It is a totally untrue statement that all comedians are depressed, or have to stay depressed to create, OK!?!? I couldn’t disagree more and believe this misconception leads to an unnecessary culture of unhappiness!!
That said, I am, have been, and probably off and on throughout my life will be, clinically depressed.
Honestly, guys, it’s not that big a deal for me. At this point I’ve been through the cycle enough times to recognize it as something that will pass in a few months, and in the interim I’m taking these nifty pills that kill my appetite and I get to wear crop tops with low rise jeans like Christina Aguilera in the DIRRRTY video.
Also, though, I don’t know. I’m crazy, and that sucks. It sucks to feel out of control in your own brain.
With Hilary Clinton probably our next president, I’ve thought a lot about the trope that women shouldn’t be in positions of power because of the decisions they might make while PMS’ing. What’s stupid about that to me is the idea that menstrual hormones make you any crazier than testosterone, or any number of chemical imbalances the brain might develop when you’re, oh, I don’t know, working hundred hour weeks with the weight of the world resting on your shoulders. If a calendar can tell you when you’re going to need to take a mood stabilizer, you’re better off than most people, and I myself am very jealous.
This year, I let my depression grow too big before I did anything about it, and I couldn’t plan for it. I started feeling sad in March due to normal mid-twenties angst (am I on the right path!?! Will I ever find the right path!?), and let it worsen into June before I quit my job and got dumped in one 48 hour period. By then, I was basically taking my car into the shop with every light on on the dash and 4 flat tires.
The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman is one of my favorite summer reads – it’s a self-reflective fantasy book that sheds light on the idiocy of thinking that if we had magic, there would be fewer shades of grey between lightness and dark. (Also, people have sex in animal form a lot, so that’s fun if you’re into that.)
In these books, if you try and use more magic than you’re capable of, you turn into what’s called a “Niffin.” Niffins are angry, soulless creatures made of pure magic that wreak havoc on those around them. They aren’t in control of themselves. They hurt even loved ones.
This summer, I’ve felt like a Niffin – I’ve felt out of control and unlike myself and very, very angry. I think I tried to take on more sadness than I was capable of, and anger was my only choice if I didn’t want to self-combust. Normal self-doubt piled on top of professional self-doubt piled on top of romantic self-doubt was too much for my stupid, sick brain to handle all at once, so I took all that negative energy and I turned it outwards. Which isn’t OK.
I torched my relationship with my ex, who I loved very much as a man and as a friend and believe to be a good person despite painful things he did to me. I shirked responsibilities to people I cared about because I just couldn’t find room in myself to care. As I wound down at my job, I got angry every time I was asked to do a task, because there wasn’t space in me for it.
And I did all of this shit because, what? Because I, a privileged white woman with the love and support of a decent family, couldn’t figure out what my strengths were?
I don’t regret all the things I’ve done this summer; I am proud to have created art that empowered women and made people laugh. I feel that going through this has wiped some of the muck off of a developing comedic voice, and that in the past month or two I’ve written stronger jokes that make fun of myself and of broader cultural standards because I’ve started to accept certain shitty truths. I’ve walked the line of how and where to involve other people in my humor, and I’ve fucked up a shit ton, but I’ve also learned a lot about where that line actually is, and have even strengthened and revived friendships via my mistakes.
I cannot imagine the level to which people who have faced actual hardships in their lives feel like sadness niffins. I earnestly believe you can only take on so much sadness before you either break down and stay in your bed, or turn into a firey crucible of anger. There are people who are stronger than me, and have taken on more sadness before letting anger take them. There are people less strong than me who don’t take much hardship before they light aflame.
The truth of the matter is, though, I have no possible way to know which one I am talking to. I hope that those who I have burned will forgive me, and it would be a double standard for me not to forgive others.