“There are religions and cultures that look on mental illness as something you should be able to overcome by shear will.”
Growing up in the church as a preacher’s daughter, she was taught that depression was a great spiritual flaw. Her response? “Baloney!”
Here’s how Chonda Pierce describes her depression: “Take a pillowcase full of rocks and strap it to the top of your head. Now put on a dark pair of sunglasses — indoors. Leave those things on for about a week, until you begin to see the world through a dark film that never gets lighter, and it takes a very conscious effort to hold your head up. That is what depression feels like on a good day.”
She describes this feeling to thousands of people in concerts all across America because she’s a comedian, working to make people laugh. “And,” she says, “I’m depressed.”
Chonda grew up in a strict Christian home as a preacher’s daughter. Part of her church culture taught that depression was some great spiritual flaw. “Baloney!” is her response.
She encountered opposition not long after talking about taking antidepressants that helped her escape the dreadful symptoms of her illness. But she stood her ground. “The church is not the only judgmental group out there when it comes to understanding mental illness,” she says. “There are religions and cultures that look on mental illness as something you should be able to overcome by shear will.”
Keep on Laughing
Chonda is happy about the great changes she’s seen in the way the church world now handles mental illness, recognizing the researchers, doctors, and pharmacists — many of whom, like her, are devoted Christians — who are working feverishly to find the right cure, medication, and help. “Until we begin to see that mental illness attacks an organ in our body that needs medical attention, therapy, and understanding,” Chonda says, “we will still run into the ridiculous few who see those in a wheelchair as lazy. To those people… well, they become the best part of my night: material for fodder, jokes for a comedian. But sadly, they are rarely worth the laugh.”
Chonda learned that it’s possible to get treatment that really helps, so she can go on laughing and making others happy, too.
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A frequent guest at the Grand Ole Opry, Chonda Pierce is an Emmy®-nominated and best-selling comedian who has been making audiences laugh for more than two decades. Her 2015 film, Laughing in the Dark, reveals her struggle with depression, which she hopes will embolden viewers to seek professional help for depression and encourage their loved ones who are suffering to do the same.