Canadian comedian Jessica Holmes shares her experiences with depression in Depression the Comedy: A Tale of Perseverance.
I think Holmes is an excellent comedian, and I love the idea of bringing a comedic approach to a book about depression, but some of the comedy aspect was a bit lost on me. However, I don’t know that I was in the best place to judge, as I was in a pretty dark headspace while I was reading it. Still, I think that there’s great value in a comedian writing about depression, as it helps to promote the idea that depression truly can happen to anyone.
Holmes uses a self-deprecating style throughout the book, taking ownership of words often used to stigmatize, like “loopy” or “nut”. She uses some interesting analogies, like describing depression as “the cold sore of the mind.” Advice from others was likened to adding “pressure to our hamster wheel of discouragement”.
Depression made her become firmly rooted to her sofa, in what she described as her “sofa-tastic lifestyle”. She describes other symptoms that will sound all too familiar to those of us with mental illness. She avoided her kids’ schoolyard because there were too many people, and also avoided her friends because she felt like a fraud around them. When asked by a producer to emcee a talk given by Oprah, her response was a half-hearted “neat”. Even though Oprah was on her vision board, there was not a “single trace of epic” and she decided to ignore the news and didn’t even think to tell her agent.
As a result of depression the author got into an anger-guilt-repeat cycle in her relationship, with a “nut/enabler dynamic”. For a period of time she was blaming all the problems on her husband, and while she thought she was being stealthy, her kids still picked up on it. She talks openly about how her sex life with her husband became non-existent, and how it felt too vulnerable to be intimate. She also freely admits that depression kept her from connecting to her kids. This made her feel guilty, and she “tried to make up for it by making every day like a trip to Disneyland”.
The book has some important messages for people who may not be familiar with depression. Holmes points out that “watching for signs of depression is a lifelong commitment”. She also writes that we need to persist in telling our stories until there is no more stigma around mental illness. I really appreciated her openness, and I’m glad that she’s using her public platform to educate people and challenge stigma.
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