Depression and Comedy

sad pug
I thought about not publishing this post, but fuck it…a diary that leaves out the struggles is not a diary at all.

About a month ago, I slipped back into depression. I didn’t go on stage, started ignoring friends, and stopped working out. As many of you know, it’s not the first time (and probably not the last time) that I’ve struggled with depression.

As I slowly emerged out of my hole, my immediate instinct was to get back to work as feverishly as I could. However, I remembered something that stopped me in my tracks.

Pain is an Invitation

Horace Greasley

From Rodney Smith’s Stepping out of Self-Deception:

We would like to think that we could leave all the pain aside and go directly to the payoff of interconnectedness [butchered translation = happiness], but for most of us that is not the case….One of the hardest lessons on any spiritual path is to understand that interconnection comes from the wisdom discovered through exposure to our pain, not in turning away from it.

I realized that it wasn’t enough to have survived the relapse. I needed to do a post-mortem so that I could proactively manage my mood in the future.

Depression Diary

  1. When did it start?
    • October 1st
  2. What were the events that immediately preceeded?
    • Didn’t win the Tim Sim’s stand-up comedy competition
    • Being broke
    • Just For Laughs festival ending
  3. What did I do during the depression?
    • Sleep during the day
    • Eat junk food
  4. What didn’t I do?
    • Talk to close friends
    • Meditate
    • Exercise
  1. What got me out of it?
    • Reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series
    • Deadlines like having a comedy show to do and an upcoming performance on Rogers TV’s Can U Makem Laugh
    • Exercising
    • Eating Right
    • Listening to comedy podcasts
    • Improving physical appearance by getting a haircut and buying new clothes
    • Discovering new music via the Hed Kandi series
  2. What have I learned?
    • After setbacks, we need a plan to proactively get back into a good state. For example, if you bomb or get bad news, work out, buy clothes, meditate, get a haircut, look through hed kandi, etc. We also need to keep a growth mentality in mind (see Fixed vs. Growth Mindset research).
    • Deadlines are crucial; they force you to prepare for shows, get outside, and suck it up.
    • Money is an important factor. Make sure that you’re making money and have a steady stream of income
    • If depressed, take a look at the What Got Me Out Of It? list (#5), pick two actions, and do them right away.

Moving Forward

looking-forward

Will I feel depressed again? Sure. But now I think I have a model that I can use to change how I feel, rather than completely shutting down for almost a month.

On the bright side, there is one thing that I didn’t stop doing during my depressed state: writing. I had my dancehall bit in the back of my mind the entire time, and every now and then would come up with new jokes to strengthen the set.

Today, I start working on a five-minute version of the bit that I’m going to use for a taping of CUML (CanUMakemLaugh) for RogersTV on Tuesday.

We could all use some Hed Kandi every now and then,

Addendum: Handling Setbacks

Here’s some research I found via Quora about setbacks that I thought would add an interesting dimension to the challenge of handling setbacks effectively…could I be suffering from a fixed mindset?

Stanford Department of Psychology professor Carol Dweck has done extensive research on what she calls “mindsets” and there are two primary types:

  • Fixed mindset: people who believe abilities are innate. You are just talented in an area or you’re not.
  • Growth mindset: people who believe abilities are developed. You can learn and grow yourself.

People with a growth mindset are more resilient to challenges related to their abilities and performance than those with a fixed mindset.

It will come as no surprise that the mindsets lead to different ways of coping with difficulty. Because in the fixed mindset, setbacks are seen as indicating a lack of ability, this mindset often leaves people few good ways of reacting to setbacks.

When the going gets rough, people in the growth framework not only take charge of improving their skills, they take charge of their motivation as well (cf. Grant, 2004). Despite setbacks—or even because of them—they find ways to keep themselves committed and interested. Instead, students with a fixed framework lose interest as they lose confidence. As the difficulty mounts, their commitment and enjoyment go down. Since all important endeavors involve setbacks sooner or later (more likely, sooner and later), it is a serious liability to lose interest and enjoyment just when you need greater effort.

Putting it all together, this means that a fixed mindset leads people to value looking good over learning, to disdain and to fear effort, and to abandon effective strategies just when they need them most. A growth mindset, on the other hand, leads people to seek challenges and learning, to value effort, and to persist effectively in the face of obstacles.

About Michael Jagdeo

My name's Michael Jagdeo, and I refuse to write about myself in the third person. I'm a Comedian from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In addition to honing my stand-up comedy act, I maintain this blog and write the weekly comedy article for blogTO.com.
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6 Responses to Depression and Comedy

  1. Ah. I don’t think you read my nonsense, but I’ve been in the same space. I forced myself out of it by forcing myself to interact, and admit my bummed-out-ness, on the blogosphere. I won’t say I’m completely out of the hole (boy, that’s a word you don’t use lightly in Ireland. I’m sure you can imagine why), but I’m trying! Being broke SUCKS and everything you do reminds you of it, and makes depression worse and worse.

    Fortunately I don’t bother with haircuts and I fucking hate clothes shopping. Especially after comfort eating for while until I’m so fat my bras don’t fit. Be glad you don’t have to wear a goddamn bra. ‘Hmm, I’ve got boobs on top of my boobs, now I have to go and buy something armoured because I’m a fat cow.’ But honestly I don’t give a shit about being fat; I know with a certainly that if I do low-carb it goes away. Really. It does. And I still get to drink!

    I have ONE person I can bitch to, who can smile and nod and not give advice or try to fix things. She saves me just by letting me vent, helps immensely! Luckily I have a weekly phone call with her so I can’t hide when I want to, and oh, I want to sometimes.

    • Hey HTBS!

      You bring up a good point: those little hacks like shopping for clothes and getting a haircut might be like putting icing on a day-old cake; there’s still an underlying problem. In my analysis above, I haven’t mentioned how the setbacks are making me feel, and why they might be affecting me so much.

      To find out the root cause of a problem, the old head’s at Toyota used to ask why six times. I think I’ll try that:

      • Why did losing the stand-up competition make me feel sad? Because I felt like a failure and it made me doubt whether I’d ever have good material.
      • Why did you feel like you’d never have good material? Well, because I was in a crowd of older folk that was more representative of the crowds I’d see on tour and they didn’t laugh. I felt like I was constructing material that only appealed to younger crowds.
      • …etc.

      Shit, I still have four more why’s, but I like the direction that’s going in. Ok it looks like I have a lot of work to do, but I think starting the work is possible. Is the work psychological? Yes, but it’s also spiritual work. While doing that why exercise I felt a constriction in my breath, but I think that’s a good thing. That’s my ego hurting. Fuck off, ego; I have worlds to conquer.

      It’s great that you have someone that you can talk to that’ll get you into a better place. It’s also funny that we avoid the very things that will make us feel better during depression. Like, conceptually I know that working out will make me feel better, but when I feel sad…I just don’t wanna, you know? Having state-changers, as Anthony Robbins would call them, scheduled in such a way that you can’t avoid them, is a great way to get around your feelings so you can get at them, if that makes any sense.

      You’re a good friend, HTBS :)

      Jagdeo

  2. ‘Fuck off ego’ made me laugh :)

    You may not have won, but you went for it. I think that’s pretty impressive in and of itself. And you learned things, as you always do.
    Now, I’m not a deep thinker at all; I don’t try to expand my mind or improve myself or think about having a soul or even try to figure out what people mean by ‘spirituality’. I’m more likely to think a while about a Jack Handey ‘deep thoughts’ quip – because the funny in those is sometimes pretty interesting! “It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.” Loads to think about – or at least make interesting mental pictures – with that one. Maybe it’s because I like stories better than putzing around in my brain. Glad you had the King – I used the ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ that is also the TV show Game of Thrones (no, I haven’t seen any of it, I’m working my way through Voyager and The Walking Dead). Five books all over 900 pages! My kinda thing: but then i was PISSED when I found out the series isnt done.
    So, you go over my head sometimes, because I’m ducking.
    I think you’re on to something with the ‘why’ questions. Your second answer, at least, gives you a direction to go in. Either avoid the old farts or make a set for them.

    And, aww, thanks.

  3. Hey.

    Boo.

    Just making sure yer okay :)

    The proper response would be, ‘eek!’

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