This blog was going to be about excuses. I wrote three paragraphs before I realized something. The more I wrote about my excuses and trying to analyze why I make them to the detriment of my comedy career, I noticed that depression will make you come up with any excuse to tell people when what is really going on is that you are so down on yourself that you haven’t really been doing the things needed to advance your career. So I scratched all that and decided to write closer to the issue, about what it is like to have depression and then push your comedy career.
I was diagnosed with major depression when I came back from Iraq in 2004. I never knew anything was wrong with me, I just thought that everyone just felt worthless sometimes. For those that don’t have depression, it may seem silly. Everyone gets a little down on themselves, but the difference here is that when you are down (that is what I call going through a depressed period) and you suffer from depression, you are REALLY down. You are not only really sad, but you also have very little energy and the thing that drives you to do the things you love or even have to do, just isn’t there. For a normal person this may last a really short time, a couple of hours to a day or two. For the person with depression, it can last weeks. I remember when I was still in the military going to work and feeling so bad that I just wanted to run into a light pole. This went on for about two weeks before something in me just came to and I was much better.
As you can probably guess, having these issues can do a number on your life if your career involves you being confident and driven at all times. Now, I am no psychologist, so self-esteem may be totally separate from depression, but in me it seems to go hand in hand. When I am depressed, the last thing I want to do is email people and tell them how awesome I am. I just lay in bed and wonder if it is all worth it. Then after a week or three, I am up and ready and realize that I missed big chunks of time in which I could be getting head shots done and promo stuff redone and emails sent out and booking shows, and then that can send you into another depressed state!
It can also affect your shows. My material doesn’t have the same pop it does when I am depressed and trying to do a show. When I am in that state, I usually blame it on me not being a good comedian, or that the material is not good, or any number of things that are going through my head. The only real positive out of this situation is that I write a lot of material because I am always worried that it is not good enough.
I usually keep this part of me secret because I am ashamed. I honestly don’t want anyone to think I am weird, or that I am some head case. I think part of that has to do with the fact that a lot of people don’t know how to treat people with depression. They think you are always gonna be a downer or a bore and I would just rather not deal with that. I just take my medicine and go to the VA to see a counselor and keep it to myself.
Making excuses for why I am not out and about more in comedy, I think, is a way to lie to people. If people think that I don’t send out my stuff more because I am hanging out with my daughter or trying to keep my relationship afloat, then that is in some way more noble then saying, “I have depression and that can cause major setbacks throughout the year for me comedy wise.”
In a way, I kind of feel like depression is my excuse as well. It seems like a never ending cycle of why can’t I push on.
When I am not in a down episode I feel invincible on stage! I feel more confident and just more powerful. Like that is the real me. The guy that can say the cool stuff at the right time to get everyone to laugh. When I am feeling terrible, I can get up and still tell the jokes, but I feel like they lack something. Something that can pull the audience in and really get them hooked on you. I have had some great material come out of these phases. Always dark and gritty, but not bad. The truth is probably in the middle because this is me. I suffer from depression and this is a part of my life so it is me. I am both pained and at the same time just pretty good guy to hang around. It is hard to wrap your head around of course because no one wants to be the Debbie downer at any time. You want to be the THAT guy all the time.
I have recorded and published 3 episodes of my video blog on YouTube and I really like doing it. I can feel it building with each week as I continue to work out the kinks and deliver better material. These are the things that I would always make excuses for why I wasn’t doing them. Now that I am doing it though, I am having fun and I am getting my stuff out to potentially a crap ton of people. It may not be getting millions of views, but I feel good about having something up that when people see me perform they can then go home and check out more of my stuff and see me in a lot of different lights.