Depression:The Comedy – A Tale of Perseverance is a mental health memoir – a funny book about sadness, if you will – written by comedian Jessica Holmes.
In a nutshell: if you have ever suffered from depression, or known someone who has (I think I just covered everyone there) then you should read this book.
While recounting her own experiences with depression, Jessica made me LOL several times, which is unusual for me. I am more of a smiler/silent laugher when I find something funny, which is not at all a sign of my level of uptightness, by the way. Or fine, maybe it is.
Not everything in the book is funny: Jessica describes how she could barely get excited when asked to emcee Oprah’s Toronto appearance (she has also opened for Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres, FYI) and shares the impact of her illness on her marriage (with her husband’s blessing) and children (without going too far and compromising their privacy): “Depression keeps parents from connecting with their children, regardless of how much they love them.”
What I love about Jessica is that she’s totally willing to share her most embarrassing moments, which I know make good comedic fodder:
- Showing up to perform at a Tim Hortons corporate event with a Starbucks cup
- Mentioning Kleenex on stage at a competitor’s event – after being specifically asked not to
- Being rejected for a part that called for a “Jessica Holmes type”
I think she hits the nail on the head when explaining why she (and many others) don’t open up about depression:
“I can’t handle this” had become my mantra, even though we actually had a delightful nanny who helped with the cooking and cleaning, so my rantings were inaccurate on top of hysterical. And perhaps that’s why I avoided opening up to my friends. They tried to be supportive but they were also confused because I shouldn’t be unwell. They had tangible problems: a breakup, a layoff, a kid who bites. My problems were invisible and/or unrelatable.
While I don’t believe I have ever suffered from diagnosable depression, I feel I can relate to Jessica as a person in many ways, for example her introversion: “My point is, I’m most comfortable being squished together and simultaneously left alone. I do love people, just indirectly…One of my favourite things to do is have half a dozen friends over and not talk to them – just eavesdrop on all of their conversations while I cook dinner. Everyone saunters over to ask, ‘Can I help?’ and I say, ‘No thanks. Just keep chatting with each other,’ like someone who doesn’t want their favourite TV show interrupted.” Yes! This!
And while I haven’t totally jumped on board with the mindfulness movement, I like her simple perspective: “As far as I can figure, you just pay attention to what’s happening in and around you in the present moment without judging your reaction to it. Although it interrupts my full-time hobby of worrying about the past and future, it does feel like there’s this gift of connection waiting for me anytime, anywhere.”
I also have to add, without throwing a certain movie companion of mine under the bus, that I got a particular laugh out of her mention of smuggling treats into the theatre, including this one time she happened to have elk meat in her purse (as one does): “An old, greasy, cured meat smell wafted up quickly and aggressively, exaggerated by the lack of refrigeration, causing a few patrons in neighbouring seats to complain loudly.” This makes my companion’s smuggled-in Subway sub with extra onions seem like a pleasant aroma (though our fellow movie-goers at the time may have begged to differ).
Back to the depression: Jessica describes in practical terms what works for her, and these points (along with her explanations) may be quite helpful not only to those suffering from depression but any of us looking for happiness and fulfillment.
- Reminding myself it’s nothing personal
- Realizing the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence
- Not keeping up with the Joneses. Or the Heffernans. Or anyone.
- Creating stability.
- Actually working.
- Chasing helpful, not special. (A particularly interesting goal. That’s Kat)
If you’re anything like me, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll start thinking about who you should pass the book on to next. (In my case, it’s my book club: I just made it our next selection.)
Order or pick up a copy of Depression: The Comedy by Jessica Holmes today!
Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this book for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.