I have been dealing with depression since my military days, and it has taken me many years and many ups and downs, to come to terms with it and live with it effectively. My strategies and experiences will differ from many of course. All I am trying to do is give insight into how I deal with this and how it has, and continues to affect, my comedy.
What some people get wrong about depression is that they think that the only way to feel depressed is to have either a rotten life or something bad happen. Most of the time, for me at least, it just hits. I will be doing well, and then all of a sudden a curtain comes down and I don’t feel as well as I did. Sometimes I will go to bed happy as hell, and I will wake up feeling miserable and not wanting to get out of bed. Things that I had planned I just sort of push to the side and even things that I like to do (like photography and video games) I will forgo so I can just curl up. Its not just feelings though. Sometimes I will be more tired than I usually am. I will go to bed earlier and stay in bed later. As you can see this can have an effect on a comedian.
Don’t get me wrong, depression can make any profession tough to pursue, but comedy is a crazy one because everything else is always moving. Here is an analogy: If you have been to an airport, they have those conveyor belt like things on the floor that will just take you down the walkway. Well, that is most comedians. They are doing shows, and networking and pushing to get more shows and get more recognition. Then you have the people that are just walking normally. Those are the hobbyist or the slackers. They are moving, just much slower. Then you have the person curled up in the middle of all this. Using their luggage as a really uncomfortable pillow. That is how I feel. Depression can creep into every aspect of your comedy career. It makes you not want to chase the club spots because your mind is flooded with thoughts of what’s the use. It makes you not keep up with opportunities that most people would gobble up. Projects get delayed or outright canned. And that is before you have written a joke! Depression can affect your comedy on stage in a variety of ways. It may sap your confidence to try that new joke. It can keep you from really selling a joke to make sure it works, or it can keep you from even getting out to work on your material all together.
Over the years, I have come up with ways (with help from professionals of course) to deal with my depression. One of the biggest things I try to do is when that cloud finally lifts, I make sure I get as much done as possible. I do this because I know that cloud will come back and hold back my progress, and since I don’t know when it will hit again, I have to make sure I get stuff taken care of. That means once I feel better I hit up all these bookers and promoters and I contact people that are doing stuff and I try to book myself up. That way I don’t fall into an even deeper depression when I am down and on top of that, I have no shows on the calendar because of it. I try to keep things consistent in my life. So, I try to hit a couple of open mics a week and stick to it, so when I am down it is such a habit I can barely break from it (I do more often leave earlier when I am depressed then when I am not though). I try to talk to, and hang out with, people that bring positive vibes in my life. So, my kid and my girlfriend, and a couple comedians that always make me laugh (I don’t want to say their names because the ones that don’t will probably feel bad). When I am depressed and I have a show, I try to stick with jokes that even depression can’t convince me isn’t funny. I had a show this past week and just getting up on stage kind of pumped me with enough feel good juice that I forgot about everything for an hour. That maybe why I have stuck with comedy for as long as I have because when I am feeling down, I can get on stage and turn my thoughts into jokes and it gets the adrenaline pumping (because I don’t know if it will work or not) to the point that I feel a bit better.
All I can do is tell you what I do to combat depression in my life. One thing I don’t do is use alcohol and drugs, so I can’t tell you what that will do, but I do have friends that it has negatively affected. Look into anti-depressants and try to have a network of people that give a shit about you. Comedy is my drug, and even depression can keep me from pursuing that fully. It has affected my career. It has kept me from traveling and networking as much as I should. It keeps me from applying to things that could help my career. Only when I am feeling better do I look and see the opportunities missed because of it. This blog has been affected by depression (that is why sometimes you will see a surge in articles from time to time). I have to live with this as best as I can, and at the same time be the best comedian I can be. It is hard, but with the right tools anyone can get through it.