I told myself that I was doing this because I was bored, because I lacked activity. Really it was more than that. I was lonely. I felt isolated. And the activity I was choosing to distract myself — drinking — was making these feelings stronger and more present rather than making them fade away.
I play pretend for a living. That’s my job. And even when not asked to use a script, on a talk show or a podcast, for example, I would develop my own. Yes, I am myself in those moments, but only the best possible version of myself. Cameo seemed like an extension of that skill. I would be me, but just the best me. This is what I was being hired to do. This is what people were expecting from this experience.
Who was I to be depressed? I was healthy. My family was healthy. I have a successful career. I didn’t have nearly the scale of problems other people did, so what right did I have to complain or ask for help?
But I did need help. I, too, needed someone to tell me it was going to be OK. That I was OK. I rarely reached out for that. Now here I was, sitting at my desk, being asked to encourage strangers to keep going, to have hope, to trust that things will be OK. But did I believe that myself? Could I say these things and make them sound true? Was that public best version of myself enough to actually help these people? If I didn’t believe him myself, would they believe him?
I once heard the actor and singer Christine Ebersole say in one of her cabaret acts, “What words can I give you that will comfort me at this time?” I think that’s exactly what I came to feel while making those videos. It was self-serving to allow these people asking for help to distract me from my own woes, but that’s exactly what it did. And I began to think that maybe I should be brave enough to ask for my own help, to reach out to people close to me and allow myself to be vulnerable and honest about what I was feeling.
Realizing that there is a problem is a step in the right direction, but how do you change your course? I didn’t have a clear answer for myself, so I decided to throw out a wide net hoping to catch something helpful. I went back to regular therapy. I found some new productive activities, a couple of meditation apps, a few self-help books. I returned to a regular workout routine. I reached out to loved ones with more frequency and tried to be honest about where I was. None of this was an instant fix. Sharing my feelings didn’t mean they went away. There’s no guarantee of instant acceptance or a release from anxiety or sadness. But I was moving toward feeling less isolated and alone. All of these little changes in my mind-set and routine started to make a difference. I started to feel like a better me.
On days when I am not feeling so hot, I make it a point to not shy away from that feeling. I don’t try to chase it away or distract myself; I acknowledge it. There is something freeing about saying, “Well, today sucks!” and then continuing with your day.