Starting The Conversation (Comedian Frank King)
A stand-up comedian
and former writer for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
discusses depression with perspective, candor and humor.
What’s funny about depression? Nothing!
But people with depression can be funny,
because depression is just one of many aspect of our selves.
Support From People Who Truly Understand
You can’t help but admire people who have been through hell
carrying buckets of water for those still consumed by the fire.
That thought came to mind as I watched members of the Giving Voice to Depression Facebook community page rally to support three members who recently suffered heartbreaking events. One just lost her husband to a heart attack, the son of another attempted suicide and is hospitalized, and the only child and only brother of a third were both murdered this month.
Of course a loss does not have to be recent to be painful. And no doubt many other members are dealing with their own struggles– on top of depression.
AND YET… in less than 24 hours, more than 300* people posted hearts and supportive comments, promises of prayers, and reassurance that dark time at least lighten if not pass. When was the last time 300 people rallied to support you during a loss? I’m guessing never if you’re anything like me.
But that’s what we can all do for each other. No matter where in the world we might be, no matter where we stand on any political issue, no matter what holiday we are celebrating this time of year, we all understand pain and loss and loneliness and fear. And we all want to know that someone is out there. Someone who understands. Someone who has been there, or close enough to “there,” to have some credibility when they offer hope and reassurance.
This last year, since starting the Giving Voice to Depression project, has not been without low points. There are times we wonder if it is “worth” the full-time effort it entails. Today we are not wondering.
Blessings to you all. May 2018 be a year of light, and support and mental health. May you know in your heart that we are all in this boat together. And that we will not let it sink.
Happy New Year. And thank you for being here. And for being you.
Terry, Bridget, and the entire Giving Voice to Depression Board/team.
(*Day 2 update, the number is now 400)
Taking Giving Voice to Depression’s message to the airwaves
(click on link above, and then click a 2nd time when the new window opens to hear the interview that aired.)
Terry McGuire is a former TV news reporter and anchor, and she has worked as a voice talent since leaving the local news business. Her sister, Bridget, is a massage therapist based in Washington state, and they are both certified in Mental Health First Aid.
While they are not counselors or mental health professionals, they have a personal connection to the disease.
They both have depression, and they’re not ashamed to talk about it.
Reaching a larger audience
Tapping into her media background, McGuire launched an online podcast earlier this year called
Giving Voice to Depression, co-hosted by her sister.
Instead of formal training, they share their firsthand experiences living with depression. Their own struggles, McGuire says, gives them valuable insight into the disease and allows them to connect with others dealing with it.
They produce at least one episode weekly, bringing in a variety of guests — both everyday people and professionals — to discuss various aspects of depression.
Each episode features a personal story, showing the human side of the illness, McGuire says.
In its eight month run, the sister duo has produced about 40 short-form podcasts, and racked up thousands of listeners and streaming sessions.
And recently, the podcast received funding from the Charles E. Kubly Foundation allowing them to produce another season.
The podcast is connected to McGuire’s nonprofit, Giving Voice to Mental Illness.
Eventually the sisters hope to expand the podcast to cover more mental health topics like anxiety and bipolar disorder.
Want a Peek Behind the Mask? Ask a Different Question
Life continues to teach me that you only get the answers to the questions you ask. I’ve learned that lesson that in familiar ways, like raising teens. I’ve learned it as a news reporter and interviewer. And I’ve learned it in a deeply-painful way, married to man who kept many secrets.
You can be a breath away from truth, from deeper understanding or a major shift — but you never think of, or voice That One Question.
And you move on making judgments and reaching conclusions based on the information you’ve gathered, blissfully unaware that it is limited. Very. Always.
I was reminded of that lesson recently as read one of those self-administered depression diagnostic tests. As I glanced over the questions I came across the critical one, the question I was trained to ask when I volunteered at a crisis hotline: Are you suicidal? And I immediately answered it in my head the way I always have; No. No, I am not suicidal. And even when discussing the issue with trained professionals, that 2-letter answer pretty much ends the discussion. That box is checked. Liability is limited. Next question, please.
But if you want a revealing peak behind the mask of someone who hides depression, try asking it another way.
Ask your friend or relative or client or self: “Do you find yourself thinking of death as a welcome relief?” It’s a very different question which for me, and I suspect many others with depression, has a very different answer.
I first remember thinking I wouldn’t mind dying (painlessly and in my sleep, of course) in high school. Those are tough years for lots of people, and they certainly were for me. While my friends with (what looked like) more-normal, secure and carefree lives skied and partied and vacationed, I was wearing a full-body brace, working several jobs to pay for school and navigating a volatile home environment, all while pretending everything was well, as was clearly expected of me.
Adult life has brought its own painful challenges, as it tends to. I’ll spare you the gory details. But due to environmental, biochemical, hormonal and/or hereditary reason(s), my brain can grab hold of the negative emotion I am feeling (betrayal, grief, fear, etc.) and blow on it like an ember until a full fire rages, convincing me that death would be far easier than soldiering through more, seemingly-unending pain. I know it’s not a popular or a comfortable thing to say or even read, but I would bet the ranch that other people who house the uninvited guest-that-is-depression know exactly what I mean.
Don’t get me wrong, I have experienced extreme joy, deep love and a true sense of purpose in my life, too. My children alone make every breath work taking. It is absolutely not by choice that I have such dark thoughts! You see, in addition to being prone to depression, I am an optimistic, easy-going, loving, funny, independent, resourcesful, creative, intelligent woman with a big heart and easy laugh. That is how people know me. And it is also a primary reason why I have gotten so little support through The Dark Times.
Now, I feel I must repeat; I do not, nor have I ever planned or even seriously contemplated taking my own life. But. If a life-switch existed that allowed me to walk over and flip it to “off” with the assurance that the people I love the most in the world would be in no way negatively affected, I’d have done it. No doubt.
And that is why, if you are trying to diagnose an immediate threat of suicide, by all means ask the questions on the questionnaire. Be blunt and ask if someone has a plan and the means. I posed those very questions more than a few times to callers on the hotline. But if your intent is to start a conversation that will give you behind-the-mask access, and a real chance of understanding what someone is struggling with, try asking that question instead. If they’re willing to share, it could help them lighten an unbearable load, while giving you valuable, hidden information that would help you better diagnose, support and understand a person who desperately needs and wants to feel understood and supported.
Terry is the founder and president of Giving Voice to Mental Illness, Inc. a 501(c)(3)which produces the Giving Voice to Depression podcast. She and her sister Bridget, who both live with depression, are the co-hosts.