Why so serious…

First post in over a year. Well that’s a fail… It has been quite a year to be honest.

 

I realise I start off in the title with a casual Joker reference which has a tendency to amuse people but the point is The Joker actually sums up what I want to talk about quite nicely (Forgetting, for a moment, all the homicidal, deranged chaos he creates) because this isn’t going to be a fun post-

 

No, please don’t leave, I didn’t mean boring. It’s just that I would like to cover a topic that, I have come to realise, affects a great many people despite how they may feel alone.

There is a reason why I have been absent for the longest time. I don’t write this for me, though, I write it for those people who I know have felt the same as I did.

 

Depression, Anxiety, Bi-Polar or anything of the like; They are not something that can be dismissed. They are not the made up conditions for miserable people and crybabies. They are very real conditions that a large majority of people struggle with everyday. Conditions that a lot of people cannot, and often don’t want to, understand. Even those afflicted often decide it’s nothing, convince themselves to try and push on, that they are stupid for being sad or worried all the time.

Depression is often called the ‘Invisible Disease’ and I find this quite apt. Most of the people with it you wouldn’t think there was anything wrong and often that’s because they’re trying to fool themselves into thinking nothing is wrong or hiding it away from the outside world from fear of ridicule but this only makes it worse.

But it is far from nothing. Study after study have confirmed that depressives show wildly different brain activity from non-depressives. I’m no doctor but I know it can arise from too much or little of this or that chemical in the brain, including Serotonin (a mood regulator.) It can be caused by many other factors, though, traumatic events from your past, a pre-disposition to mood changes, even genetics, it could be almost anything. One thing it is not, though, is imaginary. Issues like this are very real mental health conditions and should be treated as such. If you suspect a friend or family member may have depression don’t just tell them to ‘cheer up.’ Simply be there for them. Oftentimes you don’t actually need to try and actively comfort them, just let them know you are there to talk or be a shoulder to cry on if they need it. Above all, never loose your patience with them, not matter how long it goes on. They have just as much control over it as you do: None. 

 

I have the utmost respect for anyone who can admit that they struggle with depression. I feel a relevant example would be the late, great Robin Williams, may he rest in peace. A comic, a wacky personality but a tortured soul. A fun loving comedian, you might think, how could this happen? The truth is a great deal of comedians struggle with this kind of thing. Need I say any more than simple Stephen Fry? For years Williams grappled with his own demons, even turning to drugs to try and stem his uncontrollable misery. A misery that had no reason but yet existed regardless. To the pain of the world over he eventually took his own life earlier this month. The final, ultimate action of a man desperate for peace with himself.

And yet he was branded a ‘coward’ by some, for leaving his family, for allowing them to find him in such a way.

“(…)something inside you is so horrible or you’re such a coward or whatever the reason that you decide that you have to end it.” These were the words that US News Anchor Shepard Smith had to apologise for after Williams’ death. I feel this is one of the the most appropriate examples of how people who have not experienced depression cannot understand the mindset of someone in such a condition. I acknowledge that it was terrible for his family, especially in the method he did it but I feel people fail to empathise with what he was feeling. His family brought him great joy, they were the light of his life, so it must have been that much worse to be convinced that they did not feel the same. I know his family did love him very much but in that state of depression the world can become a dark and twisted place where you feel everyone around you, even your closest loved ones despise you, where no-one would care if you died. A place where everything feels like it imprisons you, torments you and you are constantly surrounded by a dark cloud you cannot shake.

Robin Williams was not a coward. In fact I would call him brave. Brave for facing so many years with that ‘invisible disease,’ smiling and joking to the world even though this thing is eating you inside. Ultimately, though, in a ‘fit of depression’ and desperation he ended it.

 

So this has been a somewhat long and solemn piece but if even one person reads it and understands all of this a little better then it would have all been worth it.

Before I go, here’s something my partner found that helped her to understand things a little better. Personally, I think it’s amazing and couldn’t hit the point better.

 

P.S. If there was no other reason for him being so Robin Williams is a legend simply for naming his daughter Zelda.

Happy is a lie

It’s well known that tragedy plays a big part in crafting any good, solid storyline. I mean most of the most enduring tales have been those centred firmly around something terrible, a horrible end for beloved characters. The most obvious that will spring to most minds is, of course, Romeo and Juliet (no not that Decap film that was, to put it kindly, terrible and, to put it unkindly, not repeatable in any form of public media.) This kind of thing goes back for centuries, though, millennia. The Greeks had a firm handle on what could get into a persons head and directly stimulate that place in your brain that makes you sad and angry when someone kicks a dog.  Sure, everyone says they like it when it all goes well in a story and there is a happy ending, when no-one dies or suffers a major setback. At the end of the day, though, they just end up coming across, to me at least, token and shallow. Not to say there can’t be a happy ending but it means all that much more when it’s earned after struggling to overcome some adversity.

Why does this struggle and loss and sadness wet our narrative pallet? Because it’s more REAL. No matter what the setting may be, be it an outrageous space fantasy with black hole dragons and star dwelling cosmic dwarves, if there’s a well placed play on emotion, we have no choice but to relate. Contrary to popular belief, life is not nice. Or at least it’s not supposed to be. That’s exactly the point, though, we have a built in knowledge of this fact and a pre-disposition to its influence. The simple fact is that happy, light, ‘everything is alright’ narratives seem shallow and unreal because they are. Not to mention naive and ignorant of the general nature of life.

I won’t keep you with examples and deconstructions as this topic is probably one of the most discussed in all of creative history. I just wanted to highlight it’s easy to want to engage with this trope, to gain the maximum amount of emotional investment from an audience, but much harder to pull it off. I can’t profess to be an expert in it, I can’t even try to say I am even good at it, being as modest as I am as well as completely ignorant of the full extent of my own abilities. What I believe of it though is that whatever is being created must come from the heart, channelling some level of inner torment from the creators past. Sure, I could bang on all day about how characters much be well formed and relatable, whatever tragedy you choose must be logical in the story and significant to the characters. That’s not even going into how to keep a hook running, possibly providing hope for the wronged character or keeping them in a constant state of turmoil to keep the audience invested-.

Sorry, said I wasn’t going to go into it.

The point is you have to draw on what you know. In order to create a great story you must have lived a reasonable life. You have to be able to draw on the ups and downs, goods and especially bads of your life to really engage those you want to tell your story to. Personally, I like to come away from a story, whatever format it may be in, feeling emotionally exhausted, potentially hating the story at first because it dared to push my feelings to that point. It’s easy to come away saying you are angry because Event X happened to Character Y and it upset you but just think, if it managed to get you that bothered than it must have been doing something right to engage you that much. If you really didn’t like it, you simply wouldn’t care, not one bit.

Don’t be scared to feel the feelings Storyweavers are trying to invoke in you. After all happiness is a lie and the sooner that’s realised, the sooner you’ll start having a great time.

 

P.S. If you’ve ever watched the first 20 or so minutes of Disney Pixars “Up” you’ll know exactly what I’m getting at with this post…