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Tag Archive: depression


Review by C.J. Bunce

Darryl McDaniels–he’s the DMC of the trio Run DMC, known for its team-up with Aerosmith on the band’s cover of “Walk this Way,” plus hits like “Tricky” and more.  He’s the King of Rock, sold 30 million albums, made rap and hip-hop the popular music genre it is today, and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  But he doesn’t count any of those things as his most important personal accomplishment.  In his memoir, Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide–A Memoir, McDaniels reveals in a personal and down-to-earth way the trials he has faced despite his money and career success, leading to alcoholism and debilitating depression.  Despite its “Ten Ways…” title, it’s not his version of a twelve-step program as much as an insightful self-help book that doubles as an autobiography.

McDaniels’ story is deep and dark and yet he uses his story to motivate those around him and his writing reflects this generous sharing of failures for others to learn from.  McDaniels was a middle class, self-styled geek, raised in a good family, successfully avoiding the gangs and violence of New York City as a kid, and by the time he was out of his teens he was a superstar.  As a kid he loved comic books and he loved to draw.  “Growing up, I’d always been a comic book geek.  I loved to draw superheroes almost as much as I liked to read about them.  Comics were an escape, a way to make myself feel strong and invincible rather than like the quiet little four-eyed nerd I essentially was.”  But his venture into comics wouldn’t happen until much later.  He jumped on board with two neighborhood kids from Queens as they used turntables and rhyme to create a new music niche in the mid-1980s.  All those kids wearing high-top sneakers with no shoestrings?  Run-DMC also set a new fashion style for a generation.  And McDaniels infused comic book concepts into his songs along the way.

McDaniels in 2014 talking to fans at Planet Comicon, one of his many comic convention visits.

But McDaniels says he always felt something missing, and he often turned to alcohol to escape.  Ups and downs and assistance from family and friends allowed him to break through it all and come out on top, but not easily.  In one of his best stories he recounts the backlash early on that he received because of his band’s instant fame–even beyond other established rap heroes.  Members of his favorite band–Cold Crush–dissed him and Joey “Run” Simmons backstage at a show, but rather than be brought down by it, he saw it as an indication of success.  But by McDaniels’ account, Run’s dominance in the band left him without a role after a few albums, and alcoholism would literally take away McDaniel’s voice.  After he thought he was past the alcoholism, he would find himself returning to drinking whenever a life crisis presented itself.  A key event was discovering he was adopted, learned after a conversation with his mother while working on documenting his life story.  He would go on a reality show and track down and ultimately find his biological family, which introduced even more confusion for his mental state, but it was also his pathway for getting help from a therapist and rehab.  Inspiration to get help and move forward surprisingly also came from the soothing music of Sarah McLachlan, and his story of her role in his upward climb is now well-known.  They eventually recorded an album together (I discussed it here at borg.com after meeting McDaniels at Planet Comicon back in 2014).  It’s a great story and he recounts all the details in his book.

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Allie Brosh Hyperbole and a Half Depression Part Two copyright 2013

If you haven’t seen Paul Giamatti’s incredible performance as comic book writer Harvey Pekar in the 2003 film American Splendor you should add it to your Netflix queue.  The movie follows the Cleveland born and raised Pekar and his rise to fame as underground comic book creator, writing about relationships, holding a job, wrestling health issues, writing about life.  Better yet, track down any of his books.  His book Our Cancer Year, which won both a Harvey Award and American Book Award, was written with his wife Joyce Brabner, recounting his tumultuous yet ultimately successful battle against lymphoma.  It’s an account that takes comic book writing to another place entirely.  His American Splendor series has been praised by many in the field, including other writers like Neil Gaiman. His stories were drawn by a myriad of artists including Cleveland neighbor Robert Crumb.

Harvey wrestled with anxiety during his life and suffered from depression.  He died from an accidental overdose in 2010 shortly after he learned he had a recurrence of cancer–his third fight against the disease.  If you ever are questioned about comic books as a serious medium, you can point to Harvey Pekar and that should stop anyone in their tracks.

Harvey Pekar Joyce Brabner Our Cancer Year

Last week a friend sent me a link to website written by a woman named Allie Brosh who uses comic art to talk about her life and experiences, blogging much like any number of people across the Web.  She’d been offline for a long while and returned with an incredible post last week.  Check out this story in comic art form, titled Depression Part Two.  There is something very compelling and striking about her creative way of storytelling.  If you have ever known someone who suffers from depression, or you yourself think you may suffer from depression, you may find your friend or yourself in Allie’s work.  The Bend, Oregon, based blogger has received thousands of comments already for her post about depression, and if the story itself doesn’t convince you that “you’re not in this alone” then all the commenters who have written about being touched by her story should.

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