Monday, August 25, 2014

Depression and Humour: Odd Couple

I am probably one of the many people in the world that is still reeling from the death of one of the most loved actors of all time: Robin Williams.  People have associated his death with a severe case of clinical depression, as he took his own life.  

Many people scoff at the term, depression, but you see here; we get mood swings, we feel sadness, we feel disappointed with continuous struggles in life. But depression is so much more.  Depression is a combination of genes, chemistry and environment and it is clearly a complex mental health disorder that does not spare anyone wealthy, prominent, or even successful.

I grew up fascinated with this gentleman; back in the days of "Mork and Mindy" where he became every household staple comedian extraordinaire. There is always something deeply profound and intense in the character of comics, Mr. Williams included. I have this premise that the funnier they are, the lonelier they could be inside. But they shield it so well with humor, irony and sarcasm. Studies have disproved this, I just happen to believe that because comics need to find funny and laughable materials from their own lives, that could seriously be very depressing.

The real crux of the matter is when does one hit rock bottom, feeling empty, and totally worthless, to take your own life? 

Earlier on in my life, I took off hurriedly away from a lifetime of clinical practice because the patient I thought we were gaining ground in our sessions together, took her own life right after Christmas. She was a teenager and a week away from being discharged. I could not wrap myself around what just happened, where I failed, where I went wrong, where I could have been better at? I just lost it. And much like Robin Williams, there is something utterly romantic about hanging yourself, because she did just that, too. Physically harming yourself to feel pain is unfathomable; the depths of which only the clinically depressed can relate with.

I was reading this book by Ned Vizzini, a gifted talent and a great writer. The Book's Title is "It's Kind of a Funny Story" and it has been made into a movie.

The Book (I reckon also the movie as I have not seen it) is largely based on the author's 5-day stay at the loony bin, and you're right; for clinical depression and suicidal thoughts. It is an honest, touching and really funny read.  But you see here, years after the book and the movie was out, sometime December 2013, Ned jumps off from his apartment building in Brooklyn. He was 32 years old.

I still don't get it. I probably never will as I already failed the first time. I just think there is so much tragedy around us and so much comedy.  Perhaps it is easier for escapists like me to just laugh at the tragedies.  What is not to laugh about?

Or maybe I just love life (and hate pain).  Or maybe because life is already too short for a lot of us to make it spectacular or make a difference. Maybe both Robin and Ned found the way to make a difference in their lives that it was just about the right time to make a wonderful exit. 

Nah ... there are a million ways to end a life, and to take your own is not in any way romantic, wonderful or even courageous. And the irony of it all, Ned ends his book repeating this 4-letter word again and again: LIVE.  Here's to Life!


  1. A most thoughtful and insightful post, Pettite! And it's good to know that you're still out there.

  2. --Insightful Post.
    People took Robin William's death horribly because he hid his depression so well. Underneath the mask, the laughter, the humor, the jokes was real pain. When one kills themselves-- it's because one feels there is no other way out. Romantic? Courageous? No. They just can't talk one more day of living. I don't judge them for that. Ever.
    Where have you been? xx


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