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Giving Thoughts a Tangible Form

I was watching a TED talk given by Kevin Breel, a comedian. Interestingly, he talked about depression – his talk was ironically titled ‘Confessions of a Depressed Comic’. In it he spoke about how he has struggled with his ruminating thoughts and how he did his best to hide it from the outside world – essentially living two different lives.

He spoke of how he felt like there were two factors that reinforced this leading of dual lives – one was his internal feelings of shame about feeling depressed and occasionally suicidal; and the other was the stigma he perceived from others about speaking out and expressing his struggles.

The talk triggered a question – was this also a similar struggle comedian Robin Williams experienced? For those who are unaware, Robin Williams, an Oscar-winning actor, took his own life in 2014, amidst dealing with severe depression. The existence of these dual factors can explain why there still is a sense of ‘ssssshhhh’ amongst many in society.

A solitary figure, shoulders slouched, surrounded by muted tones and shadows, depicting the emotional weight and isolation associated with depression

Many of us lead different roles in our daily lives – we are workers, colleagues, leaders, followers, friends, siblings, parents, children, etc. A majority of these myriad of roles require that we present slightly different versions of our inner selves – quite rightly so, given different contexts and different expectation of responsibilities that each role requires. However, it is also easy to wear different masks to suit each environment to the point that perhaps nobody sees our inner selves except ourselves, when we are alone.

Do you find yourself doing that? Just peeling away all layers when you’re by yourself, maybe when in front of the television (or for those who don’t watch television anymore – the computer) when it’s time just for yourself – watching a movie, catching up on what’s new in the world of celebrities or pursuing your hobby – you realize that you’re not wearing a mask – you’re just you.

For some it’s an avenue which allows a great sense of relief. They enjoy that freedom on a regular basis, and find that it works for them. However, on occasions where there is something troubling or stressful pops up, it can very easily be expressed only at these isolated times – purely out of habit. And before one knows it, the quiet times gradually and insidiously morph into negative thoughts, ruminating into whirlpools of despair. With no exit strategy – except, apparently, one.

Here’s the ironic juxtaposition of this feeling – a staggeringly large number of people experience the same thing. Which means that one is not alone in feeling this intense, never-ending despair. And yet nobody readily talks about it!

And that is, perhaps, the crux of it all – if someone would just talk about it – give the intangible thoughts a tangible form of words, to help shape it and define its edges – allow it to stream and flow from the inside to the outside – just so that it stops taking up so much space in the head and the mind. See if the old adage ‘better out than in’ rings true for this.

Allow your masks to meld a little – speak out. Talk to someone. Be heard. Don’t suffer in isolation.

And for those who are curious, here’s the link to the TED talk:

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