According to New York Times reporter Dave Itzkoff's new book Robin, the Oscar-winner was first diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. However, his behavior did not match the symptoms of that disease. He was later correctly diagnosed with diffuse Lewy body dementia, a condition that effects memory, thinking, emotions and body movements.
Williams began exhibiting behavior that caused some to think he was using drugs or alcohol, Itzkoff writes, reports Deadline. He would cry uncontrollably, forget lines and suffered from a "shuffling gait" while making his final projects.
“He was sobbing in my arms at the end of every day. It was horrible. Horrible,” Cheri Minns, a makeup artist who worked with Williams on Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, told Itzkoff. “I said to his people, ‘I’m a makeup artist. I don’t have the capacity to deal with what’s happening to him.’"
Minns said he told Williams he should get back into stand-up comedy to help his depression, but Williams rejected the idea. “He just cried and said, ‘I can’t, Cheri. I don’t know how anymore. I don’t know how to be funny,'" Minss recalled.
One of Williams' last projects was a return to television, starring in CBS' The Crazy Ones with Sarah Michelle Gellar. After the 2013 series was cancelled, his health took a bad turn.
“I would come home and say to my husband, ‘Something is wrong. He’s flat. He’s lost the spark. I don’t know what it is,’" Pam Dawber, who co-starred with Williams in Mork & Mindy and made an appearance on The Crazy Ones, told Itzkoff.
According to The New York Post, the book also describes other health ailments Williams faced after The Crazy Ones was cancelled. He complained about insomnia, a loss of his sense of smell, heartburn, indigestion, trouble urinating and a tremor in his left hand after a shoulder injury.
“It was like playing whack-a-mole. Which symptom is it this month? I thought, is my husband a hypochondriac? We’re chasing it and there’s no answers, and by now we’d tried everything," Susan Schneider, Williams' third wife, told Itzkoff.
In a 2016 article for Neurology, Schneider also described the symptoms of Lewy bodies exhibited by Williams before his death.
"Robin was growing weary. The Parkinsonian mask was ever present and his voice was weakened. His left hand tremor was continuous now and he had a slow, shuffling gait," Schneider wrote. "He hated that he could not find the words he wanted in conversations. He would thrash at night and still had terrible insomnia. At times, he would find himself stuck in a frozen stance, unable to move, and frustrated when he came out of it. He was beginning to have trouble with visual and spatial abilities in the way of judging distance and depth. His loss of basic reasoning just added to his growing confusion."0comments
Williams took his own life on Aug. 11, 2014. He was an Oscar-winner, two-time Emmy winner and seven-time Golden Globe winner. He was survived by his third wife and three children, Zelda, 28; Cody, 26; and Zachary, 35.
Itzkoff's biography on Williams will be released on Tuesday, May 15. It is published by Henry Holt & Co.