Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On Mental Illness, Web Comics, and Gory Anime

It's been about half a year since I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Right now that's just like, "Whatevs." I've only dealt with mild spells of depression for a while now, which is wonderful. I owe a lot to my psychiatrist and my psychologist-in-training (a doctoral student at UNT), and I realize now that both are and have been instrumental in my recovery. Thanks, Dr. Hamilton and Greg.

Anyway, when I was depressed actively, I would often find "explanations" of depression that hit home. Usually I'd share them on Facebook or something to help explain what was going on in my little brain and perhaps help someone who didn't realize they were going through the same thing. One such example (which I naturally can't find) is from Seaneen Molloy's blog  Mentally Interesting: It was a comic about the little depression man who lives in your head and reinterprets everything people say negatively. Case in point, "Hi, how are you?" is reinterpreted as, "Why are you still alive?" It sounds extreme, but you have no idea how much truth there is in this. Seaneen Molloy is important to me. Shortly after I realized something was wrong with me, she was on the Ouch! podcast talking about her battle with bipolar I disorder. I clearly remember her saying that it takes time to get the right meds and treatment plan in order, and I remember crying when she said that. It was just the thing I needed to hear when I began this long journey ... and she was right. I've been on a good mix of meds for a year or more, but things were dicey until then. Again, thanks Dr. Hamilton.

Onward. I don't feel the same acute familiarity I felt when reading something when I was depressed, but I still know a good example when I see it. Enter Hyperbole and a Half. I got back from tending to my mother, and Allie Brosh published an entry in her web comic that took me by surprise: "Adventures in Depression." (I will now allow you time off from the Loquat to read this comic. It's essential for understanding the rest of my own blog.) I'd gone through some minor though annoying depression while I was helping my mother, so my own adventures in depression were fresh in my mind. Her words hit on an essential truth of depression: "Essentially, I was being robbed of my right to feel self pity, which is the only redeeming part of sadness." I shared it on Facebook, but what I said was that I didn't ever reach the point she reached in the video store. 

Turns out I was wrong. Enter Claymore:

Seriously, I could listen to this song all day. In fact, I have been. I listened to it while I ordered the Claymore manga, which is something I've never done before nor ever wanted to do before. Yes, I'm a loser. 

I decided for Halloween that my husband and I should hide in the dark and watch Claymore for some good gory fun. Then I thought about how I came to watch Claymore in the first place. I'm prone to bouts of insomnia, so one sleepless night during spring I curled up on the couch and watched Claymore until Chris got up at 6:00. The series is 26 episodes long--I got through 13 in one night. What was so intriguing about it? It was rated TV-MA. It was labelled "Anime Horror." And only on Halloween did it click. 

I, like Allie Brosh, vegged out in front of the TV watching some scary (and occasionally gut-wrenching) stuff. I felt the immunity of depression. Nothing was too scary. Nothing was too gory. I was impenetrable. 

Nowadays, I'm just obsessed with Claymore. This is strange because, frankly, it isn't very good. But it's engrossing. And now I know it's part of the story of being mentally ill. So now this anime horror series has meaning to me. 

Mental illness is a long journey. Take whatever comes your way as a gift. Even mediocre anime. 

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