I am not a doctor, I’m not even a licensed therapist. I am a graduate student who will one day sit in an office and listen to others tell me their problems and demons. At this stage in my prelude to a career, I’m not claiming to know it all or have the answers to any burning questions out there, but I have a strong opinion on something profound and prevalent in today’s world and society.
There is a disorder out there that has been affecting our world for thousands of years. It’s delivered in many forms. It masks itself and tricks people into thinking lies are the truth and reality is darkness. It can stem off and cause new disorders and even diseases, or can even be brought on by other diseases and illnesses. It’s ugly and loud, and is most frightening because it doesn’t discriminate. It affects the rich, the poor and everyone in between, but for all of us “little” people out there, we see it on a grander scale among the lives o f celebrities. And since we have so much access to pieces of their lives, they are on display for all to judge, criticize and obsess over. That fact right there, contributes to and heightens the killer. Oh yea, did I mention it can kill? And get this, it’s invisible to the human eye. If that’s not scary, I don’t know what is.
There is not one person on this earth that doesn’t either know someone with it or is personally affected by depression. There are thousands, maybe millions who go undiagnosed, but everyone is affected. Everyone is susceptible and no one is safe. To act as if you’re in some way above depression, better than depression or don’t believe it exists, you’re sorely wrong. No one is above it, or better than it. Because no one gets to choose. To believe it doesn’t exist is ignorance.
Our brains are made up of chemicals, and we need just the right amount in order to avoid depression over all, but sometimes that doesn’t even save us. Sometimes we don’t have the right amount to keep us healthy, sometimes our bodies aren’t able to get the chemical(s) to our brain properly, and sometimes an event causes a shift or change in the balance of these chemicals. We can actively make an effort to ward it off, cope with it, or prevent it by doing physical activity and/or things that make us happy. As many who workout know, what a great feeling working out can give you. Partaking in things we are passionate about also gives us a great sense of accomplishment and can help with depression. But many are not so lucky.
For any of you who have children, or better yet, imagine yourself at the age of 6, if you can even remember that far back; were you as impressionable as my 6 year old is? My son is a sponge. He is at an age where he is learning about societal rules; the do’s and don’ts of the world. It’s very confusing for him. A lot of “why?” questions engross my time with him, which is okay, although, I am often sad at the answers I have for him. His guess is a better, more rational answer than I have for him. Why and how our world has become what it has, doesn’t feel good enough for him in my eyes. He deserves a better and deeper reasoning for why some things are the way they are. The fact that the reasons stem from hatred, racism, ignorance, etc., is confusing and even hurtful to a young boy his age. He has compassion for others and an innocence that keeps him searching for answers. His thoughts are not warped, jaded or complicated, yet. His thoughts are simple, which is how it should be. When, why and how did things get so complicated?
Imagine if I were to put him in an acting class at this age and let him learn not just about real world society, but about the “business” as so many like to call it. Imagine if my 6 year old son, or your 6 year old self was thrust into the business and now sitting in an acting class, being taught how to be someone he’s not and told that he has a gift, a talent. Imagine telling him that he needs to turn that talent on during an audition, then be judged during the audition and likely receive the gut wrenching, painful feeling of rejection. It hurts my heart to even imagine my son going through that. How would that child cope with the rejection? Because you know what? It’s not normal for a child to be judged like that and told they aren’t good enough at such a young age. And that doesn’t just apply to 6 year old kids, that’s all impressionable, young children. Even into adolescence, we are still trying to build our self worth. If all a child grows up on is what other people tell them they are worth, how do they cope? Were they taught coping skills for the rejection and “constructive” criticism? I doubt it.
As many young stars begin their rise in the business as children, why are we so surprised when they fall as young adults and into their later years? They are children. Young, innocent children who think they are making their parents and loved ones proud by doing something that they all want them to do. As much as we don’t always see or know it, children want to please others and they yearn for approval. So if the basis of their foundation is to please the parents, the agent, the manager and the bosses on set, what’s left for them? What continues to build them up as human beings and not just as dollar signs, in a business built to tear them down?
I was almost this girl. I wanted to be an actress at a young age more than anything in the world. I wouldn’t shut up about it. Finally, my mom got me an agent and I began acting classes. I remember sitting in a chair at the office of my management company and they were putting color palettes up to my face in order to tell me what colors I should or shouldn’t wear for head shots and auditions. My makeup and hair was done up. I didn’t even look like myself. I remember receiving my first taste of criticism when I overheard them give an overwhelming, in unison response to how I looked next to a pastel palette. The women’s voices got high and all I was hearing was, “oh no, pastels are not her colors. Don’t put her in anything with a pastel. She is much too fair.” And while that shouldn’t have felt like a critical statement, it did. I think I was around 7 years old and I wanted to crawl under a rock. I remember my cheeks getting hot and I felt like I did something wrong, all because I didn’t look good in pastels. The way they said it stuck with me all these years later. You can imagine how I look at a pastel anything these days without that thought running through my mind. Can you imagine if I had stayed in the business? After some acting classes and a few auditions, we received a call from my agent. My mom and dad had recently decided to divorce just before the phone call came, so when my mom hung up, she told me that I got the part in the commercial I went for, but that I couldn’t fulfill the commitment, because we were moving. And that we did. I remember crying and crying, begging her to let me do it. But it never happened. Some would say I dodged a bullet. And I probably did.
In my early 20’s after completing my general education in college, I decided I was going to move to L.A. to pursue an acting career. It was now or never and I chose to do it. I started making living arrangements and had set a tentative date to move, and then I met the love of my life. I hesitated, but knew I couldn’t live without him. I was going to marry this guy and have babies with him, was what I told myself. And I did. I feel like he saved me from another bullet. At 20 years old, I was still at an impressionable age and my naivety was seeping out of my pours. Hollywood and I weren’t meant to be. Looking at Hollywood today, I can’t imagine what I would have gone through and don’t know how much I would have even been able to endure.
So many of us watching Hollywood on the big screen want to judge all of these celebrities for abusing alcohol and drugs, for being reckless and selfish, and even taking their own lives. But I haven’t a clue on how I would have coped with the stress and pressure that was expected of me, let alone the competition. Who knows who I would have become. And that’s why we hear so much of the celebrity who overcame an addiction that they had early on in their career, or see the young stars falling like meteors, crashing and burning, killing opportunities and throwing potential away like yesterday’s trash. Hollywood isn’t made up of hundreds of addicts who had a genetic predisposition for all things reckless. The way in which Hollywood and the business raises children is unnatural. It’s harmful from the gate and there’s no way out of a mentality that’s been built on living to please others at any cost. A person has to recondition their brain. They have to put in work to learn self worth, self love and learn to leave all of the people, maybe even family members that surround them with anything less, behind. It’s the ugliest black hole and that’s why they say it will chew you up and spit you out. Only a few survive, and many of them didn’t start out as child actors. Think that’s a coincidence? Me either.
For some reason depression hasn’t been talked about much, it doesn’t seem to be taken as seriously as other illnesses. Do we as a society not understand that depression is as serious, heart breaking, painful and debilitating as any other disease? It can mentally and physically incapacitate a person and stop them right in their tracks. It’s not something to push to the side or take lightly, but we continue to do so. Are we in denial? Then we are so incredibly quick to judge and point fingers when the symptoms of a downward spiral gain momentum. We are ignoring what’s right in front of us. Mental illness affects everyone. It’s more common than any of us can fathom. So please, lets wake up! Lets start treating this illness with the severity it deserves. Lets stop treating others as if they should be ashamed or hide it. Alienation is one of the absolute worst treatments any one person can experience, especially a person with depression. In this society, we are taught to mask our problems and not let anyone know how we’re feeling. No one in Hollywood stops what their doing to go talk to a therapist about how their feeling on their path of rejection and exhaustion. No struggling actor has insurance or money to pay for that. So they smoke a few joints, take a few shots and pop a molly, creating and adding bigger problems for themselves, such as addiction. This isn’t just Hollywood, obviously. This is you and this is me. Everyday people who struggle with the stresses and pressures of every day life, of childhood memories, of rape, of domestic violence, and of genetics, etc. This list of trauma goes on and on. I felt compelled to use Hollywood, celebrities and fame as a prime example of why we see it in the forefront so often. It’s not an epidemic, it’s been around since the beginning of man kind. It’s been known by many other names, and today it’s known as depression.
The hardest part is taking the first step in getting help. Talking to a friend, a family member, or a therapist are just a few ways one can get help. It’s about reaching out and getting what is in your head, out of your head. You’re not alone. No one is alone. And we would all be more than surprised if we sat down with one another and had an honest conversation about feelings and emotions. We’re all made of the same flesh and bones. We all have hearts and we all experience pain. We can use each other as shoulders to cry on, and ears to listen. People who have learned to cope in healthy ways can share those tools with people who don’t have them. Help one another out and stop acting like this doesn’t exist.
Depression is treatable, no one has to suffer in silence. We need to make the acknowledgement that depression is real. Depression can feel like an endless abyss of darkness, you just need to reach out for help in order to turn the light on.
One glimmer of hope can save someone’s life.
Awareness is key.
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression or any other mental disorder, you can click the link below for help or call 1-888-771-5166.