First I thought of the title of this post, because when I’m depressed, I find myself binge-watching shows on streaming tv. Then I listed the shows I wanted to talk about, and realized immediately that they have one thing in common: death. I know, I know—that’s a grim and dangerous topic to take on when you’re also talking about depression. But it seems to me just as dangerous, if not more so, NOT to take on that topic. Whether or not your depression has you actively thinking of suicide—and please, if it does, TELL SOMEONE—death and life and what it’s all for are tumbling around in the minds of many depressed people. In fact most people consider questions relating to death and life and what it’s all for. Art itself—and whether done well or poorly, television and movies are art too—is precisely for the consideration of these questions. For me, watching these shows makes me feel less alone, because I know someone else thought about death and the afterlife. Whether we come to the same conclusions or not is irrelevant.
I also want to preface the list by saying this: please don’t beat yourself up for whatever you’re watching while you’re depressed. You have a disease. You don’t deserve the self-criticism. People who say, “Just get out and ________” don’t understand. Even if they’ve also suffered from depression and pulled out of it through exercise or socializing or medication or therapy—all good things!—it doesn’t mean the exact same approach will work for you, or work for you all the time. Some days are just going to be crappy, and you’re going to find yourself on the couch.
Also: I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I’m so very sorry. And I’m right there with you.
So, the shows:
- Dead Like Me. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0348913/) A girl who’s fairly uninvested in life gets hit by a flying toilet seat and finds she’s been assigned to be a reaper. She brings her somewhat detached, sardonic, sarcastic approach to interacting with her fellow reapers and is always pushing against the rules. It’s funny, snarky, weird, and doesn’t glorify the afterlife—at least not this particular corner of it. Also: Mandy Patinkin is glorious as the brusque, “the afterlife sucks but do it anyway” boss. Only 2 seasons, unfortunately, and about 14 years old, but worth it.
- Glitch. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4192782/?ref_=nv_sr_1) People come back to life and climb out of their graves in a small town in Australia. They’re not zombies, it takes them time to remember things about their lives and themselves, but they’re definitely alive. Veers between science and supernatural. Not a comedy, and in fact some of the relationship stuff veers towards the soap opera at times—but it’s hard to stop watching, and the Australian accents and mostly outdoor sets keep the soap opera feel to a minimum. Two seasons so far, and I’m still watching the 2nd season, but it’s addictive in part because it feels like it’s building towards some revelations about the rules of life and death.
- The Good Place. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4955642/?ref_=nv_sr_1) Definitely a comedy, and yes, there are laugh out loud moments. But it’s insidious in how it gets you thinking, too, about the afterlife and people’s expectations and hopes, as well as our behavior while alive. After I binge-watched the first season on Netflix, I discovered—too late—that there’s a second season in progress. It was such a pleasure to watch in progression that I’m going to wait until the whole second season is available and not try to jump in partway. If you’ve seen the first season or read about it, don’t spoil it for new viewers! Ted Danson is actually hilarious and it doesn’t hurt that the actor has always reminded me of my brother.
- Wristcutters: A Love Story. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0477139/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm) Ok, so this one takes the issue of suicide head on. Sometimes that bluntness is what you need when you’re depressed and obsessing over life and death. The weird thing is: the quirkiness of the movie, its writing and comedic cameos, and its overall arc are really enjoyable. Obviously it’s not a “you should do it” take on suicide, but it’s not sappy or cliché in presentation either. You’ll surprise yourself by becoming fond of the soundtrack. The whole movie is strange, for sure—but then, the afterlife should be strange.
Finally—please tell me in the comments what you watch when you’re depressed, and why.