ColumnI’m always surprised when people are shocked when they discover that successful, funny, generally pleasant people are often dealing with depression, anxiety, or another type of mental illness.
While it’s hard to grasp in general, we all should know by now that a person can seem to have it all and still suffer from a mental illness. After all, you can’t bribe, wish, or pay away the sads — you kind of just have to live with them and hope for the best.
When Robin Williams killed himself a little over a year ago, the Internet was filled with think pieces about depression and how it affects all types people. Most of these articles were well meaning, but total fluff. The general reader is well aware that if she is feeling depressed, she can go to a counselor, call the suicide hotline, or tell a friend. But the tricky truth about mental illness is this: If you are depressed, it’s practically impossible to do anything. Getting out of bed feels like sticking a needle through your tongue, and talking to anyone feels like the most cumbersome burden.
So, how can these illnesses be taken more seriously? Education is key. And no, I’m not referencing some mental health pamphlet that can be found in any American medical office. I’m taking about the type of education that comes from people who many Americans know and love.
Two such people who recently revealed their brutal and on-going battles dealing with depression are Sarah Silverman and Lady Gaga.
Bust recently reported that Silverman penned an incredibly heartfelt essay in Glamour about the, let’s face it, totally shitty ins and outs of being totally overwhelmed with sadness. According to the website, Silverman wrote the essay “in anticipation” of the comedian’s upcoming film, “I Smile Back.” The film is about a woman who self-medicates to feel “normal.”
In the Glamour piece, Silverman describes her first experience with depression as follows:
“I first experienced depression when I was 13. I was walking off a bus from a school camping trip. The trip had been miserable: I was, sadly, a bed wetter, and I had Pampers hidden in my sleeping bag—a gigantic and shameful secret to carry. My mom was there to pick me up, and she was taking pictures like a paparazzo. Seeing her made the stress of the last few days hit home, and something shifted inside me. It happened as fast as the sun going behind a cloud. You know how you can be fine one moment, and the next it’s, ‘Oh my God, I f—king have the flu!’? It was like that. Only this flu lasted for three years. My whole perspective changed.”
Silverman goes on to describe how she went through various therapists and different types of medication. While Silverman now is able to control her depression with a low dose of Zoloft and therapy, she knows that “it” isn’t gone. She says she gets through the tough times by remembering the following:
“I wouldn’t wish depression on anyone. But if you ever experience it, or are experiencing it right now, just know that on the other side, the little joys in life will be that much sweeter. The tough times, the days when you’re just a ball on the floor—they’ll pass. You’re playing the long game, and life is totally worth it.”
Lady Gaga also recently revealed she deals with depression. In a Billboard interview, Gaga said she still suffers through anxiety and depression everyday. She talks about her experiences to help her fans, especially the kids, realize that these intense feelings are normal and it’s the world we live in that’s messed up.
So, while the uncomfortable truths about depression, anxiety, and the pressures of the modern world are hard for most people to stomach, these unofficial “mental illness facts” need to continue to be shouted from the rooftops by people who are compassionate and lucky enough to have a well-broadcasted soapbox. If more Lady Gagas and Sarah Silvermans begin to openly talk about their messed up but totally normal feelings, people could begin to treat these sicknesses seriously, and with kindness.
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Image of Sarah Silverman from Shutterstock