Kevin: For a long time in my life, I felt like I’d been living two different lives. There’s the life that everyone sees and then, there’s the life that only I see. And in the life that everyone sees, who I am is a friend, a son, a brother, a stand-up comedian and a teenager. That’s the life everyone sees. If you were to ask my friends and family to describe me, that’s what they would tell you. And that’s a huge part of me. That’s who I am.
If you ask me to describe myself, I’d probably say some of those same things. And, I wouldn’t be lying, but I wouldn’t totally be telling you the truth either. Because the truth is, that’s just the life everyone else sees. In the life that only I see, who I am, who I really am, there’s someone who struggles intensely with depression. I have for the last six years of my life and I continue to, every day.
Now for someone who had never experienced depression or doesn’t really know what that means, that might surprise them to hear because there’s a pretty popular misconception that depression is just being sad when something in your life goes wrong. When you break up with your girlfriend, when you lose a loved one, when you don’t get the job you wanted, but that’s sadness, that’s a natural thing. That’s a natural human emotion.
Real depression isn’t being sad when something in your life goes wrong. Real depression is being sad when everything in your life is going right. That’s real depression and that’s what I suffer from. And to be totally honest, that’s hard for me to stand up here and say. It’s hard for me to talk about. It seems to be hard for everyone to talk about and so much so, that no one’s talking about it. And no one’s talking about depression but we need to be because right now it’s a massive problem. It’s a massive problem.
We don’t see it on social media, right, we don’t see it on Facebook, we don’t see it on Twitter, we don’t see it on the news because it’s not happy, it’s not fun, it’s not light. And because we don’t see it, we don’t see the severity of it. The severity of it, the seriousness of it is this: every 30 seconds—every 30 seconds, somewhere, someone in the world takes their own life, because of depression. It might be two blocks away, it might be two countries away, it might be two continents away but it’s happening, it’s happening every single day.
We have a tendency as a society to look at that and go, “So what?” So what. We look at that and we go, “That’s your problem. That’s their problem.” We say we’re sad and we say we’re sorry but we also say so what. Well two years ago, it was my problem. Because i sat on the edge of my bed, where I’d sat a million times before, and I was suicidal. I was suicidal. And if you were to look at my life on the surface, you wouldn’t see a kid who was suicidal, you’d see a kid who was the captain of his basketball team, the drama and theater student of the year, the English student of the year, or someone who was consistently on the honor roll and consistently at every party.
So you would say I wasn’t depressed, you would say I wasn’t suicidal but you would be wrong. You would be wrong. So I sat there that night beside a bottle of pills with a pen and paper in my hand and I thought about taking my own life and I came this close to doing it. I came this close to doing it. And I didn’t. So that makes me one of the lucky ones. One of the people who gets to step out on the ledge and look out but not jump. One of the lucky ones who survives. Well I survived and that just leaves me with my story. My story is this. Four simple words: I suffer from depression. I suffer from depression.
For a long time, I think, I was living two totally different lives where one person was always afraid of the other. I was afraid that people would see me for who I really was. I was afraid that I wasn’t the perfect popular kid in high school everyone thought I was, that behind my smile there was struggle, and beneath my light there was dark, and beneath my big personality just hid even bigger pain. See, some people might fear girls not liking them back. Some people might fear sharks, some people might fear death, but for me, for a large part of my life, I feared myself. I feared my truth, I feared my honesty, I feared my vulnerability. That fear made me feel like I was forced into a corner and there was only one way out. So I thought about that way every single day. I thought about it every single day and if I’m being totally honest standing here, I thought about it again since because that’s the sickness. That’s the struggle, that’s depression.
Depression isn’t chicken pox – you don’t beat it once and it’s gone forever. It’s something you live with. It’s something you live in. It’s the roommate you can’t kick out, the voice you can’t ignore, the feelings you can’t seem to escape and the scariest part is after a while, you become numb to it. It becomes normal for you. And what you really fear the most isn’t the suffering inside of you, it’s the stigma inside of others. It’s the shame, it’s the embarrassment, it’s the disapproving look on a friend’s face, it’s the whispers in the hallway that you’re weak, it’s the comments that you’re crazy — that’s what keeps you from getting help.
That’s what make you hold it in and hide it. It’s the stigma so you hold it in and you hide it, you hold it in and you hide it. And even though it’s keeping you in bed every day and it’s making your life feel empty no matter how much you try and fill it, you hide it because the stigma in our society around depression is very real. It’s very real. And if you think that it isn’t, ask yourself this: would you rather make your next Facebook status say you’re having a tough time getting out of bed because you hurt your back, or you’re having a tough time getting out of bed every morning because you’re depressed? That’s the stigma. Because unfortunately we live in a world where if you break your arm, everyone runs over to sign your cast. But if you tell people you’re depressed, everyone runs the other way. That’s the stigma.
We are so, so, so accepting of any body part breaking down other than our brains and that’s ignorance. That’s pure ignorance and that ignorance has created a world that doesn’t understand depression, that doesn’t understand mental health. That’s ironic to me because depression is one of the best documented problems we have in the world yet it’s one of the least discussed. We just push it aside, put it in a corner, pretend it’s not there, and hope it’ll fix itself. Well it won’t, it hasn’t, and it’s not going to because that’s wishful thinking. Wishful thinking isn’t a game plan, it’s procrastination. We can’t procrastinate on something this important.
The first step to solving any problem is recognizing there is one, but we haven’t done that. So we can’t really expect to find an answer when we’re still afraid of the question. I don’t know what the solution is. I wish I did but I don’t. But I think, I think it has to start here. It has to start with me. It has to start with you. It has to start with the people who are suffering, the ones who are hidden in the shadows. We need to speak up and shatter the silence. We need to be the ones who are brave for what we believe in because if there’s one thing that I’ve come to realize, one thing that I’ve come to see as the biggest problem, it’s not in building a world where we eliminate the ignorance of others. It’s in building a world where we teach the acceptance of ourselves, where we’re okay with who we are because we get honest.
We see that we all struggle, we all suffer. Whether it’s like this or it’s with something else, we all know what it is to hurt. We all know what it is to have pain in our heart. We all know how important it is to heal. But right now, depression is society’s deep cut that we pretend to put a band-aid over, that we pretend it’s not there. Well it is there. It is there. And you know what? It’s okay. Depression is okay. If you’re going through it, know that you’re okay and know that you’re sick. You’re not weak. It’s an issue, not an identity because when you get past the fear and the ridicule and the judgment and the stigma of others, you can see depression for what it really is. That’s just a part of life. And as much as I hate some of the places, some of the parts of my life it dragged me down to, in a lot of ways, I’m grateful for it. Because yeah, it’s put me in the valleys, but only to show me there’s peaks. And yeah, it’s dragged me through the dark, but only to remind me there is light.
My pain, more than anything in 19 years on this planet, has given me perspective. And my hurt, my hurt’s forced me to have hope, to have faith – faith in myself, faith in others, faith that it can get better, that we can change this, that we can speak up and speak out and fight back against ignorance. Fight back against intolerance. More than anything, learn to love ourselves.
Learn to accept ourselves for who we are, the people we are, not the people the world wants us to be. Because the world I believe in is one where embracing your light doesn’t mean ignoring your dark, the world I believe in is one where we’re measured by our ability to overcome adversities, not avoid them. The world I believe in is one where I can look someone in the eye and say, I’m going through hell. And they can look back at me and go, Me too, and that’s okay. And it’s okay, because depression is okay.
We’re people. We’re people and we struggle and we suffer and we bleed and we cry and if you think that true strength means never showing any weakness, then I’m here to tell you you’re wrong. You’re wrong because it’s the opposite. We’re people. We have problems and we’re not perfect and that’s okay, so we need to stop the ignorance. Stop the intolerance. Stop the stigma. Stop the silence. We need to take away the taboos. Take a look at the truth and start talking. Because the only way we’re gonna beat a problem that people are battling alone is by standing strong together. By standing strong together. And I believe that we can. I believe that we can.