You’ve probably heard that old Watchmen joke:
Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says “But Doctor… I am Pagliacci.”Yesterday Wayne Brady opened up about his personal struggles with depression. It’s natural to find it especially upsetting (or even baffling) to hear of a comedian suffering from depression. They make us so happy, how can they be unhappy themselves? But this sort of very common reaction exposes in not just ourselves, but our larger society, a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be depressed. And it can mean many things— depression takes many forms. Brady gave us a look at what it feels like to him.
Having a bad day is one thing, having a bad week is another, having a bad life … You don’t want to move, you can’t move in the darkness… You’re like, ‘I am just going to sit right here and I want to wallow in this. As much as it hurts, I am going to sit right here because this is what I deserve. This is what I deserve, so I am going to sit here because I am that horrible of a person.
It’s important to talk about because depression and mental illness are so hard to understand. It’s hard to understand for people who suffer themselves, just as hard as for those who are lucky enough not to. For those going through the battle, it can feel like a weakness, rather than an illness. There’s also, as Brady himself discusses, a stigma against coming out as depressed. It’s cooler to go to rehab than to therapy.
Now let’s take that point of view to the extreme and look at human garbage Rush Limbaugh. (I said extreme, didn’t I?) Now, it pains me to quote such a skidmark on the underpants of humanity, but the truth is that the troll is disgustingly influential, and does not stand alone in his gross points of view. Here is just one of the things he word-vomited all over Robin Williams’ death.
He had everything, everything that you would think would make you happy. But it didn’t. Now, what is the left’s worldview in general? What is it? If you had to attach not a philosophy but an attitude to a leftist worldview, it’s one of pessimism and darkness, sadness. They’re never happy, are they? They’re always angry about something. No matter what they get, they’re always angry.And there we have not just the Pagliacci view (he was so fun! So funny! How could he be depressed?), but the stigma. He wasn’t allowed to be depressed. He wasn’t even allowed to be sad. Or angry. Only the clown, all the time. Anything else is weak and it is selfish. And there is that ultimate misconception of depression: That it is a sadness, caused by an event, and can be cured once the person is made happy.
In his fantastic 2010 writing on his own depression, Rob Delaney described the physical pain that can accompany severe depression “because it helps to understand that real depression isn’t just a ‘mood.’”
These two episodes were the most difficult experiences of my life, by a wide margin, and I did not know if I would make it through them. To illustrate how horrible it was, being in jail in a wheelchair with four broken limbs after the car accident that prompted me to get sober eight years ago was much, much easier and less painful. That isn’t an exxageration [sic] and I hope it helps people understand clinical depression better; I’m saying that I would rather be in jail in a wheelchair with a body that doesn’t work than experience a severe episode of depression.