Allie Brosh's battle with depression - and why it should matter to you
If you’ve never heard of Allie Brosh, I feel kind of sorry for you, because she is maybe one of the funniest people on the entire internet. I discovered her webcomic/blog, Hyperbole and a Half, a couple years ago during final exams week when I was in college. Needless to say, I didn’t get a whole lot of work done that week. Unless you count laughter as work, that is.
Her blog documents her life in crudely-drawn MS Paint cartoons, with topics ranging from grammar (“a lot” is two words, people):
I don’t think I’ve ever seen my boyfriend laugh as hard as he did when I showed him Allie’s post about her “simple dog” getting lost and forgetting who she was:
I laughed until tears streamed down my face when I read of her childhood attempt to go to a friend’s birthday party immediately after dental surgery, while still heavily sedated:
…I’m doing a horrible job of doing justice to Hyperbole and A Half. Basically, what I want you to get from the previous paragraph is that Allie Brosh is absolutely hilarious. And that’s why her most recent entry, posted in October after a 5-month hiatus, came as such a shock.
The title of that post is “Adventures in Depression.”
As you might expect, the post deals with her battle against depression. “Some people have a legitimate reason to feel depressed, but not me,” she wrote. “I just woke up one day feeling sad and helpless for absolutely no reason.”
She tells her story with characteristic honesty and self-deprecation, and though there are laugh-out-loud moments, a somber seriousness permeates the post as the extent of her depression becomes clear.
After that post, she has been largely absent from the online world. She resurfaced a few days ago on Reddit, the social media site that brought her fame, when someone expressed concern. She’s doing a bit better and is seeking professional help.
“I have since sought the help of several such individuals, and they unanimously agreed that I am horribly, horribly depressed and should absolutely not keep being that way. To that end, I have started taking an antidepressant and talking about my feelings a lot,” she wrote in response to the outpouring of concern from Reddit users.
So why does this matter?
Allie’s “Adventures in Depression” were heralded as brave, because, let’s face it – there is still a pretty serious stigma against depression out there. Sufferers of depression are often stereotyped as lazy or whiny; “Why can’t they just make themselves feel better?” But as Allie pointed out in her original post: “Trying to use willpower to overcome the apathetic sort of sadness that accompanies depression is like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back. A fundamental component of the plan is missing and it isn't going to work.”
Her post is also important because – well, who would have ever expected Allie Brosh, of all people, to suffer so greatly from depression? This is a woman who was recently engaged, who just got a book deal, and who is pretty much universally loved by the internet – a rare feat, to say the least. She’s beautiful and witty and successful and beloved.
All of this goes to show – depression can affect anyone.
I am all too painfully aware of where this disease can lead; one of my boyfriend’s friends passed away a few months ago after a long and hard struggle. Isn’t it all too easy to default to the stereotypes I mentioned earlier when talking about depression? And how easy is it to ignore the symptoms in the people around us?
Basically, what I’m trying to say is: people with depression are everywhere. You never know who might be suffering – even if, outwardly, they appear to have everything together.
Allie is lucky in that she has an unusually huge group of people supporting her; not all of us have the entire Reddit community cheering us on. This may sound cheesy or trite, but it’s important: you never know whose life you could change by reaching out, whose day you might brighten just by starting a conversation.
You might just save a life. And that’s no hyperbole.