Depression is real. As an artist, I live with it every day, and the operative word is “live.” It is not easy, and at times it seems as if I have no problems with the struggle. There are times when I feel on top of the world…for a moment. Then a tunnel surrounds me blocking out any affection or caring word I’ve ever heard from anyone else in my life. It becomes me at my most isolated, not selfish, state where although people are surrounding me, they have been blocked from my vision.
I remember hitting the bottom. It was during lunch hour on a Thursday. Homesick, pressured by the feeling of being inadequate, financial pressures and an overwhelming sense of anxiety had pushed me to my breaking point. As I wondered on foot in downtown LA, I walked across an overpass and stopped at its peak. I walked to the edge and grabbed the rail with my hands and watched hundreds of cars pass below. I stood their frozen.
A short period of discomfort followed by an eternal rest seemed more appealing than the inner turmoil I was experiencing, moreover it was becoming like the right answer. The sound of each car that passed below seemed to lull me deeper and deeper into a dark inner tunnel where death appeared to be the only solution.
Hearing people passing behind me did not distract me and no one seemed to stop. Maybe to them I did not appear to pose any danger, which as an entertainer, I was, and am, use to. Making people smile and feel at ease while one is dying inside becomes a habit, and even a type of medication. When I, and other artists, am on stage everything is ok. There is no drug on the market that can compare to the gratifying feeling of a loving audience. The show ends, people leave, they cut off the lights, and the artist is left alone.
As I became conscious of my breath, I felt the wind and began to smell the exhaust of the cars and slowly backed away from the edge. I was lucky, but there are others who are not.
The death of Robin Williams, just as the death of others also involved in the arts, resonates with me in a personal way. It takes a special person to channel all of the good in oneself to cheer or brighten someone else’s day while inside it seems like things are crumbling. He was an inspiration to me and will continue to inspire many more to come.
Depression is not a “state of mind’ or a temporary “feeling”, it is an ever present disease. If you, or someone you know, are coping with depression, seek help, encourage them to seek help, and do all you can to send as much positive energy and prayers their way.
Again, I was lucky that time. I am aware that there maybe a time in the future where I may not be so lucky. That awareness is the daily burden I, and others in my position, carry. Depression is real.