July 13, 2020

19° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast

Close this


Advertise With Us

No laughing matter

Air Farce alumna's memoir details struggles with depression

Tim Leyes photo</p><p>Author Jessica Holmes talks about her episodes of depression with remarkable candour.</p>

Tim Leyes photo

Author Jessica Holmes talks about her episodes of depression with remarkable candour.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/5/2018 (800 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It may come as a surprise to some that the perky Jessica Holmes, famous for lampooning Céline Dion on Royal Canadian Air Farce, has written a book about depression. It’s titled Depression the Comedy, but Holmes makes it clear the funny part came later. As the saying goes, tragedy plus time equals comedy.

Even if Holmes’ particular brand of comedy doesn’t always translate well to the page, readers will appreciate her candour. She is brutally honest about how her illness affected her marriage and family life.

For anyone dealing with depression, it can be validating to know even successful, seemingly happy people are not immune. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 49 per cent of Canadians who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never sought help from a doctor.

Before joining Royal Canadian Air Farce in 2003, Holmes starred in her own short-lived sketch series, The Holmes Show, and opened for ­comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres.

She wrote her first book, I Love Your Laugh: Finding the Light in my Screwball Life, in 2010, and became a life and career coach through San Diego’s Life Purpose Institute. She has spoken at Ottawa’s Cracking-up the Capital comedy festival, an event that raises money and awareness for mental illness.

Holmes now lives in Toronto with her husband and two children.

In Depression the Comedy, Holmes talks about her postpartum depression and her second depression some years later, when her life went from a "happy, if chaotic adventure" to "rocky." She "became less of a June Cleaver and more of a David-Hasselhoff-when-his-daughter-videotaped-him-lying-facedown-on-the-bathroom-floor-unsuccessfully-trying-to-eat-a-hamburger."

Depression may have many causes; Holmes attributes hers to "lack of creative purpose, chronic insomnia and a handful of psychological factors." Her daily routine became lying on the couch watching TV, crying and playing Candy Crush on her iPad, followed by more crying and TV watching.

Recalling her frustration when "NBDs" ("Never Been Depressed") would ask, "Well, why don’t you just get out there and do something?" Holmes points out that "one of the most prevalent symptoms of depression is not feeling like doing anything, ever."

"It’s an illness," she reminds us. "I’ve never met someone with Type 2 diabetes and thought: ‘See, I’ve always just eaten bags of delicious sugar and been fine, so I’m not sure why you can’t figure it out.’"

Ironically, the nature of her profession means that comedians are often more susceptible to depression: "The hard part is the downtime," she says. "A common symptom of depression is not being able to fathom a time when you won’t feel as down as you currently do. It’s like you become emotionally near-sighted. If I bombed when I was depressed, I went from ‘That was a bad gig’ to ‘I’m untalented and we’ll be living in our RV within a year.’"

Though Holmes did take medication during her postpartum depression, she opted not to when she became depressed a second time.

What got her through, aside from the support of her family, was finding ways to make comedy a "healthier place" for herself, by working more in group settings and talking to other comedians, who were largely supportive.

She also ditched her "depression diet" of sugar and processed food — or "sorta" food, as Holmes calls it — and strives to have "more structure" in her daily schedule: writing for a few hours, walking the dog, eating at regular intervals and getting some sunshine.

And she cut down on her exposure to social media, treating it "like a hot tub: get in and out before you catch something!"

Depression can return — Holmes calls it "the cold sore of the mind," and says "watching for signs of depression is a lifelong commitment."

This is not a self-help book — Holmes stresses that she can only share her own experience — but she offers hope. There is no cure for depression, but there are many resources out there to help manage the symptoms and breathe joy — and comedy — into life again.

Lindsay McKnight works in the arts in Winnipeg.


Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.


Advertise With Us