In my last post, I referenced an article on Cracked.com, which I think is an important read for anyone who has a depressed person in their life. It was in the middle of a different point I was making, and I wouldn’t blame anybody if they just skipped right over it and didn’t click on it…but I really do think it’s got some good information a lot of people would benefit from, and I want to draw as much attention to it as possible. It should be noted that there is a ***POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING*** attached here–especially if you read the article in its full context. (Also, I’ll be cussing a lot in this post…) Additionally, I want to be clear that this post is in NO WAY a cry for help on my part. I am fortunate enough to have people I don’t need to be funny around–I’m posting this for those who don’t.
Anyway… This is the article. And I’m going to post a few excerpts from it below, along with my reasons for posting that particular excerpt. Because you might not know why this article is important to some people in your life, but I’d like to share with you why it was important to ME. Please note that the bolded, italicized segments are NOT my words–they were written by David Wong, and I do not mean to put any words in his mouth with any of my follow-up comments. Please read his words in full in the original article, and give him appropriate credit.
Here are the parts that jumped out at me…
1. You ever have that funny friend, the class-clown type, who one day just stopped being funny around you? Did it make you think they were depressed? Because it’s far more likely that, in reality, that was the first time they were comfortable enough around you to drop the act.
The ones who kill themselves, well, they’re funny right up to the end.
That’s the very start of the article. And if you didn’t say, “Oh…shit…” when you read that, it’s possible that you haven’t been paying enough attention to the funny people in your life. Or that, for whatever reason, those people just don’t trust you enough to drop the façade. If the funny guy/girl that you know in your life comes to you one day and they’re NOT funny–they love you. They fucking LOVE you and you need to listen to them. And if they DON’T come to you with the shields down, maybe think about if you need to find a way to let them know they can. “The ones who kill themselves, well, they’re funny right up to the end.”
2. …and suicidal thoughts are so common among our readers and writers that our message board has a hidden section where moderators can coordinate responses to suicide threats.
This just really impressed the hell out of me about Cracked. I don’t have a lot to add to it…but I was glad to learn that.
3. And while I don’t know what percentage of funny people suffer from depression, from a rough survey of the ones I know and work with, I’d say it’s approximately “all of them.”
I would stretch this to include most entertainers. Most of the serious musicians I know are in some way suffering from depression, anxiety, or other similar conditions as well. Same with the comedians I’ve met and have known. I know more than one painter who’s deeply disturbed too. I don’t know what it is, but it seems like to be really creative, there’s almost GOT to be something dark and unsettling in there somewhere. Even children’s entertainers I’ve met have real dark-sides… It seems like the art of whatever the entertainer is doing also serves as therapy. Comics write jokes about their personal failings and weaknesses as a way of pointing and laughing at them to take their power away. Musicians write dark music because that’s how they think the world around them is supposed to sound. And sometimes they also write really insanely optimistic, brilliantly cheery shit…because even the darkest day needs a little hope and fun now and again. Besides…if the audience doesn’t have fun, they might never listen (or watch, or whatever) closely enough to see the ACTUAL point.
4. You soon learned that being funny builds a perfect, impenetrable wall around you — a buffer that keeps anyone from getting too close and realizing how much you suck. The more you hate yourself, the stronger you need to make the barrier and the further you have to push people away. In other words, the better you have to be at comedy.
Yep. Once you figure out that you can make people laugh and get a response, that’s what you crave. It’s what you NEED. It’s an addiction. Even as a musician–I don’t typically make jokes from the stage, but the applause after a song is like goddamn heroin. (Not that I’ve ever done heroin, mind you.) Something people might not know about me is that I’m uncomfortable with public praise–like if a boss or a respected figure stands up in front of a group and says, “Let me tell you about how Derek accomplished this or sacrificed his time for that, or so on…” That’s awful. That actually can trigger a major depressive episode for me, because when I hear someone say my name and describe someone I don’t think I am, it makes me look inward and loathe what I find… But APPLAUSE? For the thing I actually DO think I’m good at??? I’m a fucking junkie for that.
5. In your formative years, you wind up creating a second, false you — a clown that can go out and represent you, outside the barrier. The clown is always joking, always “on,” always drawing all of the attention in order to prevent anyone from poking away at the barrier and finding the real person behind it. The clown is the life of the party, the classroom joker, the guy up on stage — as different from the “real” you as possible. Again, the goal is to create distance.
You do it because if people hate the clown, who cares? That’s not the real you. So you’re protected.
But the side effect is that if people love the clown … well, you know the truth. You know how different it’d be if they met the real you.
I read this segment and had to stop reading because I couldn’t see the screen through the tears anymore. I’m being absolutely serious when I say this… I had NO idea that other people did that, too. I’m still processing that and what that realization is going to mean for me moving forward…
6. But I guess my larger point is that if you know somebody who might be at risk but you’ve been denying it because they’re always smiling and joking around, for the love of God, wake the fuck up.
I don’t have a lot to add to this either. If you’ve got a name in mind, put in some serious thought about going out of your way to let them know they can be real with you and you’re not going to hate them for it. I’m serious. Call them as soon as you can.
7. Be there when they need you, and keep being there even when they stop being funny.
I have frequently stated that it’s hard to be friends with a depressed person. But being friends with them is one of the best things you’re ever going to do for anybody. When I’m in a bad state, I turn into someone I don’t want to be around, and I can’t fucking STOP him from doing and saying things that are meant to ruin my relationships. I have a handful of friends who understand this. I have one friend in particular who has told me repeatedly that he’s aware of this fact, and is just not going to take anything I say personally. And he’s pretty good at sticking to that. I have crossed the line into pissing him off before…but he hasn’t abandoned me–even in the middle of it. And there are times when he really SHOULD have–one of those times very recent (even I wanted to punch me). I have a (non-literal) voice in my head that tells me I’m not good enough, no one likes me, and I don’t deserve good things. When that voice starts winning, it also starts coming out of my mouth in a way that is intentionally meant to torpedo every good thing I don’t want to lose–and I don’t know how to shut that voice up. I very literally hear myself sometimes and I’m thinking, “Shut up! SHUT THE FUCK UP! Why are you saying this? You’re hurting someone you care about and why won’t you just shut the fuck up???” And that’s not funny…and it’s not entertaining… And I will never cease to be stunned by those who stick around to hear the apology.
Be that friend to somebody. I’m alive because someone has been that friend to me. (God sends us those people–there’s a good chance that if you don’t NEED one of those people, then you need to BE one.) Don’t underestimate how important it is to just stay in the conversation until you see the breaking point in your friend’s eyes and hear them say, “Oh fuck…I’m sorry…” Because they are. Because they’d rather keep you entertained, but you MATTERED enough to them that they let you see the part of themselves that they’re desperate to stop from talking.
In short, be ready to not laugh sometimes. It might save a life.