Robin Williams’ widow Susan recently gave an in-depth, painfully honest interview about her late husband, one in which she addressed the ongoing “Robin Williams dementia” rumors. According to Susan, Williams was suffering from a myriad of ailments, many of them mental, and that neither dementia nor depression were the sole reasons that her husband took his own life in August of 2014.
Susan’s press release following Williams’ suicide stated that the entertainer’s “sobriety was intact,” that “he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly.” She re-asserted those statements and many others in the new interview, where she stated bluntly “It was not depression that killed Robin.”
“Depression was one of let’s call it 50 symptoms,” she told People. “And it was a small one.”
According to Susan, the rumors regarding Robin Williams dementia (specifically, its severity) aren’t entirely accurate, either. Rather, it was an affliction called Diffuse Lewy Body Dementia–or DLB–that had begun to take hold of Robin.
DLB is the second-most-common neurodegenerative disease, after Alzheimer’s, and “causes fluctuations in mental status, hallucinations[,] and impairment of motor function.” A recent Guardian piece on DLB notes that the disease attacks the nervous system via Lewy Bodies, which are “lumps, known as aggregates, of misshapen protein(of the type Alpha-synuclein) that occur in nerve cells.” After forming, “these protein aggregates build up in neurons, and are believed to clog and disrupt the vital processes taking place within, damaging the cell and eventually causing it to die.”
In the year leading up to Williams’ suicide, said Susan, DLB manifested itself in “heightened levels of anxiety, delusions, and impaired movement.” Those symptoms “present themselves like a pinball machine,” she added. “You don’t know exactly what you’re looking at.”
Unfortunately for the couple, Williams wasn’t diagnosed accurately until his autopsy. “This disease was faster than us and bigger than us,” she told the magazine. “We would have gotten there eventually….I know now the doctors, the whole team was doing exactly the right things.”
She added that one of Robin Williams’ doctors told her that her husband “was very aware that he was losing his mind and there was nothing he could do about it.
“This was a very unique case,” concluded Susan. “I pray to God that it will shed some light on Lewy bodies for the millions of people and their loved ones who are suffering with it. Because we didn’t know. He didn’t know.”
(Photo credits: Robin Williams dementia via Ivan Nikolov / Joseph Marzullo / WENN.com)