Comedian Gary Gulman’s Depression Struggle

Who Is Gary Gulman?

Gary Gulman is an American stand up comedian best known for his bit on state abbreviations — and more recently, for his HBO special, The Great Depresh.

You also might have seen him as a finalist on NBC’s Last Comic Standing in seasons two and three, or in segments on Conan and other late night shows.

Gary Gulman’s Depression Journey

Gary expresses that he was sensitive and artistic as a child. He came off as happy, but that didn’t quite reflect his internal experience.

Gulman’s own mother recounts he “always had a smile on his face,” and always seemed happy. But Gary, himself, looks back and can see early signs of his loneliness even in his school projects: “Anybody with a small amount of psychology knowledge would know this was a cry for help.” 

A lot of us can relate to this difference between how the world sees us, and how we actually feel.

“I’m built like the Jewish Gaston, but inside … I took the Disney prince test, and I’m a Belle: I love to read, and mental illness runs in my family.”

During his college years, playing football, he had a wakeup call to seek help for depression. But it came in an age when the “only antidepressants we had access to were ‘Snap out of it,’ and ‘What have you got to be depressed about?’” 

Other celebrities, like James Blake also cite this dismissive mentality toward mental health as a challenge to getting help. 

After trying accounting and substitute teaching, Gulman felt unfulfilled, and transitioned permanently into comedy. 

As a comedian, Gulman has brought his long journey with depression center stage, on HBO’s The Great Depresh. “I went from never telling anybody about it” to openly sharing in his new special.

The Great Depresh

You may find it interesting that a comedian, whose whole life is about laughing, could be depressed. But many comedians seek relief in their sadness by making others smile

Earlier in his career as a comedian, Gary Gulman recalls how his hands shook constantly and how hopeless he felt: “I was so sick. I was shaky, and I was biting my lip all the time. I was anxious.” 

He didn’t just feel uncomfortable at his job; he wanted to retire from life, and suffered from suicidal thoughts

Gulman has noted that he always struggled with depression, but that his most recent episode was the most intense, pushing him to really dig in and deal with it: “I was hopeless, I didn’t think I’d ever come out of this.”

Even when he realized hospitalization was his best option, Gary was “so terrified of going because of movies like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Girl, Interrupted.” 

But multiple hospitalizations later — some “for weeks at a time” — Gulman has learned to manage his mental health and proudly advocate for open discussions about depression.

Healthier and Happier

After hospitalization, treatment, and recovery, Gary expresses that he’s very grateful to still be here. He eliminates some of the stigma surrounding therapy and medication, even describing hospitalization as “very ordinary and so helpful.”

“I went from never telling anybody about it – and it was pretty serious,” to sharing his struggle openly in an HBO special. “I want people to know that they’re not alone if they’re suffering with this.”

Gary Gulman, Judd Apatow, Patton Oswalt, and Maria Bamford in conversation about mental health.

Most importantly, Gary shares how instrumental his loved ones’ support was in getting better. Without understanding and support, he would not be where he is today. 

He hopes that sharing his experiences will help eliminate the stigma surrounding depression and encourage people to seek help in their own lives. “Therapy saved my life,” Gulman says.

You may not be a comedian, but you can still seek support from your peers. Support from understanding people was one of the biggest factors in Gary’s recovery. 

Enter a chat by clicking the coral “Chat Now” button, and open up about your own Great Depresh. You’ll find a legit helpful listening ear, and you’ll get to talk to someone right here and right now.

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