalled. “I said to his people, ‘I’m a makeup artist. I don’t have the capacity to deal with what’s happening to him.’ ”
In an effort to help, Minns suggested Williams should get back into stand-up comedy.
“He just cried and said, ‘I can’t, Cheri. I don’t know how anymore. I don’t know how to be funny.’ ”
Dave Hughes likes himself better sober. Post continues.
At the time Williams had no idea he was suffering from a pernicious neurodegenerative disease that was slowly eroding his mind.
It was basically robbing Williams of everything that made him Robin Williams.
A new biography Robin, written by Dave Itzkoff, has recounted Williams’ final days.
It looks at Williams’ stellar comedy and acting career, in which it seemed like he could do no wrong, and then his slow fall from grace in noughties.
In 2013, Williams returned to the small screen co-staring in CBS’s The Crazy Ones with Sarah Michelle Geller.
But the magic wasn’t there and critics roundly slammed the show.
That’s when the people close to him started to notice a change in Williams. He began to complain about insomnia, indigestion, he said he had trouble urinating, he worried that he had lost his sense of smell. There was also a slight tremor in his left hand.
His third wife, Susan Schneider, described his deteriorating health in Robin.
“It was like playing whack-a-mole. Which symptom is it this month? I thought, is my husband a hypochondriac? We’re chasing it and there’s no answers, and by now we’d tried everything.”
When CBS cancelled The Crazy Ones after just one season, Williams’ friends thought he was depressed. His long time friend Billy Crystal said he was a changed man.
Then in May 2014, Williams was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
He checked himself into a rehab centre, but he would never be the same again.
“He had a slow, shuffling gait. He hated that he could not find the words he wanted in conversations. He would thrash at night and still had terrible insomnia. At times, he would find himself stuck in a frozen stance, unable to move, and frustrated when he came out of it. He was beginning to have trouble with visual and spatial abilities in the way of judging distance and depth. His loss of basic reasoning just added to his growing confusion,” Susan once described in the journal Neurology.
In August 2014, Williams said goodnight to Susan and retired to his room.
“As we always did, we said to each other, ‘Good night, my love’, ” Susan explained.
“He seemed like he was doing better, like he was on the path of something.”
The next morning, Susan discovered Williams had taken his own life.
Three months later the autopsy revealed the veteran comedian had been suffering from “diffuse Lewy body dementia”.
He wasn’t depressed and he didn’t have Parkinson’s – an incurable brain disease had slowly robbed Williams’ of his life force.
Lewy body dementia, also known as dementia with Lewy bodies, is a progressive brain disorder characterised by microscopic protein deposits, called Lewy bodies, that develop on the brain.
It’s the second most common form of dementia, but it’s often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s. The symptoms include sleep disorders, hallucinations, impaired movement, difficulty judging distance, confusion, and memory loss.
It’s swift-moving, and a patient diagnosed with Lewy body dementia has approximately seven years to live after the onset of symptoms, according to Alzheimer’s Australia.
“It was not depression that killed Robin,” Susan told People. “Depression was one of let’s call it 50 symptoms and it was a small one.”
Robin is out in all good bookstores this month.