This entry happened due to a nice combination of reviews I stumbled upon today. This first was for a film about a botched suicide attempt where the main character is suddenly awakened due to an insane doctor who convinces her she’s dying. This act of malpractice of course cures her depression and makes her want to live. The second was for a film about a mother dealing with severe anxiety who is told that she doesn’t need therapy but to embrace her role as a mother. Not a bad message but the film sounded staggeringly offensive to me.
These are two extreme examples but they serve to highlight something despicable in the media. Time and time again, depression is treated as something instantly curable. Perhaps the person needs to confront the core of why they’re depressed. Or they need a good turn of events to snap them out of it. Whatever the case, it’s always treated as something that can be fixed quickly by external forces.
This is, of course, wildly untrue. In reality coming up out of a depression episode is a nice long, unsteady climb out of a hole. There are good days and bad days. The only thing that heals an episode is to keep moving forwards. But of course that’s not dramatic so we get what we get. So why not look at these two toxic expressions of a dangerous idea?
The first myth is a stupid one on the surface but it’s still seemingly common: the idea that depressed people haven’t confronted their issues or even weirder don’t know the root cause. This idea even shows up in films I love so it’s that common. The truth is a depressed person knows exactly what’s at the core of things: either a traumatic event or faulty brain chemistry. It’s no mystery. Back in September, I was recovering from the sudden death of one of my best friends. Pretty clear. As for the idea of “coming to terms” with it? That takes many years of wrestling with it. Many people never resolve their trauma. That’s just how it goes.
Then there’s the idea that if something good happens, it’ll fix the something bad. This honestly does make sense on a certain level. A depression incident can be triggered so why can’t it be untriggered? The sad truth is usually a depression incident is triggered like a crack in a dam. It’s been building and it finally breaks. A good vacation away from the triggers can help, yes, but it’s just not tat easy. Same for something great like getting a new great job. It helps, in fact it can be very healthy to alter your life, but the battle is still there.
Oh and romcoms, a new love will make life better but they sure won’t fix you. That’s not a healthy view of love. Look, my beloved was there during my episode and I owe her I have for it but I still had my fight. Really, love during depression is beautiful but it ain’t magic.
Is there a good depiction? On How I Met Your Mother, a show I do love, there was a sequence depicting a character after a breakup. He goes through the episode slowly getting back up. Then relapses. And the show depicts this as normal. Eventually things do get better but the show honestly states that it takes time. That’s how to handle the subject.