Robin Williams’ son Zak opens up about effect of late father’s misdiagnosis: ‘What I saw was frustration’


Robin Williams’ son is talking about his father’s psychological struggles as well as his own in the wake of the legendary comedian’s death in a new podcast interview.

Jack Williams, 38, had a long heart-to-heart with writer and host Max Lugavere during the latest installment of his podcast, “The Genius Life,” which streams new episodes every Wednesday.

what is ours clear conversation It includes their mutual struggles with depression, anxiety, and the pain of being eaten by a loved one’s debilitating neurodegenerative disease: Dementia with Lewy Bodies. Both Lugavere and Williams have seen one parent suffer from a “depressing” illness – the pain of which has left a lasting impact on both men.

It was a touching conversation to debut on July 21, the day of Robin’s 70th birthday.

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Robin Williams’ son Zak Williams described his ‘depressing’ experience of watching his father struggle with dementia before his suicide in 2014.
(Photo by Albert Chau/Film Magic)

“What I saw was despair,” Williams said of her father’s diagnosis and misdiagnosis.

about two years ago death by suicide in 2014After doctors told Williams he had Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement, causing his signature tremors.

but one Will know later after post-mortem That Robin and his medical team had treated the wrong disease. “What he was going through didn’t match one to one [with] experiences of many Parkinson’s patients,” said Valerie Velardi, the eldest son of Robin and his first wife.

Williams believes her father’s misdiagnosis inflicted emotional toll Madness takes patients. In the years that Robin lived without knowing the full scope of his illness, his son witnessed his struggles to concentrate and later “Challenges showcasing your craft, “contributing to Actors’ anxiety and depression before his death.

“Lightning Quick Recall – That Was His Signature [on stage],” he said, referring to the impact of dementia on patients.

Lewy bodies with both dementias [DLB] and Parkinson’s dementia disease [PDD] There are subtypes of dementia, marked by a buildup of proteins that clump together in the brain’s neurons, disrupting both the central and autonomic nervous systems.

However, DLB distinguishes itself from the other subtype with symptoms including a significant decline in cognitive abilities, and struggles with everyday mental activities such as planning, problem-solving, focusing, and staying alert. According to the Lewy Body Dementia Association. Hallucinations, sleep-walking, mood swings and physical rigidity also characterize DLB.

Robin Williams teaching a class in a scene from the film Dead Poets Society, 1989.

Robin Williams teaching a class in a scene from the film Dead Poets Society, 1989.
(Photo by Touchstone Pictures/Getty Images)

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Furthermore, the onset of development of PDD is not guaranteed in all Parkinson’s patients – adding to Robin’s delusion in the two years before his death.

“It was a period of intense discovery and despair for him,” Williams said. “It’s just devastating.”

That devastation took its toll after his father passed away—in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism, and depression: “I was self-medicating through the trauma using alcohol.”

His declining health, which included bouts with psychosis, eventually prompted Williams to seek help – by helping others. “I was just sick and trying to treat myself using harmful means,” said Williams, who turned her negative experience into a positive one through advocacy.

“I not only need to take care of myself, but what do I need to show others?” He noted that men, in particular, are four times more likely to die by suicide than women. , according to studies.

“I think many [men] feel isolated, many don’t have the outlet they need,” said the father of two, who found strength in the 12-step program and other forms of group therapy. He especially empathizes with those in need. Those who do not have access to mental health resources because of cost or distance telehealth is working to increase access, he explained, but encourages in-person connection.

Particularly among men, for whom the stigma of seeking mental health treatment is high, men’s groups – in churches, bars or wherever they find a shared interest – can be a powerful source of inspiration and support. Groups of gender-exclusive men also, Williams said, “enable them to focus on issues without interpersonal gender dynamics.”

Activist and entrepreneur who founded PYM, a mental wellness company specializing in “neuro-nutrition.” It was his battle with alcoholism that led him to explore the topic, prompting him to learn more about how nutritional deficiencies affect brain and psychological health, such as the neurotransmitter gamma- Aminobutyric acid (GABA), the supplement of which made all the difference. his recovery. “It was like night and day,” Williams said.

Low levels of GABA in the brain are associated with increased levels of anxiety and mood disorders. According to Lugavere, the amino acid has been nicknamed “nature’s valium” by some.

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PYM’s products and other forms of supplements are “not a cure,” Williams stressed, and should be used in conjunction with a healthy diet, exercise, and therapy for some. “They don’t address the concern, but they do try to address the core improvements.”

Her goal as an advocate is to encourage people to think more about mental health in terms of physical health: “People need to understand what they need for their bodies.”

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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