The Funny Side Of Depression

With the tragic news of Robin Williams’ passing, many articles about his shocking suicide have been released. While I am deeply saddened that yet another life has been claimed by such a crippling mental health issue, I feel I am not at liberty to comment on it. Each person’s struggle with depression, suicide and mental illness is profoundly different, and no one can say what he may have been going through, or what caused him to take the final step to take his life. I can only comment on my own experiences, which allow me to identify with many of the comments that have been made about his suicide. One of the articles I actually really appreciated, was one on a typically comedic website that didn’t make comments directly related to his death, but rather used it as a stepstone to spark a very necessary conversation. Aptly titled “Why Funny People Kill Themselves”, the article addresses the facade that many depressed and suicidal people become brilliant at maintaining.

I was that kid; that funny, silly, class clown type that seemed never to have a care in the world. I never took life seriously, and was always in it for the laughs. Thinking back on my childhood, it was the only character I felt I fit, because it was quirky and didn’t have rules about how to act – being a class clown is very “anything goes”. I wasn’t like many of the girls in my class; I hated pink, was uninterested in dolls or fashion, and most certainly was bored by the prospect of discussing cute boys. I never fit in with the boys; for starters, I was a girl, and my awkward clumsiness and lack of athleticism made me a less than ideal candidate to fit in with the “jocks”. I was kind of a nerd, with my high prescription glasses, good grades, and need to be acknowledged positively by my teachers. Yet, I didn’t fit in with the incredibly smart kids either. I was more complicated, more emotional, more inquisitive and some may say mature, but I counteracted that by acting stupid and immature. If I was making people laugh intentionally, then they couldn’t laugh at me. I remember a friend telling me once that they thought I was such a popular kid. I responded by describing my “friends group” as royalty, with my closest girl and guy friends as the Queen and King respectively, and I was the court jester, who no one really cared about and wasn’t royal (popular), but was kept around for the laughs.

As I got older, I suppose on some levels I thought I could mask my inner pain by making other people laugh and smile, and find joy in whatever I said or did – whether it be tripping over my own feet or making a lame joke. Even now, I can’t remember a single day where I haven’t made someone laugh, and am positive I made people laugh more on the days when I was crying out inside. I was okay with being the punchline of a joke if it meant no one had to see how badly I was drowning.

I believe it’s true that the comedians are usually the ones who mask their depression best. No one knew what I was going through inside, not only because I used my superficial comedic mask to hide it, but I also never let anyone get close enough to me to see it. I was afraid. I already felt like no one could love me, and I was known for being the goofy kid. There was no way people would even like me a tiny bit if I wasn’t funny anymore, if I was just a screwed up emotional wreck. My jokes were my crutch, and the laughter of my audience were the painkillers that made me believe my pain wasn’t there anymore. Except the pain was still there. Every day, every night, it was there. A broken leg can’t heal with painkillers – it needs physiotherapy – just like my depression couldn’t be cured with laughter; I needed therapy. There are many comedians that have serious mental illnesses or psychological issues, and it shouldn’t be a secret. Yet, people still find it so shocking to hear that someone so funny, loved by everyone, always smiling, could do something like kill themselves.

When people first heard about my depression, a common reaction was that they would never have expected someone like me, who was always so happy and funny and care free could be going through something so dark, and that they had no idea. I suppose I’m still waiting for my Oscar like Leonardo DiCaprio is. Jokes aside, my point is that depression, and suicide, can attack anyone. It doesn’t matter how funny you are, how much money you have, how loved you are, or how much you have going for you because depression takes all that away, or makes it seem like it’s been taken away. Comments on the internet about how what Robin Williams did is stupid because he had nothing to be sad about, or how he had no reason to want to kill himself with all that money and fame, are testaments to the fact that we desperately need more education on what being suicidal actually means.

Robin Williams was a brilliant actor and comedian, who will be missed by many, and he didn’t deserve to go through something that was so horrible that the only way out was to die, but it’s an unfortunate reality that we must all face. It’s time to stand up to the ignorance and cruelness that people show when something like this happens, yet I am grateful that so many people are finally stepping up to talk about how big of an issue suicide is.

Keep Surviving by Living.


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