Hardship makes the world obscure. (Don Delillo)
I’m sure by now everyone has heard of, and been stunned by, the passing of Robin Williams yesterday. I’m not going to get into a specific discussion of that, because it’s not my place and because we’ll never have all the facts to do it any justice. Rather, I’m going to talk about what it made me think about in my own life: depression, and the ability to mask it with laughter.
Mr. Williams was always very open about his struggles with depression, with alcohol, and with drugs, and I’ve hoped to do the same with my own battles. Many of you, over the years, have categorized me as brave. The truth is, it’s been a longer and more difficult road than I’ve ever allowed you to see. Like Robin Williams, I have always chosen to confront, and sometimes to hide, my demons with humor.
Part of that is a conscious choice. Even before all this happened, I’ve always been cracking jokes or making light of situations; it’s just in my nature, really. I’ve always had the perspective to see that things aren’t necessarily the end of the world. Unfortunately, that ideology failed me when my world really did come to an end four years ago. It took me a lot to get to a place where I could see the positive side of anything again, and even today, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t sometimes demons behind those witty comments I throw out.
It’s easier to joke than to be honest, for a number of reasons. For one, I never want to drag anyone down with me; making fun of something means I keep everyone happy. For two, I’ve always seen my hardships as something I need to deal with myself, because I’ve never wanted to be categorized as weak or incapable; it’s easier to play it off than to admit that I’m having a bad day. Not to say I’m always hiding when I start being funny – there’s a lot of stuff in life worth laughing about – but I will be honest now and say there are times when I have used humor to cover up the pain.
I’ll preface this by saying that ninety-eight percent of the time, I love myself. But like everyone else, I have bad days. Mine are just tougher than everyone else’s, and sometimes it’s laugh or start crying.
I’ll give you an example, because I’ve been talking about this show a lot recently: last year, I finally got to do some real press on Strike Back, which is one of my favorite programs ever. One of the reasons why I love it is because of the authenticity: these actors do almost all their own stunt work.
Sitting next to these guys, who get to do everything from stunt driving to shooting bad guys and these unbelievable action sequences, I caught myself feeling a little humiliated. They’d tackled all these things I’ve always wanted to do and knew that I would never quite be able to. For a moment or two, I wanted to just crawl under the table and disappear, because I allowed myself to be overcome with disappointment and self-hatred.
But those guys snapped me out of it, because they put me at ease enough that I did something I don’t normally do: I started talking about it. And that’s how Sullivan Stapleton and I started making cracks about arming me with grenades. We found the fun in the situation, and then I didn’t feel inadequate anymore. That’s one of the reasons I love those Strike Back guys so much – I wasn’t hiding with them. I was too busy laughing.
I’m a big believer in the idea that a lot of how a situation turns out is based upon how you look at it. I would rather think positively because I’ve been through too much negativity in my life. And sometimes, a lot of times, that positive spin is by cracking a joke or just allowing myself to laugh. It’s a good thing, most of the time (plus, when you’re interacting with people like Adam Ferrara and Adam Reed, you just try to keep a straight face).
But I will say that sometimes it’s worth asking questions, or offering a shoulder, or checking in just to make sure. Because sometimes we are hiding. Sometimes we carry a lot more than we ever let you see. And we’re not going to volunteer that information. As tragic as yesterday’s news was, it’s also reminding me that maybe I should try hiding a little less.
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