Monday, August 18, 2014


Robin Williams left this world a little over a week ago. The pain of his passing is still raw, the sadness palatable. I didn’t know Williams, but he was a dear friend of dear friends of mine. Neither they nor Williams have been out of my thoughts.

The death by suicide of Williams brought with it the now-familiar chorus of people who also suffer from depression or who know people who suffer from depression or who, most tragically, know people who took their own lives as a result of depression. The number of folks in the first of those groups is heartening to me because it means the onus of depression is lifting. It’s a real thing. It has very real consequences. It needs to be recognized early and it needs to be addressed early.

The first time I tried to kill myself and failed, I experienced a profound sense of shame. To this day, I can’t tell you if my shame came from attempting to kill myself or the failure thereof. If that sounds seriously fucked up, welcome to my world and the world of so many others who battle depression on a daily basis.

I tried to kill myself on two other occasions. Thankfully, I never got good at killing myself. Both times found me sitting in a closed garage with the engine of my car running. The first time, I gave up because it was taking too long to die. The second time, I realized my children needed me. It was after that second visit to my garage that I sought medical help.

Today, I have a wonderful life. Depression rears its ugly head on a weekly and, sometimes, a daily basis. I’ve learned a lot about my depression and am confident it will never again have a daily claim on me. But I always keep an eye on it.

Here’s what I’ve learned about my depression...

It’s my depression, unique unto myself. Just as your depression, if you suffer from depression, is unique unto you. We aren’t cookie-cutter human beings. While illness may affect us in similar ways, it won’t be an exact match.

When you realize you suffer from depression - and you know before you’re willing to admit it to yourself - you must immediately seek  medical treatment. This isn’t a time for pride. It’s time for the holding action that could save your life.

Because your depression is your depression, you need to be always front-and-center when it comes to making decisions about treatment for the illness. The drug that works for nine out of ten sufferers may not work for me. The therapist you’re seeing may not be right for you. Extended treatment might become an addiction and fail to keep your depression at bay.

I got lucky with my treatment. I got a therapist whose goal was to help me figure things out for myself. When she prescribed an anti-depressant that didn’t work for me, she didn’t insist I remain on that or any other medication.  When she believed I figured out what I needed to figure out, she sent me on my way with a handshake and my promise I would call her the instant I thought I might again be at risk.

About the medication...this is one of those areas where you must be in control of your own treatment. The anti-depressants didn’t help me. They gave me headaches and nausea. They left me lethargic and unable to write...and not being able to write was making me more depressed than ever.

Medication didn’t work for me. It works for a great many others who suffer from depression. Never assume you are like any other person suffering from depression. Make your own informed choices on your medication, but don’t make those choices lightly.

A dear friend of mine told me I was brave for staying in this world of ours. I have never felt brave about beating back my depression. I have felt fortunate.

There is no “cure” for depression. The closed thing to a "cure" I  found was to hold on tight to what gives me joy. Hold on tight and never let go. My wife. My children. My friends. My writing, even in something as ultimately inconsequential as this blog. The terrific comics and manga and graphic novels and other things I read. The cheesy movies I love. The silly things my cat does. The many other blessings of my life.

I will never tell anyone they have no reason to be depressed. You might think fame and fortune would be enough reason for someone to stay in their life, but their depression is not your depression or my depression. The best you can do is be there for them when they will allow you to be there and, if they do, listen to their stories without making judgments on the “validity” of their depression. You are not them.

This is a wonderful world, but it is also a terrible world. In all honesty, I think everyone on the planet has reason to be mightily depressed. So much hate and violence. So much greed and desperate poverty. much love and potential for good. So much acceptance and generosity. So many reasons to hope.

Moving on...

Whenever I write about my struggle with depression - and it’s not something I enjoy writing about - I get familiar responses. I get the “you’re so brave for writing about this” response. I get one or two “keep trying to kill yourself” notes from the usual anonymous trolls. I get one or two notes from people who are helped by what I’ve written.

Those last one or two notes are why I write about my depression now and then. I don’t enjoy revisiting the darker corners of my past. I don’t feel brave, just lucky. I certainly don’t get plunged into depression by the trolls because they have long since proven themselves to be among the most pathetic of creatures. But I do feel a certain sense of “maybe it was worth it” when my story was helpful to another who is in pain.  It’s why I tell my story. It’s why I appreciate when others tell their stories.

I don’t have a religion.  I haven’t had one in years. It’s because religions are based on human writings passed off as wisdom from God or gods. It’s because religious institutions almost never live up to their high-minded ideals. These days, especially in my country, most major religions have allied themselves with the rich and the powerful. There is almost as much truth and wisdom in my facetious First Church of Godzilla.

But I do have a belief. When I read the recent comics adaptation of George Lucas’ original treatment for The Star Wars, I really liked the sound of the frequently-repeated line “May the Force of Others be with you.”

That line is pretty decent shorthand for my belief that we are all in this together. If there is an unseen force guiding our lives, I think it is everyone that has come before us, everyone who exists with us and every one who will follow us. There is good and evil in us, but we are all in this together.

My belief is that we are all in this together. My hope is that we are more good than evil. My prayer is that we do our best to love one another in spite of our differences and that we always do what we can to ease the lot of others.

Help when you can. Seek help when you need it.  And, always, always love one another.

I’ll be back soon with stuff that can’t possibly be as weighty as today’s bloggy thing.

© 2014 Tony Isabella


  1. Tony, thank you for writing about such a personal and difficult subject.This really is something that doesn't get talked enough about.

  2. Tony,
    One more voice attempting to help people understand this terrible disease is a wonderful thing.And very much appreciated by all of us with a heart.Happy to be in it with a Man like you.

  3. Tony,

    I have enjoyed your writings for many years from funny books to CBG columns to 'net postings. Full disclosure: I have suffered as well. But paragraphs 7-16 may be the best definition I have read on the subject. Cheers.



    Trolls are called trolls for a reason, and not Asgardian GODS!

  4. Your words are painfully accurate. I've had my own struggles with depression, I have friends who fight the battle daily, and I've watched my mother suffer from it, and other issues, her entire life.
    Four years ago, my Father took his own life. Mainly because he felt he had lost many of the things that gave him joy in his daily life, including his long-time girlfriend and housemate, who had died after a long illness. I believe that she was the light that shone into his daily darkness. Without her light, his world became darker and darker.
    Hold on tight, indeed, to the things that give you joy and as loathe as I am to type this, as it sounds trite, as if from a motivational poster, but: seek out the positive. Take even the tiniest embers of things that make you happy in your daily life and fan them into burning flames. Amplify every positive. These nuggets of happiness are the lights that hold back the darkness. Even the smallest things, when approached with the right mindset, can "make your day."
    And eliminate the negative and ignore the things that upset you and drag you toward the shadow.
    Five years ago, I had spun myself in to a cycle of anger that was self-sustaining and persistent. As I broke out of it, I found my life transformed. Where before, the littlest "bad" things would enrage me, now, the littlest "good" things uplift me. And once I had turned that corner, everything changed. It sounds corny as hell,but it's true. It was like the treatment of "The Wizard of Oz" when everything went from black and white to color.
    All the best in your ongoing battle, Tony. Thank you for sharing it with us.