For comic, there’s life beyond depression 

Brian Wetzel isn’t afraid to surrender. The creator of "Side by Side: A Journey With Depression" wears a necklace with the word on it as a reminder of the turning point in his life when he made the conscious decision to surrender to depression and start his life anew.

"To me, that doesn’t mean that I surrender to the world or that I’ve given up and been defeated — what it means is that I had to surrender to this depression and just stopmy life," he says. "I literally had to say, ‘This is not going to work for the rest of my life and there’s no way I can continue to live like this.’"

Wetzel, 43, of Santa Rosa, has battled clinical depression for much of his adult life; his autobiographical one-man show, onstage at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday as part of the Marsh Rising Series, takes "a funny look at [his] serious survival."

Wetzel’s demons surfaced early in his life, around age 19, but it wasn’t until he hit the road as a stand-up comic in the 1990s when things began to spiral out of control.

As depression overwhelmed the budding comedian, life on the road became unbearable and he returned home. In 2002, after another frightening episode, Wetzel found himself in a psychiatric clinic, asking himself how things had become so out of control.

While Wetzel’s nagging and haunting depression never went away, neither did his desire to be a performer.

Over the course of a year, he recounted his experience and infused his innate sense of humor and storytelling ability to create "Side By Side: A Journey With Depression."

"It isn’t really about getting past depression — I don’t think I’m past it — the show is really about me trying to find things that are funny in this situation, which really wasn’t funny at the time, just to survive."

Since its debut in 2004, Wetzel’s one-man act has played Stanford University, Napa State Mental Hospital and college campuses across the West Coast.

At the heart of the performance, Wetzel’s hope is to entertain, remove the stigma surrounding depression, and let those who are suffering know that life can and does go on.

"There are scenes in the show that are harder than others because I hope to God that I am never ever there again, but I don’t want to not do them; it reminds of where I’ve been and what I’ve fought through and how devastating it can be," Wetzel says.

"I’m hoping that people who are truly suffering the depression that I am talking about will understand that there are ways to survive it, but you have to be willing to do the work."

IF YOU GO

Side By Side: A Journey With Depression

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: The Marsh, 1062 Valencia St., San Francisco

Tickets: $8 to $12

Contact: (415) 826-5750, www.themarsh.org

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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