It's been a rough year.
Three people I've known within two comedy communities have lost their lives in the past year. The discovery of each loss was tremendously hard to face, mostly because the information was first made available to me by the use of Facebook in all three circumstances. Vague, ambiguous posts started multiplying throughout my newsfeed. It became clear something was wrong, even though I wasn't sure how the unfolding of information would affect me. But then I saw a name. A permanent, unforgettable name. That hurt, that pit in your stomach that grows with the confrontation of reality is incredibly painful. Sharing the art of comedy means having hundreds, if not thousands of connections across the country. And in all three deaths, family, friends, and comedians crawled out of the mourning woodwork to pay their respects and to try to make sense of the tragedies that took place.
Three people who shared the love of comedy are gone, but the best the remainder of us can do is laugh. I assumed hosting the showcase at the Blue Moon last night was going to be difficult. For eight hours before the show, I paced back and forth trying to find the right words. Not addressing the situation felt wrong, and over-addressing the situation felt equally uncomfortable. I cried on and off yesterday, one causing me to start over on my make up and another was triggered by voluntarily watching the movie 28 Days. I was pretty close to saying "fuck it" but I decided on trying to give off at least some impression my appearance mattered and blinked heavily through a mascara application.
I had to skip through a few too many uncomfortable songs while driving to the venue. I sat in my car beforehand to gather my thoughts. How do I say something poignant to a room full of people who lost someone so dear to them? Rehearsing my possible choices of words felt like an act, like the ill-prepared toast was a bit on its own. In the end, I did eight minutes of jokes that were warmly received by those who gathered to remember Meredith and her love of comedy we all share. Comedy is what tied us all together. We were in that room not only to mourn the loss, but because Meredith provided that exact space to a ton of blubbering people who were extremely grateful for her time on earth. We shared pizza, laughter, and in some cases, alcohol. I arrived home at the end of the evening feeling a sense of peace, but I knew that the pain and suffering others were experiencing was far from over.
Depression is a cruel, cruel villain. I've always struggled answering honestly when a doctor or nurse gives me that piece of paper that rates my mental health, often on a scale of 0 to 5. How many days do you have trouble paying attention? How many days to you find yourself having difficulty accomplishing normal tasks? How many days of the week are you struggling to sleep? Are you sleeping too much? Are you contemplating how to end your life? How many days do you think that you would be better off dead?
During the deepest parts of my depression, those answers have been difficult to circle. Most were quickly circled 4's all the way down the front and back of the page and then forgotten about. But the suicide question always baffled me. While I have never outright thought of ending my life, I have made peace with the aspect that at one point or another, none of this is going to matter. The idea of death was comforting, just to know I didn't have to face ridicule about sleeping too much, drinking too much, being an extremely inactive person, and having a poor diet that could definitely use improvement. I also didn't want to alarm anyone. I am simply comforted by the fact that at some point, none of this will matter. But that didn't seem to equate by circling a 0 or a 1 under these loaded questions at a dermatology appointment.
Never have I made plans to kill myself. I didn't orchestrate an elaborate plan. I didn't turn to internet forums which discussed the action in length. But there were times I just wanted to relax, and being awake didn't allow me to relax. May and June of this year were the two months of my life where executing the most simple of tasks became unsettlingly difficult. There were times where I woke up and would immediately start crying. There were times where the energy to walk out to my car desperately eluded me. There were times where I would wake up at 3:30 in the afternoon and think, "Nope. Not yet." I slept all the time. My rumination, while still incredibly active, was full steam ahead into every instance of anxiety I've ever experienced. Taking care of myself became a mountain climb of a chore. I talked slower. I could hear myself speaking so slowly, wondering if others noticed. Others did notice. Each time I went outside and exposed myself to the elements, I would wince at the atmosphere, almost as if I was hungover. Eating became a challenge. Some nights I went without dinner because I didn't have the energy to go down the stairs and back up. I watched the entire series of Law and Order: SVU over a span of five weeks. I'm pretty sure I reached the end of Reddit on more than one occasion. I couldn't do anything. How was this living? I was basically dead with a pulse, a coma I only awoke from when I had the energy.
And those are the days where I lied in bed just wanting nothing. What used to be my coping mechanism of drinking too much and not having any regard to any other human life slowly creeped into a habit of sleeping all the time, an escape. I no longer think I sleep too much, but I definitely have a Circadian rhythm that is not conducive to a 9 to 5 schedule. I've come to accept this, that my depression and/or my physiology is not largely recognized by the production cogs of what we sometimes struggle to recognize as "society."
For the last six months I've gone through a lot of different kinds of medication management. Dosages increased, decreased, cut in half, tapered, increased, stabilized. May and June were so emotionally catastrophic based on a variety of external factors, but it was mostly because of a change in my medication that I reacted to very poorly. While my depression fell somewhat to the wayside, my anxiety and rumination habits became rampant. Everything became worst case scenario. Driving became a challenge because every other driver on the road either became a "dipshit" or a "fuckhead" depending on the time of day. I had my energy back, but at the cost of emotional volatility.
Each day, I begin an endless search for balance. Some days I find it in AA. Other days I find it in a joke I haven't told in a long time, or within a conversation before bed. But the search for balance is exhausting, often times painful. Normality is a myth. There are seven billion people on this rock flying through space, and somehow Western society/old white men decided that we all needed to have the same brain chemistry and mental health. But it isn't that simple. There is a huge stigma against mental illness, which lies in the fact that many of us are different. "Different" implies something is wrong or negative with us. We are broken and need to be returned to the factory instead of being given sustainable maintenance.
I get it: the feeling you can't go on, the isolation, the physical and emotional pain that you just need a break from. In some cases, the ultimate solution is unavoidable. In the mean time, we can pay it forward. Someone last night said to me, "I know Meredith is gone, but I'm going to keep doing what she did and be the best person I can be." Tell people you love them. Hug them. We never know who is suffering underneath a seemingly composed surface. There are times where someone has told me "everything is going to be okay," and at that moment, those words were exactly what I needed to hear.
Please be good to one another.