i’m struggling. and typically, i don’t address the tragedies that happen around us, partly because you come here, i assume, as an escape from that kind of thing. to be inspired, to feel a little lighter. but i’ve been feeling the collective sadness all around us with all the devastating stories that are so prevalent in our daily news —pandemics, war, racism, and bitter politics, and i’m finding it hard to set it all aside today. i think if you’ve ever known someone who has suffered or you yourself suffer from depression, your heart has broken a little more these last few years. i am one of those people, and although a few friends know it, i’ve rarely ever talked about it here. but i thought — just maybe i should. i should perhaps tell you that life is not always the perfect little social media package you sometimes see.
first of all — i’m mostly okay. but i am okay because i addressed the problem a long time ago, and i’ve kept on top of it with medication — because i have to. if i didn’t, i’d have bad bouts of depression, and i couldn’t get up and write this blog every day. i couldn’t see the beauty around me, let alone share it. i’ve tried not taking medication, and trust me, you don’t want me to do that again. i take a low dosage of an anti-depressant, but whatever the dose, it’s what keeps me from hiding in my bedroom by myself and having very dark thoughts and loneliness that is much too overwhelming — there’s no turning back from it without help. but with help, my life is generally on an even keel. but recently, i’ve lost a very dear friend to the devasting illness that is ALS, and missing him and worrying for his family has me feeling low. i also generally find holidays very hard, so maybe that’s why i’m feeling extra sensitive right now. i still see beauty, lots of it — and i do want to share it. but sometimes, you just need to say the quiet things out loud, so that’s where i’m at today. the loss of my friend, my sorrow about that, and then, although i did not know him personally, matthew perry’s passing in these last few weeks has moved me to write this.
like so many of us, i grew up watching friends, and during covid isolation, i’d watch reruns to perk myself up — a magical fix of nostalgia and laughter. and i often thought for someone to be as creative and funny as matthew, they must be extra perceptive because it’s those keen perceptions they share with us that make them so relatable, so well-loved, and identifiable to us — and so funny. humor can make us nod in recognition and agreement with the craziness or irony that a creative person of any kind captures so succinctly for us. they just get it. it’s true for many people who seem to ‘get it’ — artists, writers, actors — people just like you and me. but i think it’s exactly that extra perception, if you will, that also makes life extremely painful. there’s no filter — you feel it all, especially for the really brilliant artists. so beauty, love, loneliness, and all of the poetry of life are intensified and sometimes just too painful to bear.
i don’t presume to know what troubled matthew, but from what i’ve read in his memoir, he was a genuinely kind, introspective, and compassionate man. and perhaps that was why he felt he couldn’t keep looking at the world without the help of some mind-altering substance — heaven knows it’s hard to look at some days with all the suffering that goes on. but also, it’s precisely too much beauty that becomes difficult to bear when you haven’t someone with whom to share it, and i think, when i read between the lines of his book, that he suffered from that kind of profound loneliness. and i think to myself, if he was that genius when high, imagine how really genius he must have been to pull that off. it’s even more heartbreaking that he died when he seemed to be getting his life back where he had hope for it to be, and his foremost goal in sober life was to help others in need.
so i try and think if we are to learn anything at all from the lovely comedic actor that was matthew perry, it is that you really never know if someone might be suffering or from what, and so it’s good to take a moment before judging or acting unkindly or petty towards others and think about that. i’m so sick of cancel culture and the lack of considerate thought behind it a good portion of the time. i just ask you to consider your fellow humans and remember that words and actions, and even a lack thereof, can affect the people around you and make them feel excluded. try to make those words and actions thoughtful, and watch out for not just those you love, but your community, your world. act to make it a better place. simple acts of love and kindness can do more than you know.
robin williams, who also suffered from depression, once said: “i used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. it’s not. the worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.” maybe, we all try to make the people around us feel a little less alone.
• photography credits: all images by artist