Depression has received recent attention world-wide after Robin Williams committed suicide in August. Today, another comedic hero of mine, Wayne Brady, talks about his struggle with depression in attempt to bring awareness to the disease and remove some of the stigma associated with it. Growing up watching him on "Whose Line is it Anyway?", he quickly became one of my favorites. All skits with him in it were instantly funnier because of his wit and ability to play off others jokes so perfectly, managing to make everyone else in the skit funnier just by being in it. It's no wonder there has been a lot of confusion and surprise around this announcement, because on the outside he seems to be so happy and successful but speaks of a life with so much hurt.
Another star who spoke out about depression this past week is Matt Anderson. A household name for many volleyball families, Matt has helped grow the sport globally by his skill and passion on and off the court. When I was trying out for the Olympic Team, thinking about living and breathing the sport seemed like a pretty cool job. While I was staying there Michael Phelps walked by, meeting him was crazy- but living with him year round seemed surreal. A lifestyle that many could only dream of, he has been living the past decade.
A star his entire career, Matt played at Penn State and helped them win the NCAA Men's Volleyball Championship in 2008 when he was a junior, where he was named the NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Player along with several Player of the Year/All-American Honors.
Instead of competing his senior year, he began his career in Europe where he's played ever since (Helping lead his Russian teams to National champions the past two years). At 25, Matt Anderson was the youngest player on the 2012 Men's Olympic team. He has been the US Men's leading scorer every year since 2011 and can touch 12 feet, 3 inches. When his games are televised, it's not uncommon for fans to tweet about how impressive he is on both the court and the eyes, often having a line of teenage girls hoping for an autograph after his matches.
"Big Things Ahead and I Want to be Ready!" is his recent post where he explains more about his decision his blog about his accomplishments thus far, and how busy he has been- and that it is in his best health interest to take a break to come back stronger than he is now.
It is not uncommon for an athlete to take a year off due to injury (concussions, torn ligaments, broken bones etc.) however the idea of an injured brain is something that is much less common, and definitely not talked about. There is a stigma around depression, and many see it as a choice to be sad- however how Matt describes it as perfect- it is an injury. People often are asking why or how he is depressed- but depression is a chemical imbalance. It is often hereditary and is biological hereditary no different then other diseases such as epilepsy or allergies. Where sadness normally has an outside trigger such as a death of a family member- the brain sends these signals without a trigger. So although it may seem like people with Depression have so much going for them, their brain is sending mixed signals that are extremely difficult to overcome.
His official statement released from the team he's playing on in Russia spoke more about his state of depression.
"I decided to stop my career, and this is entirely my decision is because I feel tired of volleyball. Ever since I started playing professionally, I almost had no chance to see my family. Because of this I do not feel comfortable and have been dealing with stress.
This critical condition and home sickness have reached their peak before the start of this season. I thought I could stand and overcome depression, but in the end I was wrong. I will miss the remainder of the season, but I am not finished with volleyball yet. I just want to have a break. I think that this break will help me get back the passion and love for the game."
Matt has a tattoo relating to his autistic cousin Tristin on his wrist, it's one piece of a puzzle with his cousin's name. He even put it on his right wrist since he's right handed and that's where he said he thought it would get the most television exposure for Autism Awareness. In April 2014, Matt was in an interview where his tattoo and cousin were brought up, and was asked if he believes everything happens for a reason- his response was pretty interesting:
"I believe things happen because they happen. I don’t think there’s a grand plan for everyone. I think that we are people, we are part of the world and the world is not ours. I think that we fit into the structure of our consciousness and of our reality. I think that things happen because you are here at that moment.If things happen for a reason, why do we live? Why do we have our consciousness? Why are we not just robots?
If there’s a grand plan, why do we feel? Why do we have senses? Why do we love? Why do we hate? Why do we feel jealousy towards someone? Why do we motivate other people to be better people if it doesn't matter if it’s just going to happen for a reason beyond their control?"
I mostly agree with him. We are all different and we should not live based on what we think we should be doing or based on what people will think. What makes life so great isn't because we might make a huge difference in this world- but the little thinks like making relationships, making memories, and sharing love which are all things that we can somewhat control.