The Hilarious World of Depression is a podcast in which public radio host John Moe interviews other comedians and humorists about their depression. Maybe not the most obvious correlation, but the more you pay attention to comedy, the more you’ll see mental health as a major theme. Comedian Maria Bamford has made her bi-polar and OCD disorders cornerstones of her comedy and new Netflix show Lady Dynamite. Watching her audience’s reactions to jokes about suicide and psychiatric wards, you get the feeling that there’s a release in there for everyone, and I get the same listening to the Hilarious World of Depression. As John Moe says it, laughter undermines the disease’s power a little.
And the more you pay attention to mental illness, the more you’ll see it. Everywhere, in everyone.
In a particular episode, John Moe starts sharing some of the commonalities he’s found in interviewing people about their depression, and one (actually a lot more) of them is mine.
Imagine a college student who’s told in her Freshman orientation by a kindly professor with a corduroy jacket and elbow patches that if she studies hard, she will succeed. We’re not talking Harvard here, just a state university like University of Arkansas, a place that reliably rewards the effort. The student does as the professor advised, more, in fact. She even makes sacrifices. Good for her. Four years later, the student walks the aisle and takes her diploma. Did she make magna cum laude? As she’s guided offstage, she opens her diploma. No Latin, or her accomplishments. Only the words, “Sorry. You’re dead.”
Is that a confusing example? Well, civilization is to blame.
When I developed technophobia, I was standing in line for The Genius Bar at humble Albuquerque’s Apple Store, our only nice thing. With my phone broken, I was left with no option but to stare off into space like a caveman. Every surface was a screen of some kind, and all were advertising same thing:
People of all shapes and colors wearing watches and looking the part of a successful modern human. Nice sweaters, yoga pants, coffee, blogs. The videos rifled through the watches’ features: texting, phone calls, step counting, and…? Heart rate monitoring. Just standing in line, watching young people in Lululemon sprinting and reading their watches was more than I could handle. Heart rates. Beats per minute. 150 beats per minute, sprinting up bleachers. That’s not fast enough. Not nearly fast enough.
Three waves rose on the horizon.