For the better part of the last couple days, I’ve been in bed. Part of this is due to a lack of employment during winter break, for it’s difficult to find substitute teaching work when class isn’t in session. But more importantly than that is the fact that I’m one of the more than 350 million people in the world that suffers from depression, an extremely common and barely understood mental ailment which, in cases like mine, can glue you to your bed because getting out of it to face the world, even in its most basic, insignificant form, is just too much work.
Winter can be a tough season. For a long time, I thought I just dealt with seasonal depression, because it was so much more noticeable in the winter. And let’s not forget that I was self-diagnosing myself too… it’s difficult to step back for an objective look at one’s own psyche, especially when there’s actually something there to diagnose. After awhile, it was a bit difficult to ignore the fact that I tended to fall into depressive slumps at all times of the year. Once I accepted that depression episodes, so to speak, happened more often than just when the days were short, I finally looked back on my life and realized that I’ve been suffering from this for years. I just never had a name for it.
It’s a funny business looking back at your life once armed with new information. I can see myself, many years ago, as a boy on the school playground, wallowing in self-pity with a friend who either felt the same way or just went with it because it was fun to make jokes about how lowly we were. It makes sense how so many comedians suffer from depression, because humor is such a fantastic way to deal with the fact that you hate yourself and yet you can’t leave yourself. The irony of it is just too much, the jokes practically write themselves, so you might as well just go with it. But at the time, in the school yard, I had no idea that depression was even a thing, let alone was something that I had. And as for the adults in my life, they must’ve just not noticed it either. With a few exceptions, my life has been mostly a series of phases where I kept my feelings to myself.
Another reason why stand-up comedy is such a great means of dealing with depression is because it allows the person to openly talk about how they’re feeling. Best I can recall, the jokes helped my friend and I. It’s not perfect, since there’s a wall of laughter up that protects the person from their own feelings, but it’s something. And a lot of the time, the best thing one can do is just talk about it. You may have noticed, dear reader, that this is what I’m doing now.
Since it’s been brought up, I’ve thought off and on about trying out stand-up comedy for many years now. The reasons why I haven’t are varied, but mostly have to do with my not thinking that I’m funny enough to do anything like that. But all the same, it’s a thought that comes back on occasion. And just a few days ago, John, my friend and theater comrade, brought up the idea of trying out stand-up comedy himself, as well as the possibility of getting a group of interested theater friends together to try some material on each other. I threw out the idea of just finding a comedy club in a neighboring city to try a few minutes of material in front of strangers, which you could tell sparked a twinkle in John’s eye, though it lacked the comforting appeal of starting things out with just a group of friends. I tend to agree, though there’s something about throwing yourself to the wolves with nothing but a hunk of red meat to defend yourself. But either way, nothing was settled by the time we split for the night. I have no doubt, though, that we’ll be talking about it again before too long (I’ve started compiling a little bit of material, so I really should do something with it).
In the meantime, I still find myself staring across the clothing-strewn landscape of my bed when I should be doing the same to the cold, snow-covered world that exists just beyond the wall behind me. There is only so much I can do to find further employment during downtime like winter break, but I can always do a little bit more to assist my wellbeing.
To all of you who know only too intimately what I’m talking about, I hope that you do the same and treat yourself to some fresh air. Regardless of how much you might dislike yourself at the moment, remember, even your worst enemy deserves a little fresh air every now and then. And who knows; with time, if you treat him or her well enough, they just may become a friend.