The stand-up comic and author of Depression: The Comedy puts a humorous spin on her two-year depression to ease others into discussing mental health.
Stand-up comic Jessica Holmes has opened for the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, and Oprah, and was a frequent presence on Canadian TV. The mother of two experienced depression after her second pregnancy, and then a later, long-lasting episode that gave birth to both her memoir Depression: The Comedy and a new direction as a motivational speaker.
You’re an introvert in a career that demands you interact and be “on.” How does that work?
I have always found that when the adrenaline kicks in, I respond to the audience’s energy and I’m able to channel the necessary chutzpah for a great show. Then I make sure the schedule is empty for the next day or two. I have some “me time” until I’m ready to give my heart away again.
What was your experience with peripartum depression after your son was born?
Postnatal depression for me was high anxiety, feeling like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. “I can’t possibly take care of these kids, is there any way we can return them and they can find a better mother?” I could feel the anxiety was physical, that it was triggered by something in my brain. “This doesn’t feel like me, and it’s not the kind of person I am.”
What was different about your depressive episode a few years later?
The [subsequent] depression was marked mainly by bursts of anger and feelings of such low self-worth that I would feel like, “People are sitting around thinking about what a failure I am. I don’t have enough people who love me. I’m unlovable.” It got very dark.
I had energy for my kids for a few hours a day, and if someone was going to help pay my mortgage I would show up for an hour or two [to perform]. But other than that you could not pry me off the sofa. It was like trying to lift up a sleeping cat—more like 100 sleeping cats.
How do you handle regret over that inability to be a fully present parent?
That’s a tough one, but I’ve seen that my kids are resilient and thriving. I’ve also apologized to them to the point where they’re like, “Enough, Mom, move on! We’re awesome!” That’s all that I can do, apologize and make up for lost time.
You sought treatment quickly the first time. Why wait two years during the next episode?
I think with the postpartum depression, I worried it was going to affect the safety and well-being of my kids. With the other depression, it felt like I was the only one getting hurt, and so I was less prone to take action.… I have had to learn the lesson, and I remind myself of this constantly, to love myself like I was my own kid.
Wasn’t it pretty obvious something was wrong, though?
My husband would say to me, “Something’s not right.” I just kept saying, “You don’t know what it’s like to have the pressure of being a performer and crash for a couple of days after a show. This is normal.” I was trying to convince myself and him that it wasn’t depression.
I felt like as a capable, independent person, I shouldn’t need to rely on other people. I wouldn’t seek help for this place I was stuck in. I kept thinking, “I’m smart, I can figure it out,” or, “This is one bad day, I’ll get out of this tomorrow.” My husband is the best listener and I never opened up to him because I felt it would be admitting weakness, that I’m not Wonder Woman, just a sad lady who’s still in her pj’s at 3 p.m.
Is there an irony in writing a humorous book about depression?
I do these keynotes where I talk about mental health and I do it in a very funny way. There are always a few vulnerable folks who come up after the show and want to talk. I wanted a book I could hand to them, very accessible, very light, where they could see themselves and know they’re not alone.
I felt that if I can make people laugh, they can learn about mental health where normally they might say, “Ugh, depression. I’m already sad, I don’t want to read a sad book.” And I threw some pictures in, too, just for those of us with very short attention spans.
Being humorous about your depression seems to work for you, too.
For me, the darkest part of depression is (a) how did it affect my kids? and (b) am I going to be depressed again? So if I can describe depression as a cold sore—it might come back, you never know—that levity gives me a feeling of more control.
So what helps you stave off a relapse?
I had read the autobiography of [prominent Canadian] Margaret Trudeau and she talked about how she found a good medication, so I thought, “Oh, maybe I’ll give it a whirl.” … I wanted it to be a fix-all, and it wasn’t. So then I used the antidepressants and talk therapy and lifestyle changes, and all of those things together have made me a healthy person.… It definitely takes more than a pill to make a lasting change.
What’s an example of a change you’ve made?
Here’s one simple paradigm shift: Instead of looking at, “Am I keeping up with my [comedy] peers?” I look at, “What’s the best part of me I can offer today?” Suddenly I don’t care as much about how I measure up to other people.
What makes me feel successful now is focusing on small, sustainable choices that I make every day. Choices about working on relationships, choices about not being a couch potato, choices about picking up the phone instead of just texting. I’m not chasing some grand success that’s going to make me feel like a failure if I don’t get it.
Are you better about asking for and accepting support?
I have a wonderful group of friends that give me support and understanding, and I told my husband and my mom, “Hey, here’s a little checklist. If you see me veer off into any of these things, you need to have a serious intervention.” I’m not ready to be depressed a third time, thanks!
Printed as “Back Chat: Jessica Holmes,” Fall 2019
The post Jessica Holmes Brings Humor to Depression Treatment appeared first on hopetocope.com | Hope To Cope With Anxiety & Depression.
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