The Flashing Lights Say You’ll Be Okay: Depression, Binge-Watching Television, And The Importance of Fluff

This is something I wrote a few months ago that’s a little off-brand for this site. I’m not throwing any anime reactions pictures into this one because…well, it’s not about anime at all.  I actually wrote this during a rough patch and wasn’t really sure where to put it. Finally, I’ve decided to post it here. You might not be able to relate to the specifics, and maybe you’ve never seen the shows mentioned here, but I still think that there’s something important here that someone might find themselves in. Trigger warning for depression and suicide mentions, but I promise this is an optimistic post. I’m leaning away from all that doom and gloom these days. Anyways, enjoy this personal slice of my life.

So, here’s something kinda crazy. I think I’m going to be okay.

What made me, someone who has been dealing with depression for a veryyyyyy long time, finally come to this conclusion? Well. I marathoned NBC’s The Good Place today.

That probably sounds like I’m being hyperbolic, right? Like I’m saying, “this show is so good, it will cure your depression!”

Well, I’m not doing that. It’s just what I did today, and it’s what made me realize something very important.

I’m being vague. Let me get a little more specific.

I’m having a very hard time. Sometimes, I forget that I’ve been having a very hard time for a very long time. I’ll have little periods where I’m doing okay, and then I’ll have loooong periods where I’m doing very bad. When I’m doing bad, I lose sight of everything else – I forget about the more lucid times and I forget about the millions of other times I’ve felt bad. More importantly, I forget that I’ve always gotten through feeling bad.

Since I was at least in middle school, I’ve had consistent periods of depression. I didn’t know what they were then, and I definitely didn’t know how to deal with them.

These days, I try to “deal” with these down periods by…ignoring them. As you can imagine, that does not work very well. In fact, all it does is lead to repression of bad feelings that turn into – you guessed it! – more bad feelings.

Lately, the thing that really drives me into these downward spirals is the idea that I’m not doing “enough.” I feel that I should be constantly working on something, constantly trying to better myself, constantly trying to write, constantly studying, constantly, constantly…

And, obviously, that’s not very healthy. I try to drown out my bad feelings by overworking, and that overworking makes me feel worse, but then if I’m not overworking myself I feel useless, and…

When I was in middle school, it was a little different. I would try to combat these bad feelings by hyper-fixating on things I liked. Maybe not the healthiest method, but it helped. I would fully immerse myself in television shows or movies I liked. One of the television shows I really liked was Veronica Mars, starring Kristen Bell. Who also stars in The Good Place. Funny, that!

I wasn’t so worried about wasting away my limited time on this mortal coil and fading away into nothingness back in middle school. Not like I am now, anyways. Nah, I was just worried about liking girls. I liked girls, I liked boys, and I also wanted to kill myself a lot. All very confusing things for a fourteen-year-old!

But what was always there? My Veronica Mars DVDs. And all the other things I liked, too – Jennifer’s Body, Glee, All Time Low, the screenshot of the time Kristen Bell told me she’d support me at my choir concert in spirit on Twitter, an entire backlog of movies starring actors that I liked that I could sift my way through for all of eternity…that all might seem like fluffy nonsense to a lot of people, but it was all I had to help navigate the waters of my world.

kristen bell tweet
I would be lying if I said I didn’t still look at this and smile real big on a regular basis.

And I mean, I was really throwing myself into this stuff. I would write essays about Veronica Mars for class, and I liked doing it. In fact, I would write essays FOR FUN. I would write about Jennifer’s Body and different anime I liked, I would write about so many things. And it made me feel…kind of okay? No one was really reading what I wrote, and I usually didn’t even save the things I wrote, but it felt nice.

Turns out, I really like writing. Turns out, the fluff I liked made me realize that.

Then I learned about the dreaded passage of time, and started to constantly worry about how I would spend that time. In college, I always felt like taking a second to enjoy myself, taking a break from people, or taking a break from responsibilities would all lead to my immediate failure. And I definitely thought my hobby of writing was a waste of my time. I tried to start a little blog/diary/whatever thing, just to release some stress and feel a little better, but all I could think of was – why? What’s the point? How does this help your career? This is pointless. No one will read this. Get back to real work.

Real work which, of course, made me miserable. I pushed and pushed through school, even though I very much shouldn’t have, and surprise, surprise, I came out the other side putting on a big show of how great and well-adjusted I had become…when in reality, I was doing just as bad as ever.

But I didn’t want to acknowledge that feeling, I just wanted to push, push, push on. Keep doing, keep working. “What are your goals?” Who knows, but I’m working, right? I’m doing something, right? “What does that work amount to?” Well, who cares! I just have to do, do, do!

Oh, but don’t EVER do anything you actually enjoy. Things you enjoy are meaningless and will do nothing for you in the grand scheme of The Big Machine! Oh, and if you do do anything you actually enjoy, like writing, be sure to stress over it forever and worry that it will amount to nothing until you don’t enjoy it anymore! Got a bad feeling? Suppress it, it’s useless! Just fluff! Don’t worry! Life is garbage, so just ignore it!

Well, this might come as a shock, but despite what my Bad Brain told me, I never could drop the fluff. I don’t know exactly why, but I still managed to want to write, and I still managed to hold onto some dreams that maybe I know, deep down, won’t amount to much. I don’t know how this tiny shred of myself remained, but it did, it still does.

I know what I want to do. I want to write about things I like. And I want to do it just because I like it, and see where that takes me. And I want to consume all the fluffy media I want, and I want to enjoy it, and also, I want to learn to become an artist even if it’ll never pay the bills. I want to sit and learn something just because I want to and not because it’s for my ~career~, and goddammit I want to make a movie or something someday that’ll mean something to someone and make them want to make something, too. I want to do, but I want to do it because I want to do. Alright, Bad Brain? Fuck off, we’re going to do what I want now. 

Wait. First, we gotta relax. Unwind. How did I used to relax before? Oh, yeah, I sat back and enjoyed a thing, and then we wrote about the thing, right? Hmm, I used to watch a lot of Veronica Mars. Been a while since I saw anything with Kristen Bell in it. Hey, The Good Place is on Netflix. Listen, let’s just watch it all. Don’t worry about forcibly advancing your life or whatever, just, like, enjoy something. We enjoy things now. We do things just because we want to do them now, okay?

So I watched. And let me tell you. The Good Place is very good. It reminded me of how I used to feel watching TV when I was younger – transported, relieved, relaxed, happy????, and also, blushing a lot because my celebrity crush was on screen. Guess not much has changed since we were fourteen, huh? Maybe we don’t want to admit it, but we’re all pretty much the same people we were in middle school. Mostly. Give or take.

eleanor bi.gif

Here’s the thing. Kristen Bell, my big fourteen year old celebrity crush, was playing a bisexual character in this show. Yo, sexually confused middle school me would have loved that. Do you have any idea how much that simple little thing would have helped her navigate her troubled worldly waters? What a funny, beautiful little thing. It made me really happy. Something so super specific to me – an actress I liked in middle school playing a character who was like me – it hit me in such a strong way. I thought, you know, if I had died back then I would have never gotten to see this. And then I thought, holy shit, I’m glad I’m still alive.

Probably a bit too strong a train of thought for an NBC comedy, right? But it’s where I’m at right now.

And so, it all came flooding back. The things I used to enjoy, the things I used to write, the way that made me feel. Thinking about how, yeah, I’ve felt bad before, but I’ve made it this far, and look – now I get to revel in this silly little thing. Silly little fluffs that maybe don’t mean anything to anyone other than me, but god damn, do they mean a lot to me.

Stuff like that, you can’t plan, you know?

And then I thought, “you know, things are bad, but they’re okay, too.” They ebb, they flow, but that’s just how waters go. I have family and friends who have supported me, damn, I’ve even had strangers on the Internet who have supported me. And I’ve had a me that’s supported me. And I’ve had escapist media by my side, too.

I enjoy things. I take days off to watch Netflix sometimes. My college degree might be meaningless. I might not ever become famous. I might fade into nothingness in the end after all. Maybe I won’t amount to anything. But damn, if I’m not going to enjoy things while I’m here. I’m going to enjoy the people around me, enjoy the stupid shit I enjoy, enjoy writing about the stupid shit I enjoy, and just fucking do things because I enjoy them. That’s all I can really do for myself, in the end. I can’t try to control all these factors in my life. I just have to enjoy the things I enjoy, and let that be enough. I think, maybe, it is enough.

I marathoned The Good Place today, and I think I’m going to be okay.





4 responses to “The Flashing Lights Say You’ll Be Okay: Depression, Binge-Watching Television, And The Importance of Fluff”

  1. Lumi Avatar

    You’re gonna be okay, buddy.

    I can relate to you a lot. Sometimes it’s the simplest shows that can help us get out of our funk. Heck, I don’t even like RWBY much anymore, but when one of the head writers replied to my comment, it was pretty great.

    Keep on keeping on!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jenn Avatar

      Thank you 🙂 I think we’ll all be okay, too! lol

      it really is amazing how much stuff like that can help. Love Live is probably the anime I go to that eases my mind – it’s not exactly deep or anything, but it’s fun enough to take my mind of things. I’m not as head over heels for it as I used to be but I think it’ll always hold a special place in my heart just for its escapism factor!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pete Davison Avatar

    I can relate to this — particularly what you say about writing. I write to occupy myself and to help me feel like I’m “doing” something; having that to focus on has kept me away from depression and dark thoughts on too many occasions to count.

    In retrospect, I’ve done this for a long time. I, too, used to write about things I enjoyed even as a kid. I used to type up game reviews on our old Atari and print them out on our noisy dot-matrix printer, then keep them safely filed away in a ring binder. When, for a brief period, I was able to work in the games industry as a professional, it was a dream come true; when that was cruelly snatched away from me, it was heartbreaking — but in some ways it’s allowed me to be more “free” with my writing since I’m not beholden to deadlines or anyone’s expectations except those that I set for myself.

    Keep on enjoying stuff however you want! It seems to work for you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jenn Avatar

      Thank you so much for sharing. The thought of a ring binder full of little young MoeGamer reviews is so adorable.

      To a degree, I can relate to the whole being in an industry and then falling out of it thing – I wasn’t exactly “in the industry,” but I was trying to work on film sets and television sets, but I just wasn’t able to stay in the city. So I think writing sort of helps fill that void, too, since I can’t professionally do the entertainment stuff I want to right now…but it’s true, there is a freedom to it that can’t really be beat 🙂 It’s amazing how much writing can help with a sense of purpose and escapism and all that…makes me happy to have found this blogging community and feel less alone!

      Liked by 1 person

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