Yes, this is inspired by the tragic loss in our community yesterday, but I’m not going to say his name, I don’t want to jump on some shitty SEO tragedy bandwagon and, more importantly, the massive sadness and impact of this event stands entirely apart from what I want to say here. The loss is significant on its own, not just as a “teachable moment.”
GO TO THERAPY!
Depression is a “selfish meme” - its very symptoms try to keep you from taking action to treat it. The apathy, hopelessness and fatigue make the corner of your bed so much more appealing than the chair at a therapists office. Add into that the pervasive myth that depression (and other mental illnesses) are the source of many geniuses’ creativity, and a lot of us don’t go get the help we need.
It doesn’t always work. Sometimes the chemicals are too far out of whack, the well worn neural pathways etched too deep for treatment to be fully effective, but most of the time it helps. It at least helps you be able to get out of bed and take a shower and leave the house and enjoy a conversation with a friend. It helps you stop shoving the lazy garbage food into your body that’s only making the problem worse. It helps you stop drinking whiskey every night just to manage to do your job and interact with people and then be able to sleep, which is definitely making it worse.
Whether it’s one of the many strains of talk therapy, or in conjunction with pharmaceuticals, there’s a combination that can ease the oppressive burden of your depression and anxiety or even out your manic highs and depressive lows. And there’s a therapist who is right for you. Many of us know one or more who specialize in treating entertainers, but even if you just find a decent one on your health plan, they aren’t going to fill you with pills to dull your soul and try to force you into a cookie cutter Stepford lifestyle.
You may think your romantic depressive episodes or shiny manic ones fuel amazing late night writing sessions that will just stop once you start to recover. But is all of what you’re producing so amazing? And are you sure you won’t have more and better after? Depression gives you tunnel vision, it narrows the scope of your world. And maybe you did find a unique and powerful observation about that corner of the world, as you examined it over and over, but as you get better and your field of vision widens, you’ll have more experiences to draw on and more connections to make. You may have to make adjustments, it may take a little while to find your new rhythm, but you’ll still have one.
I’ve been treated for depression twice in my adult life and left one episode to rage unchecked. That one sucked hardcore and, in hindsight, I suffered more than a few negative repercussions that could have been avoided if I’d just made the appointment. The most effective treatment I’ve had is called Mindfulness Behavioral Therapy, an offshot of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I bring this up because I think it’s a form of therapy that can seem the least invasive and scary to people who have that fear that it will rob them of their creativity and personality.
It’s kind of “black box” therapy - there’s no laying on the couch, talking about the time your father wouldn’t take you fishing. You simply identify the negative spirals you go on and learn how to cut them off at the pass.
To be honest, though, it did change my personality. It made me the Groupie you know and love. I was always in there, a wonderful trusted friend to the people I let in, but in my early twenties, I was a defensive, insecure dickface to people who slighted or threatened me. MBT taught me to be trusting, to give the benefit of the doubt, to not take things personally and to be incredibly objective. Think of how much more time you’d have to write great jokes if you weren’t wasting so much of it stewing on some perceived injustice that was never about you in the first place? It also opened the door to me being more honest - both about positive things and about negative things - and brutal open honesty is the real root of comedy, so please go get therapy!