Depression and suicide are issues Mariel Hemingway knows well, but it was too soon to discuss her friend Robin Williams’ death by his own hand.
The actor, author and mental health advocate was in the metro for the first Camp Cambria for children with juvenile arthritis, an event in partnership with the Arthritis Foundation. She and her partner, Bobby Williams, took a nature walk with campers and talked about finding their life’s passion.
“I love my association with [Cambria] because lifestyle is such a big party of what I do. I actually believe having a beautiful home is part of our wellness, part of our balanced life and I like beauty. It’s also a really green company,” Hemingway told me.
The granddaughter of great American author Ernest Hemingway, who committed suicide, told me there may have been more suicides in her family than the generally known number. In the 2014 Emmy-nominated “Running from Crazy” that she executive-produced, Hemingway examined her life and her family’s history of suicide and mental illness.
Hemingway acknowledged Williams’ death on Twitter: “Bless you sweet amazing robinwilliams Beyond TRAGIC AND SAD. Love to your family. The entire planet laughed & was happier because of him. The SUN is shining somewhere even when you feel there is only darkness.”
When I interviewed her at the Cambria Gallery in Minneapolis, I asked her about Robin Williams in the context of depression, creativity and substance abuse. I also asked the actor who was nominated for an Oscar for “Manhattan” if she would ever again work with Woody Allen.
Beyond the credit of my startribune.com/video is a blast from the past, which captures me being consistent in my evaluation of Hemingway.
Q: Why “Running from Crazy” as a title for your film?
A: I jokingly said that to a friend of mine. I said, “We should just call it ‘Running from Crazy’ because that’s what I’ve been doing my entire life.” All joking aside, it really was what I thought I was doing and I was. I was afraid I was going to wake up crazy or have cancer like my mother or heart disease like my father or be addicted. There was so much addiction, mental illness, mental imbalance that I was afraid most of my life. And kind of unconsciously afraid. As things become conscious you start to be able to make choices.
Q: How old were you when you realized your family was a little crazy and I think most families are a little crazy so don’t take that personally?
A: The truth is the reason why I did “Running from Crazy” is because I don’t think this is my story. I think this is everybody’s story. I think we all come from something, whatever it is. Even if you don’t think that you come from any kind of mental imbalance, stress is hard on us. Stress is a mental illness. It’s a mental imbalance for sure and we certainly have a lot of it in our society, so I did it because I want everybody to know they are not alone. If somebody like me can say, “This is my story, this is my family, these are the struggles I’ve been through and — who cares? — I made it to the other side. I want you to know you’re OK and can make it to the other side as well.”
Q: You told another interviewer you knew you were depressed. Everybody goes through that. But when you look back at your childhood was there an age where you now realize Wow, I was depressed then?
A: The irony is I didn’t realize until I wasn’t depressed that I’d been depressed most of my life. That was the norm. I came from that house, and I didn’t know that being tired was a symptom of depression. I spent most of my days tired. Now, that is completely not the case. There are several different things, not only lifestyle — food, exercise, water, learning to meditate; I also do something called Brain State Technology [www.BrainStateTech.com] which balances the hemispheres of the brain through sound. Your brain hears itself in real time and collects itself because it wants to be balanced. It’s brain wave optimization, so it’s optimizing your brain waves to be balanced and in harmony with each other so that your brain is feeling good. So many of our issues in life are a brain problem. [Laughter] And that can be trauma to the brain, physical trauma and emotional trauma. My partner Bobby Williams, whom I wrote “Running with Nature” with, introduced me to it. Wow, I was depressed. I’d managed it really well through my lifestyle choices. I never was on medication, I was fortunate. When that door opened and I realized you could find happiness, you can find recovery from depression. At least in my life that was a great joy for me. It was amazing, like freedom.