I’ve been having a fairly emotional week, and though I’m already feeling better, it brought to mind a time during my college years when I was definitely not okay. As with so many other difficult or tedious times in my life, I turned to fantastic fiction. I don’t know that I would have gotten through it without it.
At first I felt sad for no reason, but after weeks of crying, I just felt numb and apathetic. Nothing could get me excited, and nothing seemed to matter. The occasional times I did feel anything, I just wanted to scream. When I got home from classes or work each day, I watched movies on my computer and drank until it was time to go to sleep.
If I had had any sense at the time, I would have sought professional help. It wasn’t that I didn’t realize that I was suffering from textbook depression. But I was stubborn. I didn’t believe in anti-depressant medication. I’ve always been freaked at the notion of something that fucks with my brain (because I was putting it to such good use otherwise, right?). And I didn’t think that yapping with some stranger was my cup of tea either.
But most of all, I didn’t want my family to know I was having such a hard time. I knew that my parents were struggling to allow me to go to college in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I knew I was incredibly lucky to have their support. I couldn’t stand to let them know that my life wasn’t as perfect as they imagined.
This was when I first discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix. At first it offered only in the usual and expected sort of diversion: the release of comedy and the escape of fantasy. Yet I rapidly became attached to the characters, especially Buffy. I was surprised at how much I came to care for her, since I don’t often identify with very feminine characters. Normally I just don’t see myself in girls who are constantly worried about their hair, but I couldn’t help but admire Buffy’s confidence, sense of humor, and inner strength.
Still, the show was just a bit of fun. Until I got to Season 6.
I know that for many people, Season 6 is the low point of the show. But for me, it was a revelation. There was Buffy, feeling like nothing mattered. Buffy, brushing off the concerns of her friends and family and trying to convince them nothing was wrong. Buffy, working a shitty job that she was much too smart for. Buffy, making bad decisions just to feel something. Buffy, struggling just to get her shit together.
How could this be? How could looking at my hero feel so much like looking at myself (with better hair)? I’m sure it would sound ridiculous to some people, but I took great comfort in imagining that even someone as strong and self-assured as Buffy could go through something like that. And that she could keep going. And get better.
Sometimes I hear fans say that Buffy “complains too much” in Season 6. In my opinion, she didn’t complain nearly enough. Like so many people suffering from depression, she kept it inside and didn’t let her friends know what she was feeling. That’s what is hard for me to watch. The scene in which she finally collapses in tears in front of Tara is among the most moving things I’ve ever seen on television.
I didn’t get better overnight. I did learn the words to every song in Once More With Feeling and developed very special feelings for Spike. And eventually, things changed for me. I don’t mean that some quantifiable shift happened in my life; after all, my life was already pretty good on paper. But little by little, I started to feel human again.
So thanks for reading. Sorry if this was a downer for your Thursday, but at least it was on topic and not a complaint about the front page design! Change is good.
And here's a completely relevant picture: