Dick Cavett wrote a fine New York Times piece about living with depression. It was hard to pick a particular segment; this is one of many.......
The year before I had talked to a similar group of care-givers in Omaha in front of an audience that included what you’d think would be an entertainer’s nightmare: a hundred or more people in the throes of the disease. I expected no laughs.
I had just gotten started telling the grim faces that I knew what they were going through when a large man — in pajamas, as I recall — stood up and slowly made his way toward me.
“Paranoid schizophrenic,” someone stage-whispered to me. There was general tension in the room as the man continued to approach. When he stopped two feet in front of me, and stared at me, I heard myself say, “Come here often?” Loud general laughter broke the tension. He returned peacefully to his seat — probably without having heard me or the laughter.
Miraculously, I kept them laughing for perhaps an hour. Clearly the fact that I knew about their plight from my own experience had a lot — or maybe everything — to do with it.
I was able to say to them, I know that everyone here knows that feeling when people say to you, “Hey, shape up! Stop thinking only about your troubles. What’s to be depressed about? Go swimming or play tennis and you’ll feel a lot better. Pull up your socks!” And how you, hearing this, would like nothing more than to remove one of those socks and choke them to death with it. (Laughter mixed with some minor cheering.)
The reward from this was unique in my experience. Afterwards, those in charge seemed amazed and delighted. One said, “See Clara over there? She hasn’t moved a muscle in her face for six months and you had her laughing out loud.”