Confessions of a Depressed Comic.

By Kevin BreelJuly 2, 2013

When Kevin Breel reached out to TWLOHA and shared a video of a talk he gave at a recent TED event, we were taken aback. Not just because Kevin is only 19 years old. Not just because he’s clearly a gifted writer and communicator (and a comedian, as well). No, we were most impressed because Kevin brought a stunning and refreshing honesty to the issue of depression. He brought new and life-giving language to topics we discuss every day.

In the span of 11 minutes, Kevin’s TED talk introduces his own struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, discusses the often overlooked reality of mental health stigma, and offers hope for a world where “embracing your light doesn’t mean ignoring your dark.” It’s one of the most compelling and encouraging talks we’ve heard about depression, and we are honored to be able to share it with you today. Please, please watch the video above, and you can also read an excerpt from Kevin’s speech below.


… My story is this, in four simple words: I suffer from depression. I suffer from depression. And for a long time, I think, I was living two totally different lives, where one person was always afraid of the other. I was afraid that people would see me for who I really was. That I wasn’t the perfect, popular kid in high school who everyone thought I was. That beneath my smile there was struggle, and beneath my light there was dark, and beneath my big personality just hid even bigger pain.

See, some people might fear girls not liking them back. Some people might fear sharks. Some people might fear death. But for me, for a large part of my life, I feared myself. I feared my truth, I feared my honesty, I feared my vulnerability. And that fear made me feel like I was forced into a corner, and there was only one way out.

And so I thought about that way every single day. I thought about it every single day. And if I’m being totally honest standing here, I’ve thought about it again since because that’s the sickness, that’s the struggle. That’s depression, and depression isn’t chicken pox; you don’t beat it once and it’s gone forever. It’s something you live with. It’s something you live in. It’s the roommate you can’t kick out, it’s the voice you can’t ignore, it’s the feelings you can’t seem to escape, and the scariest part is that after a while, you become numb to it. It becomes normal for you. 

And what you really fear the most isn’t the suffering inside of you, it’s the stigma inside of others. It’s the shame, it’s the embarrassment, it’s the disapproving look on a friend’s face, it’s the whispers in the hallway that you’re weak, it’s the comments that you’re crazy. That’s what keeps you from getting help. 

That’s what makes you hold it in and hide it. It’s the stigma. So you hold it in and you hide it. And you hold it in and you hide it. And even though it’s keeping you in bed every day and it’s making your life feel empty, no matter how much you try and fill it, you hide it—because the stigma in our society around depression is very real, it’s very real. And if you think that it isn’t, ask yourself this: would you rather make your next Facebook status say you’re having a tough time getting out of bed because you hurt your back, or are you having a tough time getting out of bed every morning because you’re depressed? 

That’s the stigma, because, unfortunately, we live in a world where if you break your arm, everyone runs over to sign your cast, but if you tell people you’re depressed, everyone runs the other way. That’s the stigma. We are so, so, so accepting of any body part breaking down, other than our brains. And that’s ignorance. That’s pure ignorance. And that ignorance has created a world that doesn’t understand depression, that doesn’t understand mental health. And that’s ironic to me because depression is one of the best-documented problems we have in the world, yet it’s one of the least discussed.

We just push it aside, and put it in a corner, and pretend it’s not there, and hope it’ll fix itself. Well, it won’t. It hasn’t, and it’s not going to, because that’s wishful thinking. And wishful thinking isn’t a game plan; it’s procrastination, and we can’t procrastinate on something this important.

The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one, but we haven’t done that. So we can’t really expect to find an answer when we’re still afraid of the question. And I don’t know what the solution is—I wish I did, but I don’t—but I think it has to start here. It has to start with me, it has to start with you, it has to start with the people who are suffering—the ones who are hidden in the shadows. We need to speak up and shatter the silence. We need to be the ones who are brave for what we believe in. …

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Comments (22)

  1. Anonymous

    So raw and beautiful. I am 19 as well and wish to have the beautiful way of expressing myself.

    Reply  |  
  2. Anonymous

    A brave and touching story. But, I really prefer clinical depression to real depression. People can and do get depressed, but to be continously depressed is clinical depression. I don’t like the idea that only clinical depression is “real”.

    Reply  |  
  3. Anonymous

    I can relate to this guy a lot. He’s also very well-spoken and got his message across very clearly, something I probably would not be able to do.

    Reply  |  
  4. Anonymous

    I am 46 and have depression and an anxiety disorder. If you met me you’d think what a happy woman and I am….. But the black is always there.. Always but I have a great psych and support. You’d be surprised how far you can go with help. I work, am married and have an autistic child. I have self harmed. I have tried to commit suicide, because, just as you say I felt worthless- hold on, please please – we need you x

    Reply  |  
  5. Anonymous

    Beautifully written…. Thank you for sharing this. I can relate to every word. I am the procrastinator. I take my meds but never find time to go to therapy. Depression is a terrible thing to live with. Everyone should watch this video. I am showing it to my husband for him to understand me better.

    Reply  |  
  6. Caitlin

    I truly live this, after battling the monsters from my childhood it left me reeling, and I still battle everything, the raw feeling of being misunderstood always keeps me from breaking out. After a recent bout of self harm that my family discovered, I was sent to therapy for anger, depression, and an eating disorder. And from me to everyone, get help. It is wonderful to be understood, for someone to help you understand what you are and reassure you it’s not the only way to live. Be strong everyone!

    Reply  |  
  7. Carolina

    ‘I heard a joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor… I am Pagliacci.” Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.’
    Truly inspiring.

    Reply  |  
  8. Maria

    He’s spot on. Depression by nature, is fear. Fear of yourself, fear of pain, fear of reality. It’s that boulder on your back you feel and no one can see. “The soul knows exactly what it needs to heal itself, the challenge is to silence the mind.” Stay strong. Each and every one of you. You’re loved and thought about. You keep me going and I don’t even know you. xo

    Reply  |  
  9. Tessa

    I am 19 and suffer from depression also. I understand the stigma all too well, not only surrounding depression but Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Tourette’s, too, which I struggle with. The societal stigma makes self-acceptance even more difficult than depression alone, so I completely agree that the stigma needs to be removed. Really honest and powerful message, Kevin. Thank you for being a voice for those who suffer.

    Reply  |  
    1. Jeanette Carter

      Tessa, I am a 55-year-old woman who also has these 3 conditions, along with anxiety. Would love to talk to you. Email: [email protected]
      Thanks, Jeanette

      Reply  |  
  10. Anonymous

    Kevin, thank you for your honesty and courage. It has helped me. Tim

    Reply  |  
  11. Azulum

    After very nearly heaving myself from a platform — it probably wouldn’t have killed me, but the desire to leap to my own demise was very palpable, broken only by the fact that I couldn’t disconnect my lanyard — I came up with a funny, if you will, about depression, so funny it makes me want to cry:

    Why do few depressives ever recover after hitting rock bottom?
    Terminal velocity.

    But in all seriousness, I have reason to believe that wishful thinking is exactly what would cure depression, because that’s where hope lies. The problem is that intelligence and empathy also seems to correlate with depression unaffected by placebos and other medications — as if the mind is hindering the body’s natural responses to protracted sadness and daily malaise — preventing the activation of whatever parts of the brain calm our existential plight. And yet depression and related mental illness, while terrible for the individual, is no doubt a windfall for the rest of humanity, because they do great things.

    Indeed, the only way I’ve found to cope is through curiosity, continual learning, and to just keep going, to make amazing but wholly unfulfilling things that can make the lives of everyone better off. But damn if those concrete embankments don’t look like the best kind of medicine at 70 miles an hour — or 120, just to be sure.

    Reply  |  
  12. Laura

    Thank u so so much for sharing this with us.

    Reply  |  
  13. Em

    Thank you for sharing this. It so truthfully describes things in ways that I feel but have never been able to eloquently express.

    Reply  |  
  14. Dana

    Thank you very much. You gracefully put into words everything i am feeling about myself and the society. Thank you. You’ve inspired me sir.

    Reply  |  
  15. Andrew

    I didn’t even know what depression was in “High”school. I wish that there was help and that there wasn’t so much pressure in this world to BE someone/thing. It was the anxiety and stress at home that started the brain trauma. I wonder how people make it through wars. Godbless you Kevin. It’s 52 years on this planet and the depression hasn’t gone away. Just look at the people on the streets – COLD and Wet. ;(

    Reply  |  
  16. hey_rachel

    Thank you for this beautiful, touching, and absolutely inspiring video. As someone who suffers from Clinical Depression and who has struggled with suicidal thoughts and self-harm, I am so grateful that other people are standing up and being advocates for us. I’m so grateful that people are working hard to stomp out the stigmas that come with Depression and other mental illnesses. Keep up the amazing work and let’s toast to more progress being made regarding this. Let’s keep working towards a world where people who struggle with Depression won’t be judged by others, but will instead be able to receive the help they so desperately need.

    Reply  |  
  17. enteringtheboundaryofdepression

    True friends will help you overcome depression but then again it’s actually really up to your own desire to elevate the darkness and gradually embrace a bit of light. Because if you think of it, Almost each of us struggle in our own way that other people don’t know, it’s just that some people are good in coping and hiding than others. But then of course Im not dismissing the fact that there are just ignorant and stupid people who can’t comprehend.

    Reply  |  
  18. Swf

    I’ve struggled with this for 52 years. I’m so tired of it . . . .

    Reply  |  
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