This Comic's Life Is Not Always A Laughing Matter Carey-ing on: Despite past and present depressive episodes, comedian and TV star Drew Carey keeps a Hopkins audience laughing. Kevin Smokler ------------------------------- Special to The Gazette He's an ordinary guy with a television show and depression. Sound too simple? That's exactly how comedian Drew Carey wants it. With quiet dignity and occasional goofiness, last Tuesday at Hopkins' Turner Auditorium, the star of ABC's The Drew Carey Show discussed his bouts with depression. Labeled "A Patient's Perspective," the talk capped off the 10th Mood Disorders Research/Education Symposium, an afternoon-long annual event sponsored by the Depression & Related Affective Disorders Association (DRADA) in cooperation with the Department of Psychiatry. DRADA president J. Raymond DePaulo Jr., a Hopkins professor of psychiatry, introduced Carey, 37, as having never been clinically diagnosed with depression. "No, I never got treatment, took drugs or went to a psychiatrist," said Carey, dressed in a conservative blue suit and his trademark horn-rimmed glasses. "They didn't know this when they booked me." What followed seemed akin to taking a patient history. Dr. DePaulo asked Carey to explain his telltale signs of depression, from lethargy to irregular sleeping and eating habits, then asked about his strategies for handling them. Carey answered each with the same straightforward everyman clip that characterizes his show. "I had sour, bad moods for no reason at all," said Carey, who traces the beginning of his depression to his father's death when Carey was 8. "Sometimes I'd be happy with friends then as soon as I got alone, I was very depressed." He remembered his two years at Penn State University as an aimless party, the beer and pizza feeding his unhappiness. "I even managed to sleep through the drop day for classes," he said. "This is the biggest lecture hall I've ever seen." This deadpan quip, and others like it, got big laughs. He also got rapt attention, as when he recalled his two suicide attempts, the first while at Penn State. "I was outside this fraternity house and everyone was partying and having a great time. The happier they got, the more miserable I got. ... I hated everybody, I hated myself and I thought, life had been wasted on someone like me. ... So I found a jar of sleeping pills and woke up in the hospital." Some years later, Carey had hit the road as a comic, living in cheap motels and gigging anyplace that would take him. "I'd lie in the hotel room all day, eating pizza, watching TV," he said. "My whole day was to prepare for those 45 minutes on stage. "Sometimes I'd eat a meal and think, 'Oh the cheese isn't exactly right. What else would you expect from this lousy world.' After my act, I'd go to the hotel bar and cry." What kept him going, said Carey, was the chance to appear on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. When it finally happened, Carson was so impressed that he kept Carey on his famed couch for the entire show, a rare honor for a comedian. The rest is history. Today, Carey said, he reads self-help books that aid him in organizing his day and writes affirmations to himself on his scripts for his stand-up routines. Although he occasionally feels depressed for brief spats of a few days, he begins each morning by flinging open the curtains and opening the front door because "it lets me know there's a world out there." "I'm the kind of guy who likes to do things for himself and if someone tries to help, I'll say, 'When I need your advice, I'll ask for it.'" Realizing this didn't sound like a ringing endorsement of therapy, Dr. DePaulo nonetheless complimented Carey's success on his battle with depression. "You seem to have found a sense of purpose in your life. That can be the best protection [from this illness]." DRADA is an educational and outreach nonprofit organization of mental health professionals and concerned laypersons designed to alleviate the suffering arising from depression and manic depression. For information, call (410)955-4647.
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