Robin Williams’ widow, Susan, said she doesn’t blame him “one bit” for taking his life, revealing the comedian had been paranoid and anxious leading up to his suicide and was planning with doctors to check himself into a facility to undergo neurocognitive testing the week of his death.
“If Robin was lucky, he would've had maybe three years left. And they would've been hard years,” Susan Williams told ABC News’ Amy Robach in an exclusive interview that aired today on “Good Morning America," referring to what was discovered about her husband’s physical condition after his 2014 death. “And it's a good chance he would've been locked up.”
It was her first interview since the death of her celebrated actor-comedian husband last year at age 63. The pair had had a seven-year relationship and a private, happy three-year marriage.
Williams described her husband as “just a dream,” adding, “It’s the best love I ever dreamed of. You know, it’s what I always dreamed of love would be … really based on just honor, love, respect.”
In the interview, Williams open up to Robach about her husband’s mental and physical state and his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. She cried as she described how scared she was when she saw her husband and best friend “just disintegrating” before her eyes and again when she recalled her final conversation with him the night of Aug. 10, 2014.
‘GOODNIGHT, MY LOVE’
She was in bed, reading, and he was getting ready for bed, too. He offered her a foot massage.
“And I said, ‘It's OK, honey. Not -- you know, it's OK. You don't have to tonight.’ And I'll never forget the look in his eyes of just, sad because he wanted to. And I wished -- you know?” she said. “Then he came back in the room a couple of times. Once to his closet. And he said -- and then he laughed. And he said, ‘Goodnight, my love.’ And I said, ‘Goodnight, my love.’"
The actor came back one more time, went to his office and got his iPad, his widow said. He appeared to be showing interest in something, displaying initiative.
“And I thought, ‘This is good,’” she recalled. “And then he said, ‘Goodnight. Goodnight.’ That was the last.”
The next day, Aug. 11, 2014, she left for work without seeing him, thinking he was still asleep.
When his assistant, Rebecca, arrived at the house, Williams told her to call her when he woke up.
“And I said, ‘Call me when he’s up or have him call me when he’s up,’” Williams said. “And I kept thinking, ‘How come he hasn’t called me yet?’ And then she sent me a text. It said ‘He’s not up yet. What should I do?’ I said – and in that moment, I knew there was something horribly wrong.”
It was past 11:30 a.m., and Williams told her husband’s assistant, Rebecca, to wake him up.
Rebecca called her back. Robach asked Williams what the assistant had told her about her husband, but she was too distraught to answer.
She rushed home.
‘I FORGIVE YOU 50 BILLION PERCENT’
“That 20-minute car ride, I just screamed the whole way, ‘Robin!’” she said.
At first she couldn’t see him because emergency responders were doing their jobs.
“And I just wanted to see my husband. And I got to see him ... and I got to pray with him. And I got to tell him, ‘I forgive you 50 billion percent, with all my heart. You're the bravest man I've ever known.’ You know, we were living a nightmare,” she said.
The nightmare worsened in the months leading up to his death. The Academy Award-winning actor’s depression, anxiety and paranoia battles drove him to hang himself with a belt.
He had always been very open about his addiction, depression and stints in rehab, but his wife said he’d gotten his life back on track. They even celebrated on July 11, his sobriety date.
“He was completely clean and sober when he died. And he had eight years of sobriety,” she said, adding that he was happy.
The depression didn’t start to come on until about April or May, she said. That’s when he started on antidepressants.
But Susan Williams said the depression wasn’t the biggest issue with her husband.
“That was a small piece of the pie of what was going on … really, what was overriding that more than depression was anxiety. And the anxiety was huge,” she said.
He had started asking whether people were looking at him.
“We'd be out at dinner, and if people were looking at him because people couldn't help themselves. He would say, ‘Are they giving me the stink eye?’” she recalled, laughing, before adding, “And 98 percent of the time, it was like, ‘No, they're freaked out because you're Robin Williams. And they don't know what to do.’”
He had also begun to worry about his health. In November 2013, he had some stomach pain. The cause was never diagnosed. More symptoms surfaced in the subsequent months, including constipation, urinary trouble and sleeplessness.
By February, she could see that something was wrong. They were supposed to have gone to see friends who were celebrating a birthday but had to back out at the last minute because Williams was in bed.
‘THERE’S SOMETHING REALLY WRONG WITH ME’
“He said to me, he said, ‘There's something really wrong with me.’ I said, ‘I know, honey. I know there is. And we're going to get to the bottom of this. I swear. We're going to figure this out.’ And inside my mind for the first time, I started to wonder, ‘Are we?’” she said.
By that time she had started to wonder whether her husband was a hypochondriac.
“It's one thing after another and we're chasing it and there's no answers and by now, we -- I mean, we tried everything,” she said.
In May, they got answers. Robin Williams was diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, a progressive movement disorder which attacks the nerve cells in the brain, resulting in trembling hands, arms, legs and face and eventually leading to slow of movement, coordination problems and trouble walking or doing simple tasks, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Robach asked whether the actor had ever said he didn’t want to live anymore.
“No. Not even -- no. No,” his widow replied. “I mean, he was sick and tired of what was going on, absolutely … and when he got the Parkinson's diagnosis, you know, I mean, in one sense, it was like this is it. This is what we've been -- we've been chasing something, now we found it. And we felt the sense of release and relief. But also, like, ‘Oh, my god, what does this mean?’ OK?”
The actor had already started to show symptoms – stiffness, slumping, shuffling gait and “losing his ability in his voice,” -- but there was more going on that no one knew about, Susan Williams said.
A coroner’s report said Williams had Lewy body dementia, a common but difficult-to-diagnose condition that may have contributed to his decision to commit suicide.
Williams said she was afraid for her husband’s physical safety, describing one incident where he hit his head so hard that he had deep gashes.
She was in the shower and saw him lingering at the sink.
“And something didn't seem right. And I opened up the door and there was blood. This towel was so soaked with blood and he was just dabbing his head,” she said. “And I just screamed, ‘Robin, what happened? What did you do?’ And he pointed to the door and I said, ‘Did you hit your head?’ And he nodded.”
‘I GET IT, HONEY. I TOTALLY GET IT’
She was scared, she said, by the “lack of affectation” in his eyes. It seemed as though he was “just disintegrating before my eyes,” she said.
When she asked him what happened, he replied: “I miscalculated.”
“And now, after a year of digging into what killed my husband, finding out all about Lewy body disease, lo and behold, one of the symptoms, their vision is affected. Spatially, depth, the ability to recognize, identify objects,” she said.
“And so now, over a year later I totally get it. I get it, honey. I totally get it. I don't think he was trying to hit his head on the door. I know that's right. And I know he was angry with himself and he was fed up with this and he was expressing anger.”
Asked whether he was spiraling out of control, Susan Williams said things were confused.
“It's one minute, totally lucid … And then five minutes later, he would say something that wasn't -- it didn't match,” she said.
Her husband was keeping it together as best he could. “But the last month he could not. It was like the dam broke,” she said.
That last week of his life, doctors were planning to check him into a facility for neurocognitive testing, Williams said.
Robach asked Susan Williams whether her husband’s suicide was his way of taking back control.
“In my opinion, oh, yeah,” she said. “I mean, there are many reasons. Believe me. I've thought about this. Of what was going on in his mind, what made him ultimately commit -- you know, to do that act. And I think he was just saying, ‘No.’ And I don't blame him one bit. I don't blame him one bit.”
**EDITOR’S NOTE: The story has been amended to clarify that Susan Williams discovered the full extent of Robin Williams’ medical condition only after an autopsy was conducted after the comedian’s 2014 death. It was through the autopsy findings that doctors determined Robin would have had “maybe three years left” to live, Susan Williams told ABC News.