Monday, April 07, 2014

To my brothers and sisters in comedy: My own struggles with depression, and the disappearance of the beautiful, smart, and funny Jiwon Lee.

Jiwon Lee has been missing since April 1. I had received texts from her reaching out after we hadn't spoken in years shortly before this happened. Yes this affects the way I feel right now.

I remember the first time that I felt like I didn’t want to live anymore.
When I was 13, the world came crashing down around me when I realized the realities of dating and boys and girls.

Our whole life we are sold ideas of disney princes, romantic movies, love, caring, and respectful partners.  So when I suddenly became popular at 13, I hooked up with a boy for the first time.  It was my first time getting played.  He didn’t care about me as a person.  He didn’t call me back.  He simply “got some” and I didn’t know what that meant.

I felt like I had been lied to.  I felt like adults were stupid and they fed us nothing but bullshit.  I felt that all the aspirational ideas about romance were complete crap.  I spent the next few years adapting to the realities of intimacy and accepting them.  But THEN at that moment, I felt the world was meaningless and I had nothing to look forward to.  I was listening to great music like Hole, NIN, Nirvana, Tori Amos watching MTV.  Melting things in my room.  I was in full on teen angst mode, wrote poetry, hung out with skateboarder kids.  And I remember being in my room, writing things like “Why god did you give us minds to think and hearts to feel if all you wanted to do was fuck us?”

What got me past it - even in that moment I felt NOTHING mattered - was that famous Dylan Thomas poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.” and to "rage against the dying of the light."  Even if I felt no light at the end of the tunnel, there was an underlying idea that you can’t go out without a fight, and that possibility of a spark exists.  And every time in my future that I revisited this feeling, this sentiment - DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOODNIGHT surfaced inside of me.

There have been other times in my life that I’ve revisited this deep meaninglessness and the times that stand out the strongest are the following:
- In 2004 when I was asked to repeat my first year of law school (C average meant failing on the bell curve) and a week later my boyfriend who I moved in with dumped me for another woman.  So at 23 I lost who I thought I was going to be career wise, and the man I thought I was going to marry.  I was young and had no sense of how much life I had ahead of me.  This was my deepest depression and most hopeless time.  I lost 30 pounds, even puked from sadness.  When I fantasized about offing myself it was specifically to jump in the hudson river.  I was unable to be productive, clean my dishes, or do anything.  I was crazy minded and volatile.  I was a complete total mess.
- In 2007 after 2 years of working in gay porn.  That’s right - after law school I found a fun job as head of a PR and marketing for a gay adult company and was a standup comedian.  It was actually a wonderful experience however 2 years into it, I hadn’t had enough success in comedy and felt like a failure.  I was afraid that my life revolved around empty, meaningless things and I had screwed it up.  I didn’t feel connected to my dreams and aspirations.  I remember being in Los Angeles and having a terrible time, wishing for better, and then a man I confided in ended up scaring me and thinking he was going to force himself on me sexually - which he got close to doing but I got out of the situation.  I remember sitting on the phone with my friend Dan from a Malibu hotel, him trying to console me.  Beauty feels shitty when you aren’t in the right place to enjoy it.
- Most recently in February of this year I felt this way for a bit.  This has happened periodically but not in big ways like mentioned earlier.  I felt like a failure for not achieving enough in comedy and film.  I was trying to write my feature film script and I didn’t have enough pages and I kept watching internet tv.  I struggle with aging, with losing my looks, with being single, with my family situation which is deeply sad since my dad suffered his stroke.

But I didn’t get like this in 2010 when my dad had his stroke.  There couldn’t be a single thought of suicide because I felt so deeply connected to my family and their needs and how insanely selfish it would be to do something like that.  Even though it’s the hardest, saddest thing I’ve ever been through, there was no thought of meaninglessness.  Every action felt so meaningful in the face of loss - even when painful.

Today I don’t feel this.  Why?  Well I just finished the first draft of my feature screenplay, and I’ve been working sound jobs more as I’m in the union, and learning new things, working on big fun fancy movies.  Both of those things are extremely rewarding and I feel connected to the things I want in life.

I know there’s one way out of depression and suicidal thoughts:

Doing things, and using creative energies.

This could be in the form of being healthy: exercise.  Or doing activities, getting out, cleaning your room - or throwing yourself into your big ambitions and dreams.  When you’re really depressed it doesn’t matter that you KNOW getting up and doing good things will make you feel better.  You don’t have much of the capacity to do them.

Jiwon Lee has communicated to the world that she was depressed and lost feeling before going missing.  That leads us to assume that she is missing because of suicide, or because she was seeking meaning or entertainment - or SOMETHING - that led her to a dangerous situation.  Either way she gave her cry for help and now she is gone and hopefully not forever.

I’ve been connecting with others in the comedy community since Jiwon’s disappearance and we are shaken and confused.  

Do you have any idea how talented and capable you are?  My fellow comedians, we all keep chasing our dreams, exposing ourselves, opening up to sometimes dead rooms, competing against each other from time to time.

Sometimes we change our dreams and change our course but we will always be standup comedians inside.  Some of us have specials on Comedy Central.  Some of us end up on SNL.  Some of us end up in the suburbs with a family and miss the life  - and don’t realize how beautiful their new life is, and wonder if they were ever loved or appreciated in their old life.  

We are all dying to “get there”
We don’t often tell each other how much we admire each other.

I’m moved by realizing what our community is, that so often we are passing ships in a “scene.”  Night after night of shows and bullshitting and sharing and baring it all on stage and showing up at things.

Nobody can love everybody, or be there for everybody, or save everybody.

I’m taking a second to say, hey, you mean something to me, and I care about you.

More photos of Jiwon.

No comments: