(Trigger warning for depression, anxiety and mention of being suicidal.)
This may or may not* devolve into an incoherent mess as I attempt to write about depression, a kids movie, and my life.
So, I live with what is known as ‘chronic unipolar depression’, which is extremely common for someone on the autistic spectrum. My current ‘cycle’ has been stuck in the ‘depression’ phase for more than nine years now.
I like to sum it up with an anecdote from the time someone thought that CBT would be a good idea (it was not. CBT is generally not helpful for ASD except in super specific circumstances, which were… not mine). Every week that I went (9 weeks total) I had to fill out a ‘mood assessment form’ before my session. Because I’m not a moron it would have been very easy to fake my way through the form and lie to my councillor, but, well, I decided not to (and yes, that does mean that I sometimes/every fucking day lie about how I’m feeling. Not lying about how you’re feeling when you have chronic depression leads to people shunning you. Which fucking sucks whichever way you look at it). Of course, I scored in the ‘severely depressed & anxious’ range every time, but that was fine because I was feeling severely depressed and anxious.
Except, one day, I wasn’t. I felt good. I felt great. I can’t remember why, but I really remember that feeling. I went and I filled in my test thinking ‘this is great, she’s going to be so impressed at the progress I’ve made! Look how great I’m feeling!”
I only scored four points less on that form than I had on the previous week. I think i scored something like 36/46, when a neurotypical non-depressed person feeling the same way would have scored 0-5.
This is what long-term depression and anxiety do to you. I was so fucking happy just to feel the way that other people would experience as borderline suicidal that I thought I felt fantastic. And I did feel fantastic- compared to how I could remember feeling. The next week, of course, I lost those extra points, because happiness when you are depressed is not something that lasts very long. A day or two, maybe, if you’re lucky.
And this is where I want to talk about Inside Out. Because I was diagnosed with depression when I was eleven years old, and I have displayed the same ‘symptoms’ for most of my life. I will probably continue to experience depressive cycles for the rest of my life.
But what if, when I was eleven and Autistic and anxious and depressed and so very, very alone, I had been able to sit down an watch this film? One of the things that I struggle with most, and have my whole life, is a phobia of sadness. Because, Inside Out makes it very clear what those of us living with depression know to be true: Depression is not about feeling sad. It is about not being able to feel sadness. Or joy. Anger, fear, disgust: yes! At least to start with. Stay in a depressive cycle long enough and you’ll loose those too, but to start with, those three are your constant companions.
There is a thing that I have found to be true for a lot of people with recurrent depression, and that is this fear of feeling sad. Because depression in its early stages can feel a lot like sadness. And so you start to feel sad and then you panic because what if it’s happening again? so you try to ignore the sadness and you lie about how you’re feeling, and you hide it so well that you forget it ever was an emotion you felt to begin with. The problem with that is, it is often sadness and vulnerability and the ability to open up to people that forms bonds with others. And so your friendships drift apart, because superficial friendships might be fun but after a while it’s difficult to keep things going without a deeper connection- but that would involve letting yourself be vulnerable and opening yourself up to rejection, which may well lead to depression (because by this point depression may well be your brains go-to method of coping with emotions because why the fuck not)- but the fact that your relationships are falling apart is going to cause you to become depressed in the long run, so in fact, why bother to make friends anyway? You’re just going to end up alone and depressed eventually anyway.
That is honestly how I think most of the time. A huge amount of my mental energy is spend combating thoughts like this to try and stop them from becoming self-fulfilling prophesies. So far it hasn’t worked, but that’s no reason to stop trying.
Inside Out is such an important film because it’s giving kids and adults a clear and simple set of tools to communicate about depression and emotion with. I’ll be honest, I sort of want a set of toys of each of the emotions for myself, since I communicate better in a visual/kinesthetic way, having a set of emotion toys in my bag to help me figure out how I’m feeling sounds fucking fantastic (although it’s a disney film so I’m sort of crying on the inside over how much they’ll probably cost…)
NGL, I cried pretty much the whole way through the goddamn film. and not even subtle crying like you hope you’ll do in the cinema: no, these were fucking FULL ON SOBS that I kept having to breath through (although I was not the only one in the cinema audibly sobbing, so that was nice. SOLIDARITY!)
I will say, though, that I would put a warning on it. If you are currently in the midst of a depressive phase then this might not be the right time for you to see this film. If you’re struggling with your first bout of depression, or, like Riley in the film, situational depression (ie she is depressed for excellent reasons like moving far away from your childhood home, leaving your friends, not fitting in at school, etc etc; my kind of depression is random and not triggered by life events) then go for it, I think this will help you. But while I LOVED them film, I have definitely come away feeling worse. Because I have never got ‘better’. Literally, I have not not been depressed since I was a teenager. I have been less depressed, more depressed but better functioning, more depressed and less functioning, less functioning but also less depressed, and flat-out suicidal. I have had good days, even good weeks and occasionally good months, but I have still been depressed. It has taken a great deal of work and a lot of medication to get me to where I am now- which is very depressed, but mostly okay, and I do think that, while it will take a lot more work and possibly some more medication, I will one day cease to be depressed (for a while at least. My goal is one full depression-free year). I’m just not there yet, and one of the things that I’m feeling having watched Inside Out a few hours ago is: Why can’t it be that easy for me?
(* Of course it will, the question is just: how quickly?) (This quickly. We have now reached full-on incoherent mess status. Abort. Abort!)
Tags: anxiety, depression, feelings, films, inside out
(This started off as a comment on Fred’s Jurassic World review on The Movie Notebook… I now realise that it got totally out of hand so I am posting it here instead. Some of this will not makes sense unless you’ve read his review, so maybe do that first. Since he wrote an actual “review” and I just shouted at a computer screen for two entire pages… #sorrynotsorry)
That’s is, that’s your warning.
Before I go on to fucking shred the film, it should be stated that I enjoyed it enough for my first post-film comment to be: “My new life goal is to be a dinosaur fight choreographer.” And for a film that had as many goddamn problems as Jurassic World did that’s saying something.
1. The dialogue & character interactions felt like someone wrote a particularly unspecific algorithym for an action movie script plugged in the character names and relationships, and then added the words “dinos” “Raptors” etc in at strategic points. It was fucking terrible to the point that my sister who doesn’t often read for fun and doesn’t really like to think critically about media went on a rant about it. I cannot stress how badly written the humans in it were. Like, Claire is set up to be a highly capable executive-type character who thinks more about spreadsheets and stocks than other people (my kind of woman, let’s be fair), who is then thrown into a situation COMPLETLEY OUTSIDE any life experience she had probably ever had and proceeds to be thoroughly badass at THAT TOO. To the point that she literally saves the life of the “hero” and then comes up with and executes the plan that saves the day. Owen, on the other hand, is the emotional one: he connects with dangerous fucking animals through body language and tone and he cares about his raptors as much as he cares about other people. So it is thoroughly out of character for Claire to be the one crying over a dead dino- fuck that, it’s Owen who should be shedding a single manly tear over the death of creatures that he respects.
1a. The dinosaurs had better and more consistent characterisation and emotional arcs than any of the human characters. I am ALL HERE FOR THAT SHIT. The next one better be all dinos, all the time. Fuck those humans. DINOSAURS IN SPACE. Ahem.
1b. CLAIRE. I LOVE HER. She spends most of the film having her life choices invalidated (“When, not if” FUCK OFF), being belittled (“that’s why you and I never had a second date”) and pretty much all-around being shat on for being good at her goddamn job (too many to quote) to the point that after she SAVES THE “HERO”s life and he kisses her someone sitting behind me went “SHE DOESN’T DESERVE HIM” (fuck you too, sir). SHE’S THE ONE WHO FIGURED OUT HOW TO BEAT THE BIG BAD DINO, OKAY? SHE PUT HERSELF INFRONT OF A T-REX AND SAVED THE DAY. Owen was pretty much useless compared to her and- And, I just- I can’t- I love her, okay? You deserved better, Claire. Especially better shoes.
1c. The real romance in this film was Owen/Blue and no one is going to convince me otherwise. I bet he has a RAPTOR SQUAD 4 LYFE tattoo somewhere embarrassing.
2. REPRESENTATION MATTERS. This is one of those “this is the hill I choose to die on” things, because: representation matters, people getting to see themselves reflected in the media MATTERS (like, it has been scientifically proven that non-white and non-male children have better self-esteem and are less prone to depression when they see “people like them” represented). HOWEVER. If you are going to kill a full FIFTY PERCENT of your non-white male characters (of course I counted), and FOURTY PERCENT of your white female characters (going up to fifty percent if you discount the mom), it’s probably for the best that they don’t have any non-white female characters because I would fucking hate to see how they fare. And, yes, I am aware that many white male characters died but almost every other character was a white male so your percentage there would be like ten percent? Maybe? If I was willing to have a rage-induced embolism I’d watch it again and keep count, but i’m not so someone else can do that). Basically, if you are going to do that, just: don’t. If you can’t treat your PoC and women the same as you do your white men then frankly I would prefer that you just not include them at all. Be better, Hollywood, it’s fucking 2015 already. (We wouldn’t be having this problem if they had just gone with me “all dinos, all the time” idea… Call me, Hollywood!)
2a. Pterodactyls. Totally with you on that one. When you don’t even kill the UNAMBIGUOUSLY EVIL character that gratuitously, you gotta ask: dudes, why you hate women so fucking much? Jesus christ. Get some therapy. Etc, etc.
2ai. That entire problem and more could have been solved by not making the military dudes with the FUCKING GATLING GUN so FUCKING USELESS.
3. What kind of space-age mother fucking batteries were in those 20-year-old night vis goggles? I can get behind a kid who knows his way around an engine being able to revive a 20-year-old Jeep, because that is basically what they were made for, but fuck. I leave batteries in my game boy for six months and they fucking melt. No. THERE NEEDS TO BE SOME SORT OF LOGIC HERE. SUCH BAD WRITING. Someone needs to round up the writers of this and hit them with a rolled-up magazine until they learn to WRITE BETTER.
3a. Whoever thought that the line “We stick together. For survival” was a decent line, let alone a good way to END THE FUCKING FILM needs to be taken out to the back of the lot and shot. Not necessarily fatally, but definitely shot. That entire “reunion” scene should have been scrapped. End with the raptor running off after the t-rex, cut to the t-rex roaring over the abandoned park. You could maybe insert some news-type footage about the disaster in between, but seriously. (I am super mad about the terrible quality of the writing in this film. You may have noticed.)
4. I want a grown-ups dino petting zoo. I WANNA RIDE THE DINOSAUR. WHY DO THE KIDS GET TO HAVE ALL THE FUN, HUH?
5. Whoever decided that people should be able to control those gyro-ball thingies themselves was basically asking for something like that to happen. Never trust the general public with anything. Ask anyone who has ever worked retail. STEP IT UP, HOLLYWOOD. God.
6. “God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.”
“Dinosaurs eat man, woman inherits the earth.”
If the next film isn’t DINOS IN SPACE (“Jurassic Universe”) then it should absolutely be a future in which women and dinosaurs are peacefully co-existing, led by Claire, Blue and the T-Rex. Chris Pratt can be just a sweaty and dirty as he was in this film, only shirtless. And he is the exhibit. Shut up and take my money, Hollywood.