The Most Unflinching Portrayal Of Depression Comes From ... One Of The Worst Seasons Of Buffy The Vampire Slayer?
Buffy The Vampire Slayer is an amazing show but it definitely takes something of a nosedive in quality around Season 6. One character becomes "addicted" to magic in an extremely ham-fisted allusion to drug use. One of the season's main villains is a trio of occult nerds. Also, Buffy becomes a jerk who decides to start sleeping with the vampire Spike, which is completely out of character for her. Like, since when did Buffy have good taste in men?
The season is widely regarded as one of the show's worst, but I will always defend it because of how perfectly it portrays depression. See, at the beginning of Season 6, Buffy is brought back to life after dying during the previous finale. But it turns out that all that time, Buffy was actually in heaven, and for the first time in God knows how long, she was happy and felt at peace. And then suddenly she isn't. And it destroys her. As she says herself: "I was warm. And I was loved ... I was torn out of there ... Everything here is hard and bright and violent. This is Hell. Just getting through the next moment, and the one after that. Knowing what I've lost."
This quote always hits me hard because I used to struggle with depression. Just woke up one day and felt completely empty and numb and, most importantly, robbed of my happiness. I remembered damn well how enthusiastic and fulfilled I'd been just a few days before, and suddenly all of that was taken from me by no fault of my own, just like with Buffy. The worst part, for me at least, was trying not to bring my wife down with my depression. I told her I was having problems, and I sought help, but I also didn't want her to worry, so I never let on just how badly this thing hit me. People with depression do that a lot. Buff did it too, like in the episode "Flooded" where she admits: "I just feel I'm spending all my time trying to be OK so they don't worry. It's exhausting."
Speaking of which, throughout the series, Buffy's friends try to cheer her up and fail, and it eventually causes a rift between them. Her friends mean well, I think, but they also sort of act like the magic of their friendship should snap Buffy out of her "funk," when that's not how depression works. Not even a little bit. And especially not in Buffy's case, because she has LOST HER HEAVEN. And I know I'm sort of patting myself on the back here, but I'm going to start using the phrase "lost their heaven" to explain to people how depression works. I'm positive that once I start doing that, my "punched in the face" ratio is going to skyrocket.
The best thing about Buffy's sixth season, though, is that it also tells you how to deal with depression. Buffy starts sleeping with Spike because she hopes that doing new things will help her feel SOMETHING again. However, she eventually realizes that she needs to start making healthier decisions and hope that her mind follows suit. Of course, in real life, you should always look for professional help when dealing with depression, but this "fake it till you make it" approach might actually give you the strength to take that crucial first step.