Sunday, March 2, 2014

Horror Films Saved My Life

I haven't told many people what drew me into horror movies. Maybe because the truth is so much less badass than I feel like it should be, or maybe I'm embarrassed or something.

Here's the truth: horror films saved my life.

I'm not being dramatic. The second part of that statement is: because I've battled depression for as long as I can remember. Hopefully I can explain this all so it makes sense. Be patient.

So here's the post that's taken me years to write. It's long. I have to say a lot of stuff.

I experience depression as a desert. I think a lot of people mistake it for sadness, but it has nothing to do with that. If you're just a chronically sad person, that's a whole different ballgame. I'm not one of those. Depression is a monotonous, grey wasteland where every damn day is the same and there is nothing to look forward to, nothing to want, and nothing to make me happy or excited. Sadness is an emotion, and from my experience, depression is just the feeling of having no feeling. It SUCKS. There's a bleakness to every day, and an eternity of sameness stretching out in front of you - nothing to feel, nothing to look forward to. Nothing will ever change. I will live every day just. like. that.

Many people have asked if I blame my upbringing. As far as the condition? No. I don't blame anyone. But really, my family's lack of understanding (or attempt at understanding) let me wander so far into the wasteland it's a miracle I ever found my way out. They almost lost me. I don't mean to rebellion or risky behavior either - I mean DEAD. I was so far gone that even though I understood death was still a wasteland, it could maybe be less bleak than what I was living in every day. I lost all consciousness that anything would happen to the world if I was gone - I just didn't want to be here anymore. 

I get really upset when people refer to suicide as selfish. If someone is at the point of attempting to take their own life, they're beyond thinking of themselves or anyone else. To them, it is the only option. It is the feeling that nothing will change and living each day is such hell that the only answer is to end it in that way. I've been there. It's lonely. You don't want it, but you're desperate. The selfish ones are those who turn a blind eye to their loved ones. This is where my family let me down. Thankfully, others did not and that's why I'm here today.

I was literally dragged to therapy. Literally. I was stuffed into a car by one of three amazing people and driven to see the  doctor sometimes as many as three times a week until things started improving. I remember the very moment I decided to stay alive - I relive it often. It was the toughest moment of my life. But I did, slowly but surely, with a lot of tough love and support, start digging out.

I need to make one thing clear: tough love does NOT mean telling someone to cheer up, or suck it up, or get over it. Those are the most damaging types of things you can ever say. Depressed people aren't broken or vying for attention, not if it's real. We don't need advice. We don't need anyone asking us what's wrong, because we don't usually know. Telling us to cheer up? It's just condescending. We aren't fucking sad. We don't really know what we are…we just don't like it.

So I started digging out in college. It was tough. I had to change my whole way of thinking to be able to start letting feeling in. I remember the first thing I started feeling was anger - acute, wretched and pointed at the people who I felt had been letting me down. But I could write a novel on that - and it would be so miserable no one would want to read it, so moving on…

Then I discovered horror movies.

Because I discovered fear. Fear is a very strong feeling. It brought me to life inside, and even the movies that didn't scare me brought with them fascination. It was something to be excited about and enchanted by. I fell in LOVE with things that go bump in the night, especially monsters. I wanted to be startled, shaken and shocked - I wanted the rush of the unexpected, the unknown and the unpleasant. I loved how uncomfortable these movies made me because THEY MADE ME FEEL SOMETHING. More importantly, they made me feel something that wasn't directed at anyone, because every other feeling I'd been experiencing was so horrible.

I give The Shining credit. Alien….massive credit. Evil Dead? Wonderful. I learned to laugh even while watching from between my fingers. Digging out of the depression hole has to be punctuated with moments of life like this, and moments of feeling. They make the next day seem worthwhile.

It's all about those moments of feeling for the rest of your life. I graduated college in 2003, and I still feel the wasteland over my shoulder every day. I also still feel a rush from monsters leaping out of dark shadows. It has become a form of therapy. It keeps my darkness at bay.

And that's the key. Find something you can turn to when you need to feel something. When you feel the wasteland pulling you in, find that thing that will fascinate you, even for a few moments.

I recently read the book Hyperbole and a Half (written by a blogger far more amazing than me) which was a hoot - but also made me laugh and cry at the same time. Why? Because the author's description of depression was perfect. She too, uses humor and wit to cope - to get what she needs to say out there, but wraps it in a life jacket of humor just in case it's too dark for its audience.

So really, if you hate what I just wrote or don't understand it or something, this is perfect:

I didn't inject a lot of humor here. I'm not talented enough to know how, so I'm sorry for that. I wish I could have made this more enjoyable for whoever reads it.

If you're dealing with depression

I guess the message of all of this ranting is, if you can find your monster movie, you'll be ok. I'm pretty weird, so chances are your monster movie won't ACTUALLY be a monster movie. It might be books, or knitting, YouTube videos of baby animals or something outside. It will probably be unexpected, but that in itself is kinda cool. Therapists sometimes won't tell you that you'll live with depression always, but you will. You'll always know it's there. Some days will be bad, but many many MANY of them will be good too. You'll have things to look forward to, people who love you, and feelings. It takes work and that's hard, but you're strong enough to get to a good place. I'm happy now, and haven't taken any meds for over 7 years.