A Young Comic Shares His Struggle With Depression
In 2013, Canadian teen Kevin Breel gave the TED Talk “Confessions of a Depressed Comic,” in which he talked about how his outward life as an athletic, honor-roll kid concealed a years-long struggle with depression that culminated in a suicide attempt. The talk went viral, receiving over 2 million views.
Kevin, now 21, has written a book, “Boy Meets Depression: Or Life Sucks and Then You Live.” He speaks with Here & Now host Meghna Chakrabarti.
Book Excerpt: ‘Boy Meets Depression’
By Kevin Breel
I was sixteen years old and I hated myself. I hated my face: the way it was long and angular and how my nose was so pointy, it was almost sharp. I hated that my ears were two different sizes, hated it so much that I would never bring it up to anyone, not even as a joke, because then I would have to wonder every time they looked at me if they were thinking about my ears. And even if they weren’t thinking about my ears, I would be, because I hated them. So I hated myself, and the way that I hid it was through what looked like devastating and radical self acceptance. I made sure everyone else thought I was in love with myself, almost to the point of narcissism, so that they wouldn’t think I wasn’t normal or something equally awful. I kept my deep self- loathing buried well beneath the layer I let everyone look at. I made sure it stayed that way, as if it was my own personal, wonderful secret that was so good I wouldn’t dare spoil it by offering it up to the masses.
I was secretly spiteful about who and what I was and yet I projected the exact opposite. I was something of a big ball of hypocrisy, waiting to be sliced open and exposed for my own fallacies and fears. Everything about me drove me nuts. The way my voice sounded when I sang along to my favorite songs. How when I looked at myself in the mirror without a shirt on, I could see my three lower ribs poking out, as if to say, “Hey, you’re still just a skinny piece of shit!” I hated the way my body occasionally bore dark freckles, similar to the ones trademarked by my father. I hated how my wrists were still as skinny as a child’s, and how my thighs were barely thicker than my shoulders. Mostly, I hated how I had to keep on trying to pretend I didn’t hate myself.
I had nothing interesting inside of me— not a story, thought, or feeling. The most exciting part about me was my pursuit of deception, every day a new battle in trying to make others believe things about me that I did not believe about myself. It was both disgusting and deeply empty. I was in a well of self- loathing, swimming in personal pity, drowning in pain. My clothes were stupid and I would never invite anyone to my house because, much like my character, it looked much better from the outside than it did on the inside. I was living a life that was both lonely and lackluster, and each day that passed by, I lost more and more of the willpower required to do anything about it.
There are a handful of questions you might find yourself with the urge to ask at some point in your life. And sometimes asking these questions will lead somewhere good. Other times the questions will be met with silence. Some of these questions will be small. Like, why does daylight savings happen? […] But it’s the bigger questions—the ones that bounce back and forth in your mind all day, the ones you desperately want to understand—that tend to have the fewest answers.
It was fall of my senior year when I got stuck inside some really bizarre questions. I finally, at least in my own mind, had a leg out the door of my awkwardness. I could see the light at the end of the adolescent tunnel and I felt almost grown up, eager to become an adult. I was fresh, encouraged, and ready to tackle the tough ideas of the universe. Or, more accurately, I thought I was. It started out small: I picked up a few books in a decaying old coffee shop near downtown. The coffee beans smelled like they had been overcooked and the windows were always so steamed up you could see neither in nor out. The same people seemed to rotate in and out of there every single day, an eccentric collection of individuals. But, despite the almost offensive odors and strange social scene, the place always had good books in the back. Most of them were spiritually driven ones, exploring ideas like God or religion or existentialism. I devoured all of them, seemingly unable to digest the information fast enough. I really thought I was becoming a deep thinker. My friend Tony used to say that “sometimes, the problem with going deep is you don’t realize you’re a few feet away from going off the deep end.” I used to wonder what that meant, but that was long before any of this happened.
Excerpted from the book BOY MEETS DEPRESSION by Kevin Breel. Copyright 2015 by Kevin Breel. Reprinted with permission of Harmony, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.
- Kevin Breel, writer, comedian, activist and author of “Boy Meets Depression: Or Life Sucks and Then You Live.” He tweets @KevinBreel.
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