PHOTO BY: Jessica Holmes
Jessica Holmes 1 web

Jessica Holmes



Washington, DC – Jessica Holmes has opened for comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Leslie Nielsen, and Ellen DeGeneres, as well as hosted events for such visionaries as Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, and Oprah Winfrey! Although a comedian at heart, having performed with the Second City and Just for Laughs, Holmes has recently delved into writing: penning the book “Depression the Comedy: A Tale of Perseverance” (Page Two Books, April 28, 2019). After battling both post-partum depression and “regular, run-of-the-mill garden-variety depression” (her words), Holmes became a Life and Career Coach, and now tours regularly on motivational speaking circuits in addition to her work as an in-demand comedian.

India America Today reached out to Holmes to take her views on different aspects of depression and her personal challenges in life.

IAT:
Millions across the US suffer from different forms of depression, but there is usually a hesitation to talk about it. When and where did you feel you needed to open up about your struggle with depression?

Jessica Holmes:
Us comedians always want to share (and overshare) whatever we’ve been through – the more embarrassing the better! It’s cathartic for us to reframe something bad in a comedic light. I was doubly motivated when I saw that there were only serious books about depression, and I thought “whoa! What about the people who want to learn about mental health but who don’t want to be triggered by anything too negative?” So I set about telling my story in a goofier way (only making myself the brunt of the jokes) that would gently remind others that they’re not alone in their struggles. And what the heck, it’s also a juicy bit of gossip about the comedy industry!

IAT:
Sometimes when people open up about their depression to friends or loved ones, the response is that they need to get over it and stop feeling sorry for themselves. What would you say to someone who doesn’t believe in depression?

Jessica Holmes:
Absolutely! Some people reacted with “your life looks fine on paper, so you should suck it up and be grateful.” And the best way I could explain it is how my psychiatrist explained it to me: a depressed mind is like a sieve that blocks many of the positives from coming through, so even if they occur you can’t register them. You’re left only registering the negative side of things. I could have won the lottery and my first thought would be “I’m so lonely” or “I’m a failure!” It’s not logical, that’s why it’s a mental illness, not an attitude problem.

IAT:
What are some of the ways that you can support a friend or loved one who is dealing with depression?

Jessica Holmes:
If I could have waved a magic wand and poof! made someone the perfect depression companion, they would
a) believe me, even if they didn’t understand my predicament
b) NOT give advice, because we already know what we could/should do, it’s just really hard to take those steps when you feel like an invisible elephant is sitting on you
c) congratulate us on the small steps we’re able to make – it’s harder than you’d think to take a shower when you’re depressed
d) hang out & watch trashy, mindless tv with me

IAT:
You have shared that you have kept a journal to record funny incidents. How did it help you in your efforts to support your mental health?

Jessica Holmes:
I still keep a funny journal to this day, just marking down whatever makes me laugh. The other day our cat tried to jump through a glass window to get a bird. She didn’t get hurt, but she seemed understandably embarrassed. I added it to the list, and every couple of weeks I’ll read the list over and smile. I believe what you focus on grows, so my time is MUCH better used finding the funny in life rather than looking for trouble.

Jessica Holmes 2 web

IAT:
How was it to handle a successful public career while dealing with depression?

Jessica Holmes:
I was able to hide my depression and go perform for an hour here and there, but then I’d pay for it by needing to lay down alone for a few days and “recover” from the exertion and hoopla. I didn’t think I was depressed because I could still muster up the will to do the things I had to do to pay the mortgage. Eventually, it got so bad that I had to ask my agent to not submit me for any acting roles for 6 months. When I recovered it was hard to watch tv because I kept wondering “which of those roles might I have booked if I hadn’t been depressed.” But now I’m on such a good path, and using my experience creatively to help others, that there’s no room for sour grapes. I never knew I could get here!

IAT:
You have written a book Depression The Comedy. What triggered you to write it? What were the challenges in writing it and what were opportunities it provided?

Jessica Holmes:
I love deadlines (weird, right??) so I was glad to wake up each morning and write until my fingers cramped and the screen got fuzzy. The greatest challenge was when it came to the chapter about my kids because a part of me will always regret that they didn’t get the best of me for two years. I wanted to be honest and lighthearted in the writing, and admit my shame, but also let parents know that kids are resilient enough to forgive and adapt. I’ve gotten many invitations to share my story publicly, as a sort of stand-up comedy show about depression, and there is always a moment on stage where I let down my armor, and admit the hardest parts. But one upside to depression is that when you recover you have the empathy to want to lift others up, so I consider it a tremendous blessing to share my story.

IAT:
What is your message to those who are suffering from depression and your own message in general?

Jessica Holmes:
I hope that talking about mental health becomes as commonplace as talking about brushing your teeth. It’s a regular part of our maintenance and a human condition a fifth of us will experience. So I continue to shout it from the mountaintops: depression is not your fault! Give yourself a huge pat on the back for every tiny step you take towards getting healthy. I know it’s not easy. Keep on truckin’ friends!!

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