Living with depression in the entertainment industry: Abraham Pieters opens up
The long hours and uncompromising demands of the entertainment industry are the main causes of depression and anxiety in artists. It all comes down to the brutality of the entertainment industry; this industry generally strives to under-appreciate its participants.
Many artists reluctantly shake off anxiety or depression by saying “it’s just showbiz”. However, artist’ accounts on their battle with mental illness go a long way; it gives an invisible social acceptance to the general public who wish to seek help and helps to normalise conversations around mental illness.
With hopes that his story will save a life, producer, director and thespian, Abraham Pieters or AB as he is known popularly, talks about his battle with depression and anxiety in this open letter:
“I always had a split personality, but never really knew what it was. At school I always made everyone laugh. I would imitate teachers and just be the class clown- from High school to College from College to every work place I’ve worked before. I can remember working in Cape Town on Expresso and Afternoon Express my colleagues literally made me imitate people. People would just assume I’m a funny, happy ball of passion. At home it’s the exact same thing: I am the performer and I make everyone laugh around me.”
“I was laughing with everyone but deep down, there was no laughter. People think depression is sadness, people think depression is crying, people think depression is being quiet. But depression is when we smile but want to cry, it’s when we talk but we want to be quiet, or when we pretend to be happy and we’re not. Depression is not always obvious. You try your utmost best to drown your pain and learn how to swim. Being a clown is my coping mechanism and my shield.”
“I’m in an industry where you are constantly surrounded by people, people who follow my career religiously. However, in reality I have no one to walk with me. When my phone is up and I post something on social media or even on WhatsApp, everything becomes a performance of some sorts. But when my phone is down -the reality kicks in. Being in the entertainment industry you get invites to every single event and with that comes media attention and articles are being written about you and that echoes out to all my family, friends and admires that selling the image that ‘AB’ has an amazing life’ or ‘AB is happy.’ I have many contacts on my two phones – family and friends and acquaintances and they think they know who I am. Truth is, I go through pain almost 90 percent of the time; sometimes I constantly try and hide from the world. I sort of became an expert in being able to mask my sadness with what looks like the ‘ideal’ life. When my career goes a step higher, I tend to go lower internally every time. My inbox is always full but my soul is empty. I look happy from the outside but the reality is that I am struggling with depression and anxiety within. I am in an industry that’s about glitz and glamour but not everything that shines is gold.”
“Don’t be fooled by someones physical appearance and be clouded with what you see on the outside because in reality you don’t know that person. Wherever I go, I always introduce myself, I never assume that people know me.”
“I am struggling with depression. I am not ashamed to say that I struggle with mental illness, especially in the entertainment Industry that comes with so many hypocrites, toxicity and evil and that put awful pressures on a person, creating a void and make us feel a need to succumb. We are losing a generation of young people who do not believe that their voices are worth hearing. We need to share our stories. When I speak about mental health, especially when I’m speaking about mine, whether it is on social media or on my WhatsApp, – there will always be one or two people that have the courage to reply and share their story with me. I always let them know that we are equal. That we both walk our two feet on this Earth. That we’re in this together. And the reason people assume that public figures are perfect human beings is because they are hooked to our physical appearance and to maintain this physical appearance and to be in a world of make believe. The truth is that this world of make believe we create puts so much pressure on us mentally and physically. To maintain a lifestyle and create an expectation of what your life is supposed to be like.”
“Depression doesn’t take away your talents- it just makes them harder to find. I learned that my sadness never destroyed what was great about me. You just have to go back to that greatness, find that one little light that is left. I’ve learned not to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel but continuously try to remind myself that I am the light within the tunnel.”
“It is very hard to explain to people who have never known serious depression or anxiety the sheer continuous intensity of it. There is no off switch. I was overwhelmed by something I did not understand – my own brain. It’s beyond hard to communicate to people what exactly is going on in your head, when you yourself don’t understand it. But the more you talk about your depression and anxiety, the more you become aware of the problem you have and not shy away from it but treat it like you would treat any other sickness. And Don’t live up for the approval of others. Hebrews 3:13 gives us some great insight about people. It highlights the fact that when people go through tough things in life, their heart turns away from God. I believe more people have walked away from God because of temptation to sin. They walked way from a relationship with God due to great disappointment. This is why encouraging someone daily is important. The same things that nourish and keep great friendships are the same things that spark and begin new ones. Encouragement is something you should do with whoever is in-front of you right now, to prepare your heart mind and your spirit for new and divine connections. Make a decision today that your going to be a person who looks for daily opportunities to encourage someone. One of the greatest needs of a human heart is to be appreciated. There’s at least one friend you know right now that you’ve gown accustomed to. They’re good at something that has grown normal to you and others around them. They haven’t been appreciated in long time. Take some time today and be intentional. Send them an encouragement text, email or card, brag about them behind their back to someone else. Make them feel like a million bucks, it’s not just good for them but good for you. I believe that the most inexpensive and perhaps the best medicine in the world is words. Kind words … positive words … words that help people who feel ashamed of an invisible illness to overcome their shame and feel free.”
Robin Williams Said: “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.”