Last week, Donald Glover, the actor, comedian and rapper best known for playing Troy Barnes on Community, posted some notes on his Instagram. Handwritten in an all-caps hand on Marriott Residence Inn stationary, the notes number seven in all. They are, really, seven windows into the his head, into his innermost thoughts.
When I read them, I cried. Out of sadness, out of happiness, and out of solidarity.
The future scares me, all the time. On the good days, but more so on the bad ones. What if I can’t be what I want to be? What if I’m just not good enough?
When you start doing good things, there’s an expectation that you’ll continue to be that good, great person. What if you don’t? What if that’s just a part of who you really are?
What if I can’t escape the stupid things I did years ago? What if people see someone that’s not the real me? Why do I care so much? But I do.
I just want answers. And there are none. I made some decisions, and they may have been wrong.
I am trying.
I want to believe I’m not alone. Is that wrong?
These notes are honest. Brutal. Unflinching. And in that sense, hugely poetic.
Of course, nothing on the Internet is sacred. And it wasn’t too long before the media got hold of the photos and they went viral. In nearly every article on the issue, one question is asked: Should we be worried about Donald Glover? It’s fascinating. No writer said, “We should be worried,” or, “I am worried,” and not a single journalist that I saw had the guts to asked the question that resounded in the subtext– Is he depressed?
Of course, diagnosing someone with a mental health issue is serious business, and should not be undertaken by tabloid journalists based on a few notes. It’s something for professionals to practice, not something for writers to assume. But the fact that few writers could bring themselves to use the word “depression” is a serious sign of the taboo it holds in our society.
Glover has since given an interview that mostly denies depression. “If I’m depressed, everybody’s depressed,” he says. “I don’t think those feelings are that different from what everybody’s feeling. Most people just don’t tell everybody.”
And herein lies the problem: We don’t talk about mental health. If it is taboo for ordinary people to discuss depression and “feeling down,” what must the pressure be like for celebrities? How telling is it that when a celebrity reveals their thoughts, the first thing we do is question the state of their mental health– a condition which is all of our business and none of their own? How revealing is it that when a black male actor discusses his feelings instead of ignoring them, we immediately assume he must be depressed?
Glover has hit one nail straight on the head, though. It’s likely more people are feeling depressed than are willing to talk about it, much less seek help. It’s estimated that at least 6% of the US population suffers from depression.
Maybe I, as a person recently suffering from depression, identified too quickly and too closely with these sentiments. They are fears and insecurities that I have felt day in and day out when my sadness hits. I feel lost, I feel hopeless. But though I can identify with him, I cannot diagnose him. The truth is, the feelings I have felt during my depression, the thoughts that have occupied my mind for hours, are feelings that I have briefly felt on my good days, and thoughts that have crossed my mind before I started feeling down.
Clinically depressed or just down, we are all human. We all have weaknesses, insecurities, feelings. We are all vulnerable. And taking the time to remember that makes me less hard on myself. It makes me feel like I have companionship. And knowing that people who are successful and famous struggle with the same questions–well, that makes all the difference in the world.
So thank you, Donald Glover. Please know that I appreciate you so much for sharing your honest thoughts with the world.
Written by Laura Koroski
You can find more of her writings at her nerdy feminist blog, Challenge by Geek.