shutterstock_103803260On a recent episode of the Charlie Rose show, featuring the comedian Bill Maher, Rose starts a conversation about how we’ve had two comedians die this past month (Robin Williams and Joan Rivers) and opens up a dialogue on depression:

Robin certainly I think that was a shock I think to everybody, even his close friends didn’t see that coming, and that’s because he was such a nice guy I think he didn’t want to burden people with it. I mean talk about a functioning depressive. Never late on the set, you know never threw a tantrum, never really let on what he was going through. (Maher)

Do you think these are qualities of a depressive? To never be late? (Rose)

No I’m just saying if you are going through so much in your life that you would kill yourself you would think it would bleed a little bit into your professional life. You might be late for work one day. No. I mean it came as a shock to everybody. (Maher)

Initially Rose came across to me as ignorant to qualities of depression, but then I sat back and thought, wait, maybe Rose is digging deeper beneath the obvious and is opening up a conversation on what qualities manifest depression? There are people walking around out there who are severely depressed yet showing up to work on time. We have ideas of what depression looks like whether it’s through movies or commercials but, it’s the guy who is not walking in a dark forest alone in a commercial or stuck in bed alone that we should take a closer look at when having a dialogue on depression. In my experience, I understood what Maher was saying when he spoke about how Williams never showed signs of depression and the feelings of having to burden someone can disallow someone to seek help. I took me back to a chapter in my book on depression which exemplifies exactly what Maher was pointing at:

My brain is stale bread but not hard. It’s just stale, sitting there on the shelf of my head and flat as a pancake. I have no thoughts, no words, no passion, nothing. I thank God I have no phone calls to return because it gives me a panic attack to have to check my messages to hear someone on the other end wanting to know where I am, what I’ve been “up to.” And I can’t say absolutely anything because they know. The people left holding onto an absent friend know about me and would think things about my state of mind. I don’t want to burden anyone with my sterile world, but maybe that’s a lie. I don’t want the burden of people knowing and having them think about it, or try and talk to me about it, because no one has any idea what my world is like here stuck in my hollow apartment where the only thing keeping me cognate of some relationship to life is my cat.

Bill Maher image available from Shutterstock.