Something notable happens whenever my depression hits: I immediately forget how to pull myself out of it. To remedy this cycle, I’ve all but posted a “How-To” guide in my office. Being the fixer I am, it is my natural inclination to offer advice or a bullet list to myself with possible solutions. But sometimes all I need is the simple salve of knowing I’m not the only one.
On my dark days, I’m thankful that dialog and depiction in television has gotten closer to my personal reality: Elliot in “Mr. Robot,” Randall in “This Is Us,” and even Rick in “Rick and Morty.” All of these characters are incredibly high-functioning, like me, but their struggles are undeniable. They don’t have the time or resources to stay in bed. They have to keep going because life around them doesn’t stop. And this is how I often feel.
When my depression hits, my body feels restricted, as though a weight I cannot see has made a home on my chest. Dark thoughts replay at an invasive volume. I become a stranger to myself, and life feels absolutely meaningless. Finally, I absolutely cannot. For the life of me. Figure out. How. To. Stop. The. Tears. The only thing I latch onto is knowing I’ve come out of it before. I think we all need that one thread to help pull us through.
I wish, at least, that my spirals were a bit more predictable, that there was a trigger or precipitating event I could avoid at all costs. There is none. Sometimes the news makes me extremely sad, but more often than not I’ll awake in the morning and find it nearly impossible to get out of bed.
What makes it harder is that it’s so difficult to describe my depression—what it means to be more than just “sad.” And while I wish there were some virtual reality experience for loved-ones to explore so that they could feel what we feel, it’s at least comforting to know that more shows are showcasing what mental illness really looks like. That my loved ones can at least have an example of what I’m going through.
It means so much to me knowing I’m not the only one—knowing that there are many others out there connecting to these stories and characters in the same way I do. This is why I’m so glad to be playing a character facing the same kind of mental health struggles I have faced.
In the new season of the show, “She’s Gotta Have it,” I play Nola Darling. Throughout the season, she is in a mental and emotional space that felt very familiar to me. It brought me a kind of melancholic joy to add to the landscape of others battling depression and anxiety. A kind of reminder that even when I feel broken, I’m still part of a whole.
DeWanda Wise is an actress and NAMI Ambassador. She stars in the Netflix movie “Someone Great” and currently plays the lead role of Nola Darling in Spike Lee's series “She's Gotta Have It” also on Netflix. Season two of “She’s Gotta Have It” will be available on Friday, May 24, 2019.
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