When Being Funny Sucks

I know, you’re probably expecting a Wicked Tuna recap, or Jeremy McKeen’s impending Supermoon article. We’ll get back to our regularly scheduled proclamming tomorrow. 

But we’re still reeling about Robin Williams. I bet you are, too. Right? How could it be that this bright, funny, famous, rich man who had given so much and was so loved still decided to take his own life?

Depression is a bitch, that’s why.

Yesterday, my fabulous blog partner and friend Jim Dowd wrote this wonderful long piece about what it’s like to have a brain that doesn’t stop, much like Robin Williams. He gets it. He’s been there.

I have been there, and I get it as well, but I come from a different angle – lifelong depression. Sometimes deep, sometimes not bothersome at all, but always a weird part of me I hate admitting is there, like a birth mark or third nipple.

I started being funny in middle school to get boys to like me. I was dorky, awkward, kind of grungy, and really liked the Foo Fighters and Weezer when most kids liked Destiny’s Child. In my defense, Dave Grohl was younger then, and didn’t tell people to get off his lawn.

"Oh, looks like my AARP signup form came in the mail! Better get my readin' glasses on."

“Oh, looks like my AARP signup form came in the mail! Better get my readin’ glasses on.”

I was not a popular kid, and no boys swooned over my existence. I cracked jokes, I learned the math of what “funny” is – a+b=punchline. Boys would befriend me because I was funny. I once threw an orange at a lunchroom clock because I thought it would be hilarious. It kinda was. It made people crack up, it was a rush, people thought I was funny. I thrived on that attention.

KT, middle, age 15. Because apparently black baggy clothes in mid-summer was necessary for some reason.

KT (center) age 15. Because apparently black baggy clothes in mid-summer was necessary for some reason.

Being funny seemed like the only way I could keep people around me. My self-esteem sucked, and high school didn’t make it any better. This was the advent of the internet, before parents even knew online bullying could possibly be a thing. Kids from my school were mean to me online and in person. I clung to humor because without it, I would have been lost in a sea of depression and hormones.

I tried half-heartedly to kill myself when I was sixteen. It was an impulsive, stupid decision. I ended up with a two-week stay in an adult inpatient ward where I had no contact at all with anyone from my school except for a few random friends visiting me. My best friend called me selfish for what I’d done and that I should try harder to be happier. I felt nothing but guilt for putting my poor, already-stressed parents through the hell I did. I had two weeks of eating shitty hospital food food, seeing people for whom mental illness fully controlled their lives, watching someone get off heroin cold turkey, and then a lot of conversations with real live adults who struggled but who gave me great coping advice. During the second week, a teenager set off the sprinkler system in the cafeteria to escape, ruining my textbooks and putting me further behind in schoolwork.

It was kinda like that, but with less Angelina Jolie and more old people peeing on the floor.

It was kinda like that, but with less Angelina Jolie and more old people peeing on the floor.

I got better eventually, but I was still impulsive. I once stole my mom’s car and drove forever. I got as far as mid-PA before running out of cash. I still couldn’t tell you why I did it, except a desperate, overwhelming need to get the fuck out of my town and my head. I was seventeen. I dropped out of high school. I finished eventually, but as an outcast, school was fucking abysmal. It took me six years to gain the courage to go to college.

The internet where originally I was bullied turned into a mechanism to meet other people. It saved my life – the groups of kids with similar mindsets, who liked similar bands, who would find me more than worthy of friendship. Before social media, you’d just have email list discussions. My email friends from towns away would become real friends – they’d pick me up and take me bowling or to play pool or go see a punk band, sometimes against my parents’ wishes. I cobbled together a hodgepodge group of friends, and even boyfriends, based on my humor, and then my emerging outgoing personality. I was able to snag my husband based on my snarky online personality.

My deadpan delivery of often vulgar humor has followed me since then. Life’s been great sometimes, and shitty other times, but I have thankfully stayed humorous, to my knowledge, throughout it all. Postpartum depression flared up with my second kid, and at times I grasped for straws. Again, the internet was there to reassure me that I wasn’t a bad parent and I’d be okay and normal, and with the correct medication, I’ve been happy.

Making other people laugh makes me feel better on a daily basis. Sometimes I feel it’s the only thing I can do right, but my rational brain know that’s a lie. It’s an infinite feedback loop of the most positive sort – make people laugh, the part of your brain that seeks a rush like booze or drugs is satiated by the laughter, and you do it again, and again. You are funny because it is necessary to the core of your being.

I’m lucky. I’m lucky because I have had the chance to have such happy times, and some people don’t get that chance. I have a rational part of my brain that keeps me from getting too low without seeking help. I have self esteem now – perhaps too much. I learned to take selfies and learned to love what I saw.

Selfies all day long.

Selfies all day long.

And I’ve met great people, again partially because of the internet. While I’ve gone full townie here in Gloucester, that was absolutely exacerbated by social media. I added people on Facebook. We got along. We made plans more. I suddenly had a wonderful friend circle in Gloucester that works so well alongside my other great friends “down the line” and those I only see online who have moved to far-flung, foreign locales like Africa, Beirut or South Florida.

Lookit how happy my face is here I mean really.

Lookit how happy my face is here I mean really.

I feel the deepest, most painful sorrow in my heart that Robin Williams was so depressed that he took his own life. I have known how he felt, the feeling pressing on your chest like you are being suffocated with every moment you exist. The realization that you’ve got everything in life, but there is a part of your brain that is broken and you can’t enjoy it. The impulse to swandive off the Piatt, that you immediately quell, put away, take a deep breathe, and move past.

I am intensely lucky that antidepressants exist. I am still here, and I’ll always be here, to listen to music on the beach, to watch my kids beat each other senseless with pool noodles, to drink cider, to ride bikes with the backdrop of the Atlantic. In the darkest hours when those small fleeting moments of happiness seem so far away, I will cling to my beautiful friends like lifeboats in a storm. They will not tell me I am selfish. I have come far.

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  1. KT,
    Thank you for being willing to be honest and vulnerable. I liked you from that first kale plant and you know I love your snark, but I’m even more glad to call you a friend after reading this post. You say it well. Depression sucks but you don’t.

  2. Thank you for sharing so eloquently and honestly. I think that Robin’s last gift to us is opening the door wider to discussions about mental illness and suicide. This is a hard gift to receive because of the cost of it, but thank you also Robin Williams.

    • Well said Martha, I too hope that it will promote more openness and understanding about mental illness of all types, depression, and suicide. Victims often suffer in silence, and that’s sad, the stigma needs to be removed.

  3. Cheryl De Primio

    We knew you were funny, but now we know how brave and generous you are.

  4. KT, thanks for this absolutely beautiful diagram of depression. You show beautifully how and inexplicable sadness and huge talent (yours) are often parallel lines, never touching, always right there beside each other. We’re very lucky to have your brilliant voice in our community. Thanks.

  5. This is beautiful. Thank you.

  6. Your blog and writers are great because you say what no one else is saying. It is very funny and it is heartfelt. And thanks to you and Jim for your blogs about Robin and sharing the raw pain so many feel. How cruel that a man so loving and so loved took his own life.

    I also love the Good Morning Gloucester blog for other reasons. I feel so fortunate to live in Gloucester. Just moved here in April. Keep on keeping on.

  7. Thanks, KT.

  8. Thanks, KT. My 18yo daughter struggles with depression. She’s a great, funny, smart round peg of a kid who’s finding other round pegs on the internet. It makes me nervous, but that’s how we find our people now. So glad she’s getting support just like you have… reading how you’ve gotten through the bad times helps me feel more hopeful.

  9. Thank you for telling your story.

  10. Thanks so much KT for being honest and sharing your story, as I said before, I can relate to the battle with depression. I’m a survivor of childhood and domestic abuse.
    I tell everyone that Cape Ann has been my healing place. The past 3 1/2 years here have been the best yet!! I’ve followed my dream and started a business that is doing well, and growing. (That Nutty Redhead- Praline Gourmet Nuts)
    I count myself most fortunate, every day is a gift now. I hope that I can be an inspiration to others one day.
    I would love to meet you for coffee sometime. 🙂

    Lisa Griffiths

  11. You are the bravest woman I know. Thank you for sharing this really deep part of you. Xoxo

  12. I laughed so hard from the moment I started reading your blog that I wanted to write you right away to tell you how funny and remarkable you are. I procrastinated.
    But I cannot fail to respond to the bravery and generosity of this post. You do so much for all sufferers of depression when you come forward. Depressed people cannot “buck up” or pick themselves up by their bootstraps. They are not morally lacking. They are ill,and need help. A number of friends and relatives have suffered depression. I had two postpartum depressions, the second so much worse than the first.
    And I figure all the school bullies peaked at 13 …

  13. Thank you KT. I learned a very long time ago that I was different, that I had to put on my “normal” face everyday and then try not to let anything crack through. I still do that, it is a defense mechanism. Most people who see me every day and will say that they know me truly do not know this bat-shit crazy lady that still wears a mask.

  14. Thank you for sharing. Love all of your blogs and think you are super funny and cool. Your honesty (and Jim’s, loved his column the other day) is so refreshing and really does help people get it.

  15. I missed this post when it showed up. It’s deep and important and funny and right.
    My family has been affected with depression and the heartbreak that shows up with not being able to get help or face help. Community members without even knowing it have done incredible saving things for them!
    And the pictures you posted–Smiles on a face full of life. So good!

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