Depression really sucks.

“It happens.”

It’s something I found myself telling a friend recently. Those bad days, those shaky feelings, those moments of thinking I suck, I don’t know what I want, I don’t know what happens next, I don’t think I’m happy right now. Those stretches where everything sinks into a comfortably numb gelatinous existence, where your brain starts to slowly fog up and your motivation starts to decline. Those days of thinking I’m not good enough. I’m lonely. I’m scared, and I have no reason to be afraid. I suck. I suck. I suck so much.

They happen.

They’re also the moments when I realize I’m in trouble.

*

Everyone on the internet has something to say about the recent suicide of Robin Williams, and I’ve refrained from commenting on it until now. Mostly because I had never met the man, and because – although I usually enjoyed his films – I didn’t have the kind of deep connection to his work in the way that many others did. I never really saw myself in him, probably because I never thought of myself as particularly funny. I don’t have the gift of making people laugh, at least not in the same, razor-sharp, immediate way. My mental acrobat just doesn’t spin that fast.

But in the days since, there’s another conversation that’s been sparked. A response to an overwhelming sentiment, one that I’ve heard in conversation and in tweets and texts alike. So many well-meaning people, wondering aloud how someone so very funny, so obviously gifted, so obviously successful, could have also been so sad.

Clearly, they’ve never hung out with a comedian.

I am constantly surrounded by funny people. Smart people. Quick-on-their-toes people. People who have made their careers out of the ability to stand in front of others, and entertain.

And after everyone applauds, we drink. And after we drink, we go home. And after we go home, we are alone. Even when we are with others. We are sometimes very much alone.

I’m broadly generalizing, of course. That’s not the story for all of us. I know incredibly well-adjusted funny people. I know humorless folks who are wrecks. It’s not a direct link, and this is not everyone’s story, and this is certainly not everyone’s story at all times. But – it’s a pattern often enough that in no way was I surprised to hear the news that Robin Williams struggled with depression, with addiction, with feelings of inferiority and despair.

I’m surrounded by people who struggle with those things. I am one of those people who struggles with those things.

And, wow, yeah, even though I know better, just typing that feels like a total admission of failure.

This past year was one of the greatest creative successes of my life. I designed sixteen shows – jobs I didn’t even have to apply for, but merely sat back and watched my offers roll in. I was signed by a literary agent, who approached me and offered me representation. I started writing freelance articles for MTV, of all places. I have this wonderful, unique platform where people I don’t even know tell me how great I am, tell me how my writing has informed their perspective or improved their mood. Complete strangers sent me money on the internet, merely because they liked something I wrote, or because I made them laugh, or because they knew how tough it is to be piecing your paychecks together and wanted to help. The New York Times called my work funny. The New York Freakin’ Times. It all felt so very, very extraordinary.

And it should have made me happy. Instead, this winter was one of the lowest places I have been in a very long time. I’ve mostly climbed back out, and these days I really am okay. Truly. I am. I want to be really clear here: I am okay now.

But there are still these moments when without realizing it, I suddenly find my toes on the edge of a shadowy pool, a tentacle of dark mist swirling around my ankle, thinking, Oh, wait. Shit. I’m not quite out of the water just yet. I hate it when it sneaks up on you like that. 

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of looking at things that are supposed to make you feel happy – validation! acclaim! success! – and feeling – well: nothing. Or more specifically, feeling like it’s not good enough. Feeling like you aren’t good enough.

There’s a part of me that is afraid to admit that one of the things about myself that I love – my ability to work and work and work and work – is driven so deeply from fear. The usual fears are there, sure. Like the fear that if I don’t say yes to everything, I will starve, I won’t be able to pay my bills. That’s all there, and it’s all still true, and it’s stuff that, as a freelance artist, I will deal with every day.

But the bigger fear is that if I don’t keep working constantly, that if I don’t keep pushing and pushing and distracting and creating, then I’ll be left with just myself in the room. And chances are, when it’s just me in the room, I won’t like that person very much at all.

*

Do you know this old joke? It’s not really a joke. It’s taken from this Spanish poem called “Reir Lorrando.” Means, roughly translated, “To Laugh While Crying.”

So a man goes to the doctor. Says he is depressed. Says the world feels vast, and he is alone. The doctor suggests that he take his mind off things.

“The great clown is at the circus,” says the doctor. “Go to the circus. By the time you have seen the great clown, you will have laughed and laughed and you will feel much better.”

“But doctor,” cries the man, as he bursts into tears. “I am the clown.”

*

I’m lucky that my fleeting moments of darkness have never been so dark that I felt the need to listen. The moments when I considered not being alive — those were such short, tiny, thoughts that they didn’t bear weight. I am so grateful that it has been many years since I’ve thought, fleetingly, in a manner that now seems frighteningly casual, what if I was to hurl my body down the stairs right now? What if I was to take a long bath and not ever leave? What if I was to not wake up tomorrow? What if? What if? 

My downs don’t spiral that low anymore. I am really, really grateful for that.

And I consider myself really lucky that this is the case. I consider myself really lucky that I have a wonderful support system.

And I consider myself really, really lucky that when people have needed to talk their own stuff out, they’ve reached out to me.

It takes a tremendous amount of bravery to say I’m not okay. Something’s wrong. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to admit that. And it takes a truly extraordinary person to listen and to love and to care. I’m lucky that I happen to know a whole lot of you extraordinary people. And I thank you for being you.

If you are someone who needs to, please talk this out. The suicide line in the US is 1-800-273-8255. I’ve never called myself, but I understand those folks are excellent at their job.

And if you’re one of those people who, like me, don’t spiral down that low but who still find themselves sometimes mired in that swamp. Talk it out anyways. Even when it sucks. Even when it’s really hard to say I am not okay. Find the right person to say it to, or the right forum to say it. Even when it’s hard. Because it is. It is really goddamned hard.

There’s something so terrifying about admitting weakness. Admitting to flaws within yourself. Exposing that to others. I really wish that saying “I’m depressed” was akin to saying, “Excuse me, but it appears I’m trapped in a swampy pond right now, and I’m having a hard time climbing to the surface. Is there any chance you would mind helping me out? Thank you ever so kindly.” Because that’s the truth of it. You aren’t weak. You are literally trapped somewhere that you don’t have total control over. Please: know that. Own that. Recognize that. You can’t figure out your escape plan until you know what you’re fighting against.

Depression fucking sucks. It really, really fucking sucks.

But I am really loved. And I’m okay now. And I’m so very grateful for that.

And as much as I know that I am loved, I would be willing to bet that you are, too.

ps: Here are some really excellent things worth reading, if you haven’t seen them already.

Hyperbole and a Half: Adventures in Depression

Medium.com: Not Everyone Feels This Way 

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34 thoughts on “Depression really sucks.

  1. Well. Hmmmm. It’s not just comedians. Not just writers. Or actors. Or famous people. Or infamous people. Or not. No. It’s everybody. You. Me. The lot. The human condition is pretty much shared by all of us who are human.

    Sad to say we all fall somewhere on that “depression” spectrum. And happily we also all inhabit the spectrum of joy. We are paradox.

    Nice piece. Reblogged. Happily 😛

  2. Reblogged this on a dog's breakfast and commented:
    “There’s something so terrifying about admitting weakness. Admitting to flaws within yourself. Exposing that to others. I really wish that saying “I’m depressed” was akin to saying, “Excuse me, but it appears I’m trapped in a swampy pond right now, and I’m having a hard time climbing to the surface. Is there any chance you would mind helping me out? Thank you ever so kindly.” Because that’s the truth of it. You aren’t weak. You are literally trapped somewhere that you don’t have total control over.”

    Oh yes.

  3. It’s not easy to deal with depression, or with our flaws. It’s hard to watch your reflection in the mirror and smile at it. But when we’re able to do it, then magic happens— then the balance get lost and you have to start it all over again.

  4. Thank you for writing this. It’s so sad that even though so many people suffer from depression, people are still hesitant to ask for help when they need it. I hope that the stigma ends and that we are able to openly talk about depression. It’s okay to feel sad and to admit it. No one is happy all the time, and we shouldn’t feel weak for being depressed.

  5. Isn’t it strange how often depression hits precisely when we have no reason to be sad, and in fact often every reason to be happy? It’s like you’re standing there looking at your life, thinking, “Wow, this is cool!” and during that moment of inattention a mugger sneaks up and whacks you.

    Thank you for writing this.

  6. Reblogged this on rachelmhamm and commented:
    This is very thought provoking. I also can relate to this a lot and quite enjoy the perspective. Generally the people who are able to help others the most.. The successful, the witty, the “confident” leaders are the very ones who face private battles all alone. Admitting you need help is in fact ||weakness|| to many people. Many people, like myself, see vulnerability as something truly beautiful because exuding it in the way most others can is just not a possibility. Being ||strong|| and in charge is more of a weakness than people seem to give it credit of being.

  7. I am from a family of artists, of comedians, of depressives, of workaholics. It’s in my blood and it is how I was raised. You are always afraid: if I don’t work, I will starve, if I don’t work I will fear starvation, if I have nothing to do I will be alone and worthless and afraid and miserable and worthless, etc.

    I am depressive, my worst time ever after many years of thinking I was mostly better was the year before last. I know all these realities you speak of.

    I hit bottom. I stopped working. I was away from my upbringing, community, and art. I discovered that you will be alone, you will be afraid, you won’t think you can make it, but you will. You will not starve, you will be supported, against all odds and you will survive.

    Even survival can suck. But so far, it’s worth it.

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  9. You are awesome, just plain awesome. I feel like you took the words right out of my own mouth. Knowing I am not the only one to feel this way…Thank you for your putting yourself out there.

  10. Thank you for writing this and sharing your story so others may be helped by it. I find my refuge in prayer and meditation and I’ve been to those dark places but I no longer dwell there.

  11. “I really wish that saying “I’m depressed” was akin to saying, “Excuse me, but it appears I’m trapped in a swampy pond right now, and I’m having a hard time climbing to the surface. Is there any chance you would mind helping me out? Thank you ever so kindly.” Because that’s the truth of it. You aren’t weak. You are literally trapped somewhere that you don’t have total control over. Please: know that. ”
    Thank you.

  12. I find myself reading this out loud, because, in a similar way to reading poetry aloud, it seems to carry more meaning.
    I can’t really say I’ve been anything more than mildly depressed. I’ve never had suicidal thoughts. It used to amaze me that people in the Western world ever got depressed, especially celebrities. I thought that they were arrogant, to presume that their conditions were bad. But that was at a time when I believed that depression came and went with facts and figures about your success, and that humans are always in control of their minds.
    Evolutionary biologists postulate that, in all likelihood, the depression rate now is greater than at any time in the quarter-million year history of our species. Because such is the curse of a species that has taken so much control over its environment that, now, it has the luxury and the misery of being left alone with their own minds.

  13. Whoa, man. This hit me like a ton of bricks because this is exactly how I feel, only you were able to write it down beautifully. Thank you so much for this.

  14. The other day my friend and I were discussing the same thing and our consensus came to : The people who smile the most are often the saddest. But also the strongest.

    And you’re strong. It takes strength to write this. It takes strength to recognize this. It does.

    Glad you’re so much better now. 🙂

  15. Thank you for sharing. You have managed to articulate something that I deal with on an off and have never really spoken about. At the moment I’m fine, but I have days, sometimes weeks, where I just feel numb and “low”, never to the extent of thinking about suicide, or even close, but clearly where something is wrong and explaining the cause is beyond me.

    I think its something very difficult to understand if its not something you experience yourself. I certainly find it very difficult to explain when I’m having one of my “low” periods and often when I make it out the other side I look back and think myself ridiculous. I often think that if even I who felt it thinks it sounds ridiculous, how can someone who doesnt ever feel like that really take it seriously?

    I am always very reluctant to use the word ‘depressed’ when I talk about myself. Not because I am necessarily afraid of the word, but more because I dont feel I deserve to use the word. I know there are many people out there that suffer more than me and I dont want to trivialise what they are suffering from by badging myself in the same way.

  16. Reblogged this on curiously different and commented:
    Costume designer and writer Katherine Fritz writes this about depression, “There’s something so terrifying about admitting weakness. Admitting to flaws within yourself. Exposing that to others. I really wish that saying “I’m depressed” was akin to saying, “Excuse me, but it appears I’m trapped in a swampy pond right now, and I’m having a hard time climbing to the surface. Is there any chance you would mind helping me out? Thank you ever so kindly.” Because that’s the truth of it. You aren’t weak. You are literally trapped somewhere that you don’t have total control over. Please: know that. Own that. Recognize that. You can’t figure out your escape plan until you know what you’re fighting against.”

    Thank you Katherine, you’ve summed it up perfectly.

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  18. My downs don’t spiral that low anymore… I’ve been trapped in the pond too and was having an off weekend, but it’s nowhere near where I used to be. I’ve got this, thank you for reminding me.

  19. Well said. I think that you’re on to something with the relationship between humor and depression. Humor is a coping mechanism, learned early in life. Strange that the very thing that saves you in your darkest moments can also keep you from getting help. I think of my whole damned Irish-Catholic, repressed, hilarious family. Humor serves to bring you together and distance you at the same time.

    Well, now I’m depressed. :-/

  20. With everything that has been going on this past week with Robins death, you have stated down onto paper everything I have felt about it. My mother herself did not understand at all how he could be so funny and yet do that to himself. I understood completely. This was an amazing article and had a lot of raw emotion to it.

    Thank you for this

  21. Thank you, Katherine. I always enjoy your blog and today it was also helpful. I feel that same “on the edge of the murky swamp” feeling…sometimes, it sucks. It goes away. It comes back. It sneaks up and suddenly its gone…It always feels like its too hard to make someone else understand (boss, doctor even) and you said it so perfectly. So simply. Thank you. I am glad you are doing ok now.

  22. Well, written and a very good way to get the word out that there is help and it is okay to ask. You put this out in such basic terms that it seems much less overwhelming to all. I am glad you are okay now! Keep it up!

  23. Reblogged this on Heaven In Chocolate and commented:
    The writer sums up depression really beautifully: “I really wish that saying “I’m depressed” was akin to saying, “Excuse me, but it appears I’m trapped in a swampy pond right now, and I’m having a hard time climbing to the surface. Is there any chance you would mind helping me out? Thank you ever so kindly.” Because that’s the truth of it. You aren’t weak. You are literally trapped somewhere that you don’t have total control over. Please: know that. Own that. Recognize that. You can’t figure out your escape plan until you know what you’re fighting against.”

  24. And when you keep reading something you immediately understand it could hurt you a lot, because you understand from the first lines that it is talking also about you, that’s the moment in which you realize you should ask for help. Or maybe, you’re reading something written by a really talented artist.

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