The ‘ter­ror­ist’ in­side the Os­car-win­ning co­me­dian’s brain

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - MAYA OPPENHEIM

LON­DON: Robin Wil­liams’s widow Su­san Schnei­der Wil­liams has penned a poignant es­say re­count­ing the ac­tor’s “tragic and heart­break­ing” fi­nal months be­fore his sui­cide.

Writ­ten for the jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Academy of Neu­rol­ogy, “The Ter­ror­ist In­side My Hus­band’s Brain” de­tails the Os­car-win­ning co­me­dian’s pri­vate, un­di­ag­nosed strug­gle with a form of de­men­tia called Lewy body dis­ease.

Schnei­der Wil­liams de­scribes in de­tail the toll the dis­ease took on him, with the symp­toms rang­ing from in­som­nia to tremors, anx­i­ety, di­ges­tive prob­lems, sig­nif­i­cant mem­ory loss and para­noia.

“This is a per­sonal story, sadly tragic and heart­break­ing, but by shar­ing this in­for­ma­tion with you I know that you can help make a dif­fer­ence in the lives of oth­ers,” Schnei­der Wil­liams writes.

“As you may know, my hus­band Robin Wil­liams had the lit­tle-known but deadly Lewy body dis­ease ( LBD). He died from sui­cide in 2014 at the end of an in­tense, con­fus­ing and rel­a­tively swift per­se­cu­tion at the hand of this dis­ease’s symp­toms and pathol­ogy. He was not alone in his trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence with this neu­ro­logic dis­ease.”

Schnei­der Wil­liams did not learn her hus­band had been liv­ing with LBD un­til three months af­ter his death when the coroner’s re­port was re­leased. All four of the doc­tors she had con­sulted in the af­ter­math of his death said it was one of the worst patholo­gies of the dis­ease they had ever wit­nessed.

“Once the coroner’s re­port was re­viewed, a doc­tor was able to point out to me that there was a high con­cen­tra­tion of Lewy bod­ies within the amyg­dala,” she ex­plains in the let­ter.

“This likely caused the acute para­noia and out-of-char­ac­ter emo­tional re­sponses he was hav­ing. How I wish he could have known why he was strug­gling, that it was not a weak­ness in his heart, spirit, or char­ac­ter.”

Ac­cord­ing to Schnei­der Wil­liams, Wil­liams strug­gled to mem­o­rise sin­gle lines while film­ing Night at the Mu­seum 3, even though three years ear­lier, he mem­o­rised hun­dreds of lines for the Broad­way pro­duc­tion Ben­gal Tiger at the Bagh­dad Zoo and de­liv­ered im­pec­ca­ble per­for­mances.

“Robin was los­ing his mind and he was aware of it,” Schnei­der Wil­liams re­flects.

“Can you imag­ine the pain he felt as he ex­pe­ri­enced him­self dis­in­te­grat­ing? And not from some­thing he would ever know the name of, or un­der­stand? Nei­ther he, nor any­one could stop it and no amount of in­tel­li­gence or love could hold it back”.

She wrote: “Pow­er­less and frozen, I stood in the dark­ness of not know­ing what was hap­pen­ing to my hus­band. – The In­de­pen­dent

and frozen, I stood in the dark­ness of

‘Pow­er­less

not know­ing what was

hap­pen­ing’

Su­san Schnei­der Wil­liams and Robin Wil­liams in 2012.

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