Monday, 21 January 2013


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Ben is one of Australia’s funniest people. He’s also one of the most brutally honest about his own pain and what he does in both winning and losing the battle against his disease.

The interesting thing about depression is…

Wait, no. Strike that. I’m not talking about the interesting thing about depression. Depression isn’t “interesting”, not really. I have never said, “Well I’m depressed, but at least it keeps the boredom at bay”. To be honest, the most interesting thing about depression, as Slartibartfast said about the universe, is how boring it is. 

When you’re depressed, life is very dull indeed, and every action you take is on the tedious end of the spectrum. Even if your hobby is just sitting on the couch watching TV, when you’re depressed it gets duller, because you can’t be bothered to find the remote and you sit there watching Benny Hinn when there’s a boxset of Allo Allo right there. And you’re mind-numbingly bored, but to be honest mind-numbing boredom just edges out doing stuff in the desirability stakes at this stage.

There are a lot of annoying things about depression, and the boredom is just one of them. Of course depression is an illness, which is problematic, because it doesn’t look like an illness, and people don’t really treat it like an illness. I mean, they say they do — everyone will say, “I know it’s an illness”, but they’ll still roll their eyes when you say you just want to stay in bed and think about death instead of going to work. They’ll still say things like, “I know how you feel”. Which, look, no, sorry you don’t. At least, you better not. If I’m going to have to live through this awfulness, the least you can do is allow me to be a little bit exotic. If you know how I feel, you better be popping a whole bunch of pills, otherwise you’re cheating.

Of course they don’t know how you feel. They know how they feel, when something makes them sad, but the one crucial difference that leads one to suspect they’re “suffering from depression” instead of just “depressed” is that suddenly you know how it feels when everything makes you sad. And they don’t know how that feels. But they assume it feels the same as something they’ve felt before, and so, no matter how often they say, “I know it’s an illness”, deep down, they don’t really think it is.

Which is why, of course, you end up doing something like cutting yourself, so you don’t have to say, “I have a disease that you can’t see and that’s why I’m eating Doritos and crying at The Little Mermaid”; instead you can say “I have a disease that makes my arm bleed”. 

Which of course doesn’t help at all. People just tell you you’re an attention seeker.

And the annoying thing about being called an attention seeker is that you’re left with two options in reply: either you say, “No I’m not I am SICK!” or you say, “Yes, you’re right. I’m sorry, I’ll try to do better.” You can’t say what you really WANT to say, which is, “Of COURSE I’m an attention seeker, I’m DEPRESSED. Give me some goddamn attention!” Saying someone with depression is just trying to get attention is like saying someone with a broken leg is just trying to get hold of some plaster. YES, I am seeking attention. Because that’s going to make me feel a bit better, OK? Can’t you just GIVE me some attention? Would it be so hard?

I say none of this, of course, because even when I’m in the throes of depression, I still don’t want to bother anyone. Which is why I cut myself, because of course that won’t bother anyone. Or at least it won’t the way I do it, because I cut myself and then don’t show anyone. This means that I am deliberately hiding my attention-seeking from public view, which makes me the most incompetent attention-seeker ever. That’s why it’s an illness, I suppose.

The first time I cut myself was a very nervous night, because I wasn’t sure just how to go about it. I assumed you were supposed to do it with a knife, but I didn’t have a knife, so I went to a petrol station and bought a packet of disposable razors. Even as I was, I felt that this was not how Vincent van Gogh would have done it. Also, cutting yourself with safety razors isn’t the most convenient way to do it: at first it just feels like shaving. I began to fear I’d have to try to demonstrate my mental illness by showing everyone my smooth, hairless arm.

Not that cutting yourself is, under any circumstances, the most hardcore way of exhibiting depression. Afterwards you feel like a right twat. The scars are a nice little reminder of what an idiot you are. You’re like a terrorist who walks into a crowded restaurant and mixes baking soda with vinegar — sure, there’s an explosion, but nobody will be that impressed.

But you do it anyway, because at the time feel like you’re in as much pain as it’s possible to be in, and you need to do SOMEthing to make it tangible. You feel like a guy who cuts himself is legit crazy, whereas a guy who just says, “I’m crazy” is basically a whiner.

Because nobody wants to be around the guy with depression. If you believe him, he makes you feel sad, and guilty that you haven’t been nicer to him. If you don’t believe him, he’s irritating as hell. Either way, you’re a jerk. A jerk with an illness, but as we’ve discussed, nobody really treats it like an illness anyway.

And maybe it’s not, after all. Maybe I’m just overreacting. Maybe it’s all in my head. I mean, it IS all in my head, but maybe the idea that it’s all in my head is all in my head. Maybe you’re all right, and I’m not sick at all, I’m just melodramatic and self-pitying. 

But you know, being melodramatic and self-pitying is no picnic. When I was fifteen I decided I needed to make myself more interesting to people, because everyone seemed to like everyone else better than me. So I decided to be depressed. I became gloomy and withdrawn and stopped speaking, stopped smiling, started moping hopelessly around the schoolyard, in a desperate, and fairly unsuccessful, attempt to get people interested in me. After it was all over, I berated myself for being so ridiculous as to pretend to be fucked-up to make people like me. Shortly after that, it occurred to me that pretending to be fucked-up to make people like you is…really, really fucked-up.

So I guess that’s the interesting thing about depression. The only thing scarier than the thought that this is real, is the thought that maybe it’s not.

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Ben  Pobjie

Ben has not one but TWO hilarious books out now. Surveying the Wreckage and Superchef.

Follow him on twitter @benpobjie