Boy Meets Depression

Author: Kevin Breel
Publisher: Ten Speed Press/Crown Publishing Group, nonfiction

The title of author Kevin Breel’s memoir is direct and self-explanatory. Boy Meets Depression is Breel’s personal account of descending into, recognising, and pulling out of the fog called depression.

A stand-up comic from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, Breel is noted for being one of the youngest comic acts to traipse around the stand-up circuit as well as being one of the youngest people to give a TEDx Talk. On the back of his 2013 TEDx Talk (entitled “Confessions of a Depressed Comic” which went viral with more than half a million views in 30 days), Breel was propelled to international stardom.

Through his memoir, readers learn that despite the accolades he received following his TEDx Talk (Breel has since become an in-demand speaker throughout North America), Breel was far from feeling gleeful.

Nobody could understand why Breel was not feeling jubilant – and the person in question was asking himself the same question. “Sadly, I did not have an answer as to why I found it hard to leap about joyously when the occasion clearly calls for it,” Breel writes in a matter-of-fact manner, which is both brave and unnerving, particularly if one is prone to depression.

str2_sharildepressionR_ev_1While many (mainly those who do not suffer from it) may argue that depression is not an illness per se, and that it is a self-indulgent term people use when there is actually nothing wrong with them (except they feel sad or down and cannot account for why they feel that way), Breel does not hold them accountable for their ignorance. Nor does he take the high route of being self-righteous about the illness. Instead, he uses humour in an attempt to explain the chemical imbalance in his head.

Depression is, by all accounts, a heavy subject to deal with, and not a topic that would appeal to the general public. However, by using humour, Breel’s take on the matter manages to keep the reader engaged. Breel dives into the topic head-on, allowing the reader to peep through the dark recesses of his mind, back to the days when he thought of killing himself before deciding he wanted to live and thus getting the necessary help.

Breel’s candid confessions – written in every day, layman language – allow the reader to relate to his cries for help or understand what is pumping through his head. It also makes the reader want to root for Breel and not discard him as a self-indulgent 21-year-old from the land of plenty who does not know what real suffering is. A sample reads: “Note to self: When you feel f***ed up: Stop. Breathe. Talk to someone. Tell them stuff. Stop being an a**hole and thinking you are going to get through it alone. Problems are like broken pipes: they need a person to fix them. Oh, and clean your room, you filthy animal.”

As a memoir (and unlike an autobiography), Boy Meets Depression is organised like a novel (i.e. in non-chronological order), and reads like one. What is refreshing is that Breel does not try to decipher the root cause of depression – either in general or his own – and comes clean by letting his readers know he has no scientific knowledge as to what causes the chemicals to be imbalanced in people’s heads.

Though the journey is harrowing at times, Boy Meets Depression offers readers a glimpse of hope that all is not bleak, that there are people who understand and can provide assistance and/or comfort.

As mentioned, Boy Meets Depression is written with every day, layman’s language laced with profanity, and is easy to get into. As an early 20-something, Breel’s vocabulary veers towards the language of teenagers (i.e. simple, straightforward and full of the f-word), and his writing style reads more like thoughts put on paper than flowery prose.

The memoir – and especially the subject matter – may put the casual reader off. But for those who have been visited by the black dog, Boy Meets Depression is a worthy read, if only to see how a 21-year-old coped with his own black dog.