Anti-Depressants and Comedy

serotoninBy the time you read this, I am currently in Colorado Springs for a seminar for my day job. As I write this, I’m on day four of sporadic anxiety attacks. My relationship with planes is not great. I’ve always hated heights, planes love heights, therefore that mathematical equation equals out to “I hate planes.”

My survival instincts are on overdrive, before anything actually happens. My heart beats faster, my muscles tense, my stomach sours. I am on the edge of tears because the fear is real and irrational and my body doesn't know what to do.

Then I took a Klonopin, and everything seemed to calm down within 30 minutes of taking it.

Look, there is still a stigma against taking medication for depression and anxiety. As if to say, "Tough it out! Those are your human instincts kicking in! Don't make a big deal out of everything." Even comic Christopher Titus had a comedy special a while back that discussed the amount of prescription drugs being handed out willy-nilly, participation trophies, etc. And there are comedians known for abandoning prescription drugs for meditation, mindful practices, yoga, etc.

Here's the thing: Not everybody needs anti-depressants. But telling a severely anxious or depressive person to find her inner strength to overcome it is akin to sending a serf out to go talk to Khaleesi's Dragons without armor or pants on. Hyperbole? Absolutely, I'm an irrational person. Side note, I don't watch Game of Thrones because that show gives me anxiety.

As I've mentioned before on this blog, I use medication to stabilize the rampant nature of my depression and anxiety, and counseling to gain an unbiased perspective on my world. It's not an either/or thing for me. There was a long time when I focused on only counseling, fearing the side effects of antidepressants. Especially since performing comedy and theatre were so important to who I was, I was afraid my talents and my emotional availability would be dampened. You can't initiate a character or emotion if you can't hit your highest highs or lowest lows.

Finally, my depression got so bad that there wasn't really another option for me. So I started on a medicine regimen. Soon, everything leveled out. More importantly, I could still feel within my full emotional spectrum. I could perform and notice when I had a good night rather than dread how I ruined an evening with a single unfunny bit, or that my anxiety did not prevent me from going back out there after an unfunny bit.

Asking for help is the best thing I've done for myself as a performer. The combination of anti-depressants and a counselor helps my future as a mentally healthy being without ruining my improvisational mojo.

Mind you, there are other things to deal with as well—remembering to refill my prescription, trying not to die at the intersection where my pharmacy is, and other logistical issues. Then there's the other problem of your medicine's effects lessening, meaning upping your dosage or switching brands. Never mind the fact that my memory is shoddy and I can't remember whether or not I actually took my medicine. (Thank you, existence of pillboxes.)

Does the medicine eliminate depression or anxiety? Not entirely, but it lessens the everyday ordeal it has been in the past. I'm a better writer, performer, and general human for admitting that I am a flawed human being. Training wheels on the bicycle of life are perfectly acceptable.

KC Ryan is currently a Level 5 student at DCH. An office worker by day, she spends her nights writing, improvising, recording podcasts, and having existential crises. She’s a co-host of Parsec Award-nominated podcast Anomaly Supplemental about general sci-fi and fantasy topics. Her greatest achievement so far is convincing her husband to watch Project Runway.