Your right to pain

Hugh Laurie is a well-known British actor who has struggled with depression for years. Mr. Laurie played the lead doctor on the USA Network television show House.  He doesn’t like to talk about his depression, not because he is ashamed of it, but because he doesn’t feel that he has the right to complain about his personal situation inasmuch as he has been so successful in his professional life.  Well, Mr. Laurie’s professional success does not have anything to do with his right to complain about his mental health.  Speaking personally, I remember when I went through my first bout with anxiety and depression, I felt that I could not complain either.  I had a wonderful home, husband, and family, and was otherwise very healthy.  I repeated that story to myself over and over.  It didn’t help at all.  I was still depressed.

When my first bout with depression hit, it was during the summer Olympics of 1996.  I remember listening to all the hard-luck stories of the athletes, thinking, “What right did I have to complain?”  These athletes had experienced worse challenges than I was experiencing.  They had been separated from family, suffered debilitating injuries, lost a parent, or lost a sibling.  Over and over I repeated my mantra – “others have it worse – my life is good – others have it worse – my life is good.”  But you know what?  It did not help. What eventually did help was to seek a solution for myself that would enable me to deal with my own situation.  I didn’t need to feel bad that I was feeling bad.  At the same time, I realized that everyone has his or her own challenge, and one’s own challenge is a legitimate source of discomfort for that person.  Everyone has the right to have his/her own pain.  Everyone, rich or poor, successful or unsuccessful, loved or not loved, has a right to feel bad about the difficulty of his/her particular challenge.  What is not acceptable is to do nothing about meeting that challenge, and finding a solution to the pain.

Hugh Laurie could potentially be a lot of help if he shared his story.  People listen to celebrities and take solace in knowing that famous and successful people also suffer human issues just like the rest of us.  The rest of us rationalize that if someone like Hugh Laurie is not immune from depression, then it is okay for us to suffer from depression. Perhaps Mr. Laurie’s candor would encourage other people to seek the help needed for healing and having a better life.