Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Depression and Performers

I like to read news about actors. Even though the famous and infamous in the film industry are doing work in projects with budgets that I'll only imagine, we are, after all, in the same industry. The news about Robin Williams (coming too soon after the news about Phillip Seymour Hoffman)makes me so sad. There is something in performing that seems to take people to extremes, or perhaps, there is something in people with extremes that make us want to perform. Alan and I are both fairly low key, as far as that goes - but Alan began finding the personality that I call "Greenroom Alan" as a shy young boy trying to keep up with a funny older sister. I have always been reserved, but find it easy to stand up in front of people in someone else's skin, and I love telling stories. We, too, found performance to be an outlet.

I think, reading the comments on the various articles, that if you've been depressed, you understand. If you haven't - there's just no way to.

I've struggled with an eating disorder, depression and seasonal affective disorder (an insufficiency of Vitamin D in the body, that leads to lethargy, exhaustion, depression, and (for me, who tends to be OCD anyway) obsessive negative thinking). I've never seriously thought of killing myself, but I can remember a period of depression so overwhelming that I curled up on my balcony and wished I would die. Before some counseling identified my S-A-D, I would have looping negative thoughts for months on end, that would become louder and louder the more I tried not to think them - all while trying to continue normal day to day tasks with this constant barrage of panicking thoughts in the background. Luckily for me the fixes were fairly simple: For the eating disorder (mine was more about control than body image) - Southern Cooking did a lot of the work. For the depression - several changes in situation, some counseling to identify the root of my depression, and a lot of time eventually led to healing. For the Seattle-prevalent SAD - Vitamin D, a $300 Sun Lamp, and some time in counseling (spent retraining my thought habits - to let thoughts come and go without attaching any weight to them) did the work. For many, though, the fixes aren't easy, the treatments are lifelong commitments, and a good day can become a bad day with no warning. I do think that a lot of addictions are really an attempt to self-medicate: that's why depression and addiction often seem to go hand in hand.

Robin Williams had a manic creativity. Phillip Seymour Hoffman managed to get under the skin of every character, and make even the worst villain into a sympathetic presence. Heath Ledger took himself into very dark places to create breathtaking characters. So many very fine actors, and reportedly very kind people, who for one reason or other finally needed an escape - and deliberately or accidentally ended their lives.