Depression: the Reason vs the Lesson

29 03 2016


When my kids aren’t with me, I try to stay as connected to them as possible. I find funny videos or stories and text them links. Or try to remember what type of fruit snacks my daughter likes and shoot her a quick message. (It’s Kellogs, by the way – talk about brand loyalty). These things help me, a little, but as I have told only a few people, I fall into a depression during extended periods of not seeing them.

It feels like I remember feeling as an adolescent – the irritable feeling that there is a heightened sensitivity of some chemical that is coursing through my blood stream. It feels like a low grade sunburn – but from the inside. That’s the only way I can describe it.

For a while, I thwarted ideas that this was depression because it seemed so episodic and also, I was sensitive to my tiny, insignificant plight being a potential affront to those who suffer, truly suffer, from this disposition. But after this past week, there could be no denying it. Last week, I spent a good 3 days just telling myself, at every opportunity I could get, to just “be with the feeling” and “just get through it”. As it stands, I am with my kids now and it is the first time that I have felt like writing anything down in a coherent fashion.

I had tried journaling over and over again the past few days. Everything I wrote just sent me into a further state of disgust. I couldn’t articulate anything in a way that I thought could possibly be understood, let alone revered as some desperate, pathetic diatribe that no one would give two craps about. (Yes, that is the American Psychological Association approved metric for level of depression – the amount of craps others may give to your cause.)

I was in NYC for a couple days last week and at one point, went to a bar, alone, to sit down with my laptop, have a pint and try to describe how I was feeling, hoping that somehow I would not feel like crawling out of my skin. My goal was to write some amazing blog post about what depression feel likes, smells like, tastes like, etc. Oh, it was going to be both artsy and profound and garner me with a million likes and even a guest spot on Huff Po. Instead, I couldn’t make it through the first sentence and after getting a text message from a friend about going to an open mic, downed what was left of my Brooklyn Lager and got on the closest subway I could find to downtown.

The thing is that I have this thing where I am always “trying to keep myself honest” – you know, waiting for someone I respect to tell me I belong on the comedy circuit or a peer I respect to tell me I am a good marketer or writer or a psychologist to tell me that I do “have anxiety or depression”, whatever that is. I don’t need any of those. What I really need to do is just listen to myself. I don’t have to keep myself honest if I am honest…with myself. Having someone validate that I am having a tough time is like asking someone at the Hair Cuttery to officially designate my hair as “curly and unruly”. It just is.

I am anxious because I can tell that something has shifted and not necessarily for the better. I can tell that I am about to enter into a period that will not be easy but can be transformative if I am willing to take it day by day, hour by hour and breath by breath. I have a whole different (and growing) skill set to cope now that I did not have before and really, what other choice is there? I have to believe that I am here and at this point in this journey not necessarily for a reason but at least for a lesson. The two can be very different things. I can be passive about reason but with a lesson? Not so much. It’s up to me now.

Until next time,


The Downside of Funny

5 11 2015

Way more than one dimension.

Way more than one dimension.

By now, I’m pretty sure you have read at least one article regarding the recent and tragic suicide of Robin Williams. (They are all tragic, by the way.)

It is probably not a new thought that depression and suicide seem to be higher among creative types – musicians, artists, comedians, etc. To be honest, I am not sure if this is actually true or not. I have read articles online that allude to it, give theories as to it, but have not seen a definitive study that is double-blinded, randomized and statistically significant, though one may exist.

To me, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that people understand that human beings are not one dimensional. I can’t imagine a physician, plumber or toll booth operator as not having a sense of humor simply due to their occupation and yet, it seems that when someone is funny, it becomes hard, and at times, unacceptable, for others to accept the mulit-dimensionality of that person. As the saying goes, “everyone loves a clown.” (Though, I hate clowns, and parades, if anyone is curious).

I personally believe that it is called a “sense” of humor because the humility and perspective that humor provides is very much a means by which one can perceive, just like touch, smell, taste, hearing or sight. Humor has helped me defray many a sticky situation. In fact, given how direct and confrontational I can be at times, I cannot imagine how much more so this would be if it were not for humor. I suspect I may never be able to hold down a job or relationship, let alone get through traffic or the deli counter at the local market where the dude behind the counter seems to be perpetually in a bad mood.

My parents are the type of folk that are either your best friends or can be your worst enemies. It’s a bit dramatic but it is to say that they are fiercely loyal but spare no delusions when someone is being less than authentic or worse, dishonest. I come by it honestly. My goal has always to be as fair as possible and try not to be mean. It’s difficult especially when dealing with certain people. I like that people can feel at ease around me and I can make them laugh when things get tough. However, at times, it seems, to those who really don’t know me, as I am considered the Mascot at the game – always the go-to-guy to feel better when in truth, sometimes I’m not up for the task.

When this occurs, there is a distinct difference between those who can see the multi-dimensionality of the person in front of them and those who are disappointed and even a bit angry that I am not in a good mood or a good place. The same gift that might allow certain people to “think outside of the box” is the same heavy cloak that causes us to retreat at times. I don’t know if this makes sense to people who may be more level in their moods. We are all born with a different “level set” and for those who traverse the good and the bad, it can be difficult to explain this to those who are not of the same ilk.

The downside of funny is not really a downside, per se, as much as the other side of funny. Not all comedians are tragic just as all theologians are not righteous. People are more than a sum of their careers, passions and perceptions. The multi-dimensionality exists in all of us but it takes more than a passing encounter to understand, respect and accept it.

Until next time,


Celexa, Carol King and Me.

26 08 2015
Carol is sort of like the "tear-whisperer".

Carol is sort of like the “tear-whisperer”.

Over 2 years ago I started taking Celexa – or Citalopram, as the generic is known. 

I like saying Citalopram better – it sounds “practical jokey”. Celexa sounds like a high class luxury vehicle or a blonde socialite I would never have anything do with. “I met Celexa at the club and we parted in my Selexa 99S.” That’s never going to happen – either of those things.

Have I digressed from the real topic of being on an anti-anxiety med? (Pretty sneaky.)

For the uninitiated, this drug of choice is yet another in the class of SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) meant for depression and anxiety. This one was more geared toward anxiety, which apparently I had no shortage of and it was decided that a little inhibiting of my serotonin uptake might be in order.

I decided to do this largely at the urging, or should I say guilting, of my then-wife/soon-to-be-ex-wife/not-sure-what-to-call-her-anymore. I was really against it for various reasons, the least of which was not that I felt that in our over-prescribed society, it was an insult to those who really needed SSRIs to have those of us, like myself, who were mired in more “white people problems”. That being said, given the fact that my wife (at the time) saw this as a problem and I continued to fight against it, I surmised that it was my duty as a good husband to oblige and so I did.

Then, a few months later, I had a ball drop – my wife filed for divorce and I spent the next year unsuccessfully trying to hold onto something that could not be held onto and let’s just say, that didn’t seem like the most opportune time to get off a drug, hell, any drug. Anything that would help me continue to raise my kids, work hard and appear to have it under wraps was just fine with me.

A little over two weeks ago, I traveled to New Hampshire for a week with my kids. It was an excellent week, spending the majority outdoors and really enjoying caves, mountains, swimming and a general devolution from technology. I noticed I was having dizzy spells continually and having trouble sleeping, only to realize that I had neglected to pack the said Citalopram.

Upon realizing this on day three, I made a conscious decision that this was not a coincidence. No, it was “meant to be”. My thinking went something like this: “I am hopefully winding down 2015 with a smaller house, a new “relationship” status on Facebook and if I can squeeze it out, a more clear objective and dare I say, positive outlook on life”. And so the die had been cast.

Except the past two plus weeks have been an amalgamation of exhaustion, dizziness and feeling. Yes, feeling. I didn’t realize how many of my feelings were being moderated by this drug. Don’t get me wrong – I think it was not a bad thing. Being off of an SSRI, for me, is like tasting the cupcake AND the frosting but it is also like feeling the winter cold AND the frostbite. 

It is scary for me, to be honest but also revealing that I have to accept that I am a dude who just feels things deeply, for better and for worse. In writing this blog, I am accepting myself. I am trying to be honest and not hide from some exterior version of what people need to see to feel comfortable or worse, what I thought I needed to portray to be exhibited. The shame is not that I was embarrassed to admit that I had taken an anti-anxiety med but rather in that I was too embarrassed to reveal that I am an emotional dude at times and that my struggle is also my strength. That is what I am ashamed of…not taking the drug.

On Sunday, I saw “Beautiful” – the musical based on Carol King’s songs and her life. I don’t remember crying that much since watching “Precious” on a plane back from London while sitting near an Orthodox Jewish guy that got up every 15 minutes to pray. (Man, that flight attendant had no clue what was going on in 15 D and E). But more about that later.

The music was exceptional and the words hard-hitting. I joked that they should have called it “Divorce- The Musical” (which I want to write – as a parody, by the way). I cried for Carol. I cried for the soul she poured into her art, not because she had to but because she had no other choice. I cried for myself and my kids and lost time and new found meanings. I held it in pretty well until the song came I knew was bound to be played -“Too Late”. 

I had that same feeling I had while sitting Shiva (mourning) for my grandfather 21 years ago knowing that in a few days, my sister, me, and my parents would all be standing in my grandparents’ driveway heading our separate ways knowing that nothing was ever going to be the same next time we saw each other. Just standing there looking at each other trying to hold it together, knowing for days before that that moment was inevitable.

And it’s too late, baby now, it’s too late,

Though we really did try to make it.

Somethin’ inside has died, and I can’t hide,

And I just can’t fake it, oh, no, no.

The tears came down and I let them just sit there and dry on my cheek, thankful for feeling, for feeling sad – for feeling period. 

It’s funny – last night I posted to Facebook for the first time in a while. I said “I’m so tired of feeling like everything has to be ok. Anybody else? Just me?” and I realized that it was taken in a depressing sort of way when really what I was trying to say was “It’s ok to feel and if you really feel, not everything has to be ok because it’s part of life. It’s acceptable. It’s weird if everything is ok, isn’t it?”

So, here I blog to you for the first time in a while, absent of infused substance, other than a glass of red wine by my side, hoping that regardless of your medical regimen, you feel something…anything because living without feeling is safe but it sure ain’t rich. And it’s definitely not too late.

Until next time,


Is Comedy a Pill or a Band-Aid?

11 01 2015


With the exception of a few close friends, not many people I know really know the true me. I think this is probably a safe bet to say in general. That’s what makes them close friends.

However, when I decided to introduce myself to a new environment – one filled with comedians, writers and other creative types – it had a strange effect of feeling completely out of my comfort zone and, at the same time, like a fish finding it’s way back toward the sea.

Originally, the only reason I joined Facebook was in an effort to network with a creative community that I had no access to otherwise in an effort to take advantage of social media, especially as someone who was somewhat “late to the game” of comedy years ago.

Out of this community and into the “real” world, I have found some of the richest, most real relationships I could have ever hoped for. These are people who see the whole thing – warts and all – and not only accept it but understand it. This was something I had really never understood before. Acceptance is wonderful and for that, I am eternally grateful. When one has both acceptance and understanding, that is where real empathy enters the picture.

It saddened me to learn about the passing of a fellow comedian today. I say “fellow comedian” when she was clearly heads above my level and I had only worked with her a few times. I am not going to mention names nor post any of the photos I have with her out of respect for the seriousness and sadness of this. And while I do not know the circumstances nor the cause, based on a few comments I read on Facebook, I would not be surprised if it had to do with depression, bringing back the recent passing of the comedic powerhouse, Robin Williams.

I really contemplated whether or not to even blog about this, mainly for the reason that while many “accept” the fact that many comedians march to the beat of a different drummer, I was fearful that this would exacerbate the cliche that comedians are all “screwed up, manic depressives who can never manage through their issues.” Without defending nor supporting, this is just too simplistic to even begin to address in a blog post.

My personal opinion is that many of those in the comedy world who are just so incredibly funny, authentic and compassionate gather their creative expression from darker places, as many artists do. When I read about someone passing in a way that can have been avoided, it makes me sad to never know what is going to become of that person and vulnerable at the same time – vulnerable to the fact that we must all have a breaking point. I hope mine is beyond my grasp as I hope it is for you.

I don’t know if comedy is a pill or it’s a band-aid. Sometimes it feels like a bad hangover (either metaphorically or literally). What I do know, is that it isn’t some dumb hobby nor a call to gain attention. People express, celebrate and grieve in different ways and comedy is but one avenue. The comedian off stage, however, is no different than anyone else. Everyone needs someone who cares.

Regardless, I feel so grateful for every friend that calls, for every friend I can reach out to and most of all for acceptance and understanding. I hope I can return the favor.

Until next time,


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