Friday, March 29, 2013

Depression, Part 2

I’m feeling better this week. I think that the worst part of the depression has finally lifted. Or, at least, I hope it has. I’m still not writing, although the creative juices are starting to flow again. It’s just a matter of forcing myself to sit down and start working, although I don’t think I’m quite ready for that yet.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking a lot about depression and depressed people. Before I say what I’m going to say next, however, I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not have suicidal thoughts. I repeat: I am not the least bit interested in taking my own life.

But I have been thinking about people who do commit suicide. And I’ve been thinking about all the people left behind, the ones who say: “I had no idea. She/he seemed so happy. She/he was making plans. I don’t understand.” I’ve been thinking to myself, “You know what? I totally understand.”

We never know what people are hiding on the inside. I look at my life, and I think, “If I never said anything, people would have no idea how sad I’ve been feeling these last few weeks.” Every day I’ve gotten up and I’ve gone about my routine. I’ve showered and walked the dog and gone to work and hung out with friends and smiled and laughed. I probably seemed perfectly normal on the surface. That doesn’t change the fact that, on the inside, I felt a persistent sense of sadness. I’m a functional depressive.

I feel so bad for the suicide survivors, the ones who had no idea because their loved ones never told them that they were struggling. They have to carry that with them their whole lives. As people who struggle with depression, it’s up to us to reach out for help when we need it. We can’t expect others to know what’s going on inside of our heads, especially if we’re “asymptomatic.” While we can be our own worst enemies, I believe that we can – and should – be our own heroes, too.

One piece of advice I do have for those of you trying to help a depressed person: please don’t say stuff like, “Don’t feel bad, there are people out there who have it much worse than you.” That’s simply not helpful. When I hear stuff like that, I don’t think, “Wow, you’re right. There are starving children in Africa. At least I have food. I feel so much better now.” No, what I think is, “Great, I’m the asshole who’s depressed over nothing when people out there are getting gang raped in the streets and are starving to death.” That’s how negative thinking works. You don’t want to give a depressed person one more reason to feel bad about him/herself. (Honestly, I think that what most of us want is just to be heard.)

All that having been said, I don’t think I need help. I think that I’ve weathered this particular storm. I think I’ve almost made it to the other side. I’m definitely starting to feel positive again & am looking forward to feeling better.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Best Picture: "The Lost Weekend," 1945

Movie Stats:
Released 1945 (USA)
American, in English
Director – Billy Wilder
Stars – Ray Milland & Jane Wyman

Plot Summary:
The movie follows the life of alcoholic Don Birnham (Milland), recently returned from rehab and ten days sober, as, over the course of one four-day weekend, he slowly descends deep into the throes of a bender. Wyman stars as his devoted girlfriend, Helen St. James.

Bad Stuff:
I really disliked the ending. This is a movie that packs a really strong punch. The back of the DVD case tells me that the film nearly wasn’t released because it didn’t do well with test audiences. That’s probably because of the stark realism, which (judging by the rest of the Oscar winners I’ve watched) was in short supply back in the day. Even if you’ve never been an alcoholic or have never known one, the desperation that permeates throughout is probably something with which practically anyone can relate. It can be kind of brutal at times.

Therefore, the ending didn’t feel right to me. While the upbeat tone of it wasn’t set in stone – who knows how things would have truly played out for these characters beyond this one lost weekend – it still seemed a bit of a cop out. However, the movie is based on a book. Since I’ve never read it, I have no idea how true the film is to that book, so the ending might be the author's fault, not the movie's.

Good Stuff:
Fantastic acting from Milland. I loved watching him slowly fall apart. The scene where he’s suffering from the DTs is phenomenal, truly freaky (despite the bad special effects). The rest of the actors were pretty good too. I especially enjoyed Howard Da Silva, who played disapproving bartender Nat.

Based upon my somewhat limited experience with addicts, it seemed like a very true portrayal of alcoholism to me.

This is one of those dramas that really just hurts so good. Know what I mean?

The Verdict:
I was really looking forward to this one, and it didn’t disappoint – much. If not for the kind of lame ending, I would have rated it at least half a star higher. As it is, I give this movie 4 stars.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Best Picture: "Going My Way," 1944

Movie Stats:
Released 1944 (USA)
American, in English
Director – Leo McCarey
Stars – Bing Crosby & Barry Fitzgerald

Plot Summary:
Young, vibrant priest Father Chuck O’Malley (Crosby) is assigned to help the aged Father Fitzgibbon (Fitzgerald) save his parish, St. Dominic, from failure.

Bad Stuff:
The only avowed atheist in the movie is portrayed as a complete and utter a-hole. It had me giving this film a serious side-eye and kind of soured the beginning of it for me, since he appears in the first five minutes. Luckily it was his only appearance.

For a long time, the film kind of seems like it’s meandering without much of a point. This turns out to not be the case, but it took some patience to wait for it to get where it was going.

Good Stuff:
It’s always nice to hear Bing Crosby singing.

I loved the relationship between Fathers O’Malley & Fitzgibbon and thought that the progression was extremely well done. Both men played their parts well; I’m unsurprised that Fitzgerald won Best Supporting Actor for it.

I enjoyed the subtle humor. I’m not entirely certain that all of it was intentional. It was amusing that the annoying, sour busybody was named Mrs. Quimp, a name so close to the naughty British word “quim” (which her character certainly was) that I have to wonder if they did that on purpose. Also amusing was the fact that Father Fitzgibbon hid his bottle of liquor behind the book The Life of General Grant (Grant was a raging alcoholic).

The Verdict:
This movie really surprised me. I spent a whole week avoiding it because I wasn’t really in the mood for a musical (I can be hit & miss on musicals). The further I got into the movie, however, the more I enjoyed it. By the end, in my estimation, it went up a whole star.

It’s not so much a musical as it is a movie with some singing in it, i.e. the songs aren’t really the point. It has a great heart & it’s very sweet. I definitely understand why, in the depths of World War II, this movie spoke to people. It’s simply a pleasant bit of fluff.

I give this movie 4 stars.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


I had one of those moments this morning when I suddenly realized that I was completely tired of my own bullshit. You know what I mean? I can’t possibly be the only person who occasionally feels this way.

Depression runs in my family. It’s just one of those facts of life. I’ve struggled with it off and on since I was a teenager. The older I’ve gotten, the better I’ve become at dealing with and overcoming that depression. The thing I’ve found that helps me the most is cognitive behavioral therapy. I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s been good for me. I’ve managed to stay on a pretty even keel the last few years, ever since I read David D. Burns’s Feeling Good.

Even so, I still get sucked down in the mire every now and then. Usually, I work myself out of it in a day or two. Sometimes, though, it takes me longer to get through. It’s honestly frightening how easy it is to fall into a cycle of negative thinking.

This is what I’ve been struggling with for a few weeks now. It doesn’t help that when I get like this, I find it extremely difficult to write, which only makes me feel worse. I’ve got one thing that I like to do, that I’m fairly good at, and that I might be able to make something out of, and I can’t even do it? Yeah, that’s a bit of a bummer. It makes me cranky. I feel like I haven’t been much fun to be around lately.

So I was getting ready this morning and it just hit me, I don’t even like myself very much right now. That’s always a bad sign. How can you expect other people to like you when you don’t even like yourself? It seems clear to me that it’s time to force myself back into a better mood. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. However, I feel like I’ve been nice enough already. I took it easy, gave myself time to work through it like normal. It hasn’t worked. To me, that means it’s time to kick my own ass. Bring on the self Drill Sergeant!

I don’t know that there’s any real point to this post. Mostly I just needed to get these words out. I needed to stop suffering in silence. Also, though, I thought that perhaps I could say something that might help someone else out. There aren’t a whole lot of people who read this blog, but for those of you who do, if you struggle with the same issues, then I hope this helps you to know that you’re not alone. Sometimes it’s nice to just hear that.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Best Picture: "Casablanca," 1943

Movie Stats:
Released 1943 (USA)
American, in English (small amounts of non-translated French & German)
Director – Michael Curtiz
Stars – Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, & Claude Rains

Plot Summary:
It’s December 1941. Casablanca, Morocco, under the control of Vichy France, is overrun by people desperately seeking a way to escape Nazi-controlled Europe. In the midst of it all is American Rick Blaine (Bogart), a bar owner who’s just trying to survive it all. He’s getting by all right until the arrival of Victor Lazlo (Henreid), a symbol of the resistance whom the Nazis are determined to capture, and his female companion, Ilsa Lund (Bergman). Rick and Ilsa share a mysterious past. Now that she is involved, will Rick be able to remain neutral, or will he decide to stick his neck out for her? Claude Rains stars as the local French leader, Captain Renault.

Bad Stuff:
My one and only complaint is that there’s not enough Peter Lorre (who plays the shifty Ugarte). He’s probably my favorite character actor of all time.

Good Stuff:

I’m serious. To me, this movie is pretty much perfect. The casting was great, so the acting is phenomenal. The costumes are gorgeous. The music is fantastic. The story is interesting. I love the ending. The absolute best part, though, is the dialogue. I’d only seen it once before, probably a good ten years ago, so I’d completely forgotten how funny it is. There were several lines that had me laughing out loud (i.e. “What nationality are you?” “I’m a drunkard.”). There are few things I love better than snappy dialogue.

I never thought of Humphrey Bogart as a particularly handsome man, but there is one scene in this movie where he gives a very genuine-seeming smile, and for once I saw how handsome he was.

The Verdict:
If you’ve never seen this movie, go watch it right now. If you’ve already seen it, go watch it again. I mean it. Few movies that have received the Best Picture Oscar have deserved it as much as this one did.

I give it 5 stars.

Bonus Blog Fun Fact: Paul Henreid also starred in Night Train to Munich, one of the gems I saw due to Instant Watch.