05 Nov Confessions of an Artist: Depression and Suicide in Hollywood
We have all been shocked, saddened, alarmed and even dumbfounded when media outlets report that someone we’ve admired for years on television, screen or stage died at the hand of suicide. Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Lee Thompson Young are just a few from the past three years and just recently Sam Sarpong. No one can seemingly fathom how artists with incredible success, by the world’s definition, could not love themselves or the lives their talents have allowed them to create. Let me take you inside the mind of an artist who continues to struggle with sever depression and has overcome suicidal thoughts.
Hello. My name is Justin Key; I’m an actor in Hollywood, CA and I suffer from sever depression. This black cloud of despair did not just appear when I moved to California, just intensified upon my arrival and grew stronger with increased success. You may think that when the checks start rolling in, ‘supposed’ friends are plentiful and any materialistic thing you want is a phone call, text or email away that one has no worries in the world but that’s the furthest from the truth. Though I don’t live the life of an Oprah Winfrey, I’m somewhat considered successful by the world’s definition. When my bank account was overflowing with milk and honey I found myself in the deepest depression I had ever experienced, so I thought. I spoke about it with no one, made my regular appearances, smiled that “Justin Key Smile” and pretended to be OK when all I wanted to do was disappear from the world. Because of the relationship with God that I formed as a child growing up in Tennessee I snapped back from it within months. I thought I had finally overcome this debilitation illness. Thinking to myself, “This was perhaps a lesson I needed to learn to understand that money and notoriety mean nothing without the proper relationship with God.”
A few years had passed and I was trotting along Hollywood auditioning, filming, making appearances at events, and networking with the best and brightest like most people in my entertainment circles. Before I knew it, I had isolated myself from most people and even slept in my car for a month…A MONTH! Justin, you have a two-bedroom apartment to yourself. Why on earth would you sleep in your car? I have absolutely no idea. That was the darkest time in my life. I saw no need to be alive or to have the things I worked for because they meant nothing to me. I hated myself. Not because I lived some secret life that was tearing me apart or did terrible things I’d never be forgiven for. I mentally challenged everything positive in my life and having a degree in mathematics provided false analytical views that backed up those accusations and sent me down the rabbit hole fast and hard. Friends left because of my poor communication, lack of involvement, distance, etc. They had no clue as to what I was dealing with and I don’t fault them at all. No, this industry isn’t for the faint of heart but even the toughest of us all suffer at times. Hearing the word ‘NO’ for a living like most artists I know, being manipulated by those in power for their personal gain, cash flow slowing down or stopping and even the thoughts of letting everyone around you down are all debilitating triggers.
How does one come back from this? How do you resist the temptation to commit suicide? How can you recognize the signs in others? I can only give answers from my own experiences. Leave the house, resist the urge to always be alone, and arrange your schedule, the best you can, to do activities that increase your endorphins naturally. For me it’s running. I run 6 miles a day and it’s one of my saving graces. Recognizing the signs of depression and suicide are incredibly difficult when dealing with an artist because we’ve perfected the “everything is great” face and conversation. My mind searched for friends that could rescue me from the dark cloud that hovered over me and wouldn’t bombard me with questions. Friends or a friend to just BE with me so I wouldn’t be alone. That’s all I needed and wanted. So, I encourage you all who read this blog to genuinely be compassionate, caring, understanding, less inquisitive and more proactive with your friendships. Most of the time we just don’t want to be alone with our loud, piercing and paralyzing thoughts. If God allowed me to endure this just so I could be of help to someone else then it was all worth it.
“If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:10