This is the full transcript of comedian Kevin Breel’s TEDx Talk titled ‘Confessions of a Depressed Comic’ at TEDxKids@Ambleside event.
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Kevin Breel – Comedian, activist
For a long time in my life, I felt like I’d been living two different lives. There’s the life that everyone sees, and then there’s the life that only I see. And in the life that everyone sees, who I am is a friend, a son, a brother, a stand-up comedian and a teenager. That’s the life everyone sees. If you were to ask my friends and family to describe me, that’s what they would tell you. And that’s a huge part of me. That is who I am.
And if you were to ask me to describe myself, I’d probably say some of those same things. And I wouldn’t be lying, but I wouldn’t totally be telling you the truth, either, because the truth is, that’s just the life everyone else sees. In the life that only I see, who I am, who I really am, is someone who struggles intensely with depression. I have for the last six years of my life, and I continue to every day.
Now, for someone who has never experienced depression or doesn’t really know what that means, that might surprise them to hear, because there’s this pretty popular misconception that depression is just being sad when something in your life goes wrong, when you break up with your girlfriend, when you lose a loved one, when you don’t get the job you wanted. But that’s sadness. That’s a natural thing. That’s a natural human emotion.
Real depression isn’t being sad when something in your life goes wrong. Real depression is being sad when everything in your life is going right. That’s real depression, and that’s what I suffer from. And to be totally honest, that’s hard for me to stand up here and say. It’s hard for me to talk about, and it seems to be hard for everyone to talk about, so much so that no one’s talking about it. And no one’s talking about depression, but we need to be, because right now it’s a massive problem. It’s a massive problem. But we don’t see it on social media, right? We don’t see it on Facebook. We don’t see it on Twitter. We don’t see it on the news, because it’s not happy, it’s not fun, it’s not light. And so because we don’t see it, we don’t see the severity of it.
But the severity of it and the seriousness of it is this: every 30 seconds, every 30 seconds, somewhere, someone in the world takes their own life because of depression, and it might be two blocks away, it might be two countries away, it might be two continents away, but it’s happening, and it’s happening every single day. And we have a tendency, as a society, to look at that and go, “So what?” So what? We look at that, and we go, “That’s your problem. That’s their problem.” We say we’re sad and we say we’re sorry, but we also say, “So what?”
Well, two years ago it was my problem, because I sat on the edge of my bed where I’d sat a million times before and I was suicidal. I was suicidal, and if you were to look at my life on the surface, you wouldn’t see a kid who was suicidal. You’d see a kid who was the captain of his basketball team, the drama and theater student of the year, the English student of the year, someone who was consistently on the honor roll and consistently at every party. So you would say I wasn’t depressed, you would say I wasn’t suicidal, but you would be wrong. You would be wrong. So I sat there that night beside a bottle of pills with a pen and paper in my hand and I thought about taking my own life and I came this close to doing it. I came this close to doing it.
And I didn’t, so that makes me one of the lucky ones, one of the people who gets to step out on the ledge and look down but not jump, one of the lucky ones who survives. Well, I survived, and that just leaves me with my story, and 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 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, like I was forced into a corner and there was only one way out, and so I thought about that way every single day.