Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The Funniest People are the Most Depressed

You've probably read about Robin Williams tragic end. And I don't mean his piles.

Unless you have no sense of humour (perhaps you are a member of the Conservative Party) you know what a sensationally funny man Robin was.

'Gifted', 'hilarious', and 'talented' are all words being used to describe him. I'd like to add 'thoughtful' to that list.

Robin was full of thought. "He's so quick," people would say. Yes, he was. His neurons fired faster than a casino drains bank accounts. This made him a brilliant comedian. It also made him prone to depression.

Severe depression is caused by too much thinking. A chemical imbalance in the brain often causes the thought processes to only run in a negative direction. It is not uncommon to hear that depressed people also suffer from addiction issues. They just want something to make all the bad thoughts in their head stop. When nothing helps, they move on to the ultimate method for ceasing to think: suicide.

Depression is a part of my daily life. It is a condition inherited from my father. (To be fair, I've done my fair share of giving it back to him.) He suffers more than I do.

I'm lucky in three respects. One is having a mother from whom I inherited 'happy genes' and a large part of my sense of humour. Another is having a wife who understands and puts up with my antics and knows that sometimes I just need to be with her, without talking or doing anything in particular. The last way in which I am blessed (?) is that my brain doesn't lean more to the left or more to the right. I am neither a left brain person nor am I a right brain person. I use each half of my brain in equal measure. That's what makes me outstandingly mediocre. (Brain half empty or brain half full? You decide.) This helps me maintain a delicate balance of logic and creativity.

It's easy to insult people and hurt their feelings without even thinking or knowing you've done it. People who say that their depressed friend is 'just looking for attention' don't understand the situation at all. When depressed people seek attention, they take to the stage or write or act out in some fashion. The old playground saying, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" couldn't be more wrong. Nothing cuts deeper than spiteful words. A wound inflicted by an insult (even one that the person hurtling the barb didn't know they had uttered) can last a lifetime. That is because, in most cases, the depressed person is more thoughtful than you imagine. They are already beating themselves up inside. The stone you throw at them only adds to the weight already crushing them. Take care in what you say and how you say it.

When you're feeling low, do something to distract your mind. Watch, read or listen to something funny. Pay full attention to what you are watching, reading or listening to. Let the words of other, funny, people fill your head.

Eat something like a banana. (Heh heh heh. Hey! Hey! There'll be none of that.) Perhaps I should have said, 'such as a banana'. This goes back to the chemicals in your brain being out of whack. Help to put them right by munching on a little something. (Oh, don't go there again.)

Get help. There are dozens of help lines, websites, and support groups that are there when you need them. Talk to your doctor. Be honest about what is going on inside your head.

If you have a friend or family member who is afflicted by depression, let them know that you are there for them. Treat them with respect. Be a true friend, or bugger off. Being a fair weather friend isn't being a real friend at all. People struggle every day. You will need help, too, someday in some way. When your depressed friend reaches out to you, consider how you will feel when you are in need of assistance.

For every high there is an accompanying low. Robin Williams made the world giddy with laughter. It is no surprise that his passing has plunged us into sadness.

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