Why Depression Is Like A Bond Villain

Why Depression Is Like A Bond Villain

Like many people of creative persuasion, I have spent the majority of my life fighting against Depression in its various forms. When I was younger, I didn’t see it for what it was, but now that I have a few years and a few miles behind me, I am better equipped to see things for what they are, especially things that wander around in masks like every day is Halloween or some (even more) twisted version of Eyes Wide Shut. Depression is one of those things, and I think it can be summed up like this:

Depression isn’t just that jerk pretending to be your friend who deep down wants you to fail. Depression is a Bond villain, and we, dear readers, are 007.

But instead of going on wild adventures to exotic places, drinking vodka martinis (shaken, obviously), and playing with all manner of cool gadgets, we just end up sitting in the dark, clutching a blanket, hating ourselves, and eating ourselves into oblivion.

Still not sure about the parallels? Let me break it down.

Depression’s Influence Is All Over Your Story

In a (good) Bond film, the invisible fingers of the villain are there from nearly the very first scene. While it may not seem related at first, Dr. Depression is a cunning sort who is always there, watching from the shadows and manipulating events as if playing an elaborate board game.

Dr. Depression knows that after a bad day at work, the last thing you want to do is go home to a healthy meal, a shower, and some downtime. The lights on the drive-thru fast food joint appear a little brighter, the French fries and quadruple bacon cheeseburger look a little tastier, and by Dawkins, you deserve a little reward after dealing with that nasty client or surviving another day, don’t you?

Of course, once the food is gone, you’re left with nothing but a stomachache, a credit card bill you didn’t need, and 5,000 calories more than you’d planned on eating. And all the while, Dr. Depression just sits back, smiling and stroking his pet honey badger while you sit in a pool of self-hatred.

Depression Lies. A Lot. Just to Be Evil.

And that’s when the whispers begin.

In the back of your mind, the voice of Dr. Depression is incessant. He whispers nothing but lies, and we believe them because they reinforce what we already tell ourselves.

You’re weak.

Nothing you do matters

You don’t deserve to be loved.

And the big one…

You do deserve to feel miserable.

None of those things are true, but we still believe them. And even if we find the strength to voice those fears aloud and are told by someone who cares that they are lies, we continue to believe them. That’s because Dr. Depression is a very good liar. He has been doing it for a long time, and we have always been the target.

Depression Plans Elaborate Ways To Hurt You

Near the climax of every James Bond film, our hero finds himself trapped in some sort of elaborate death trap. He may be strapped to a table with a laser ready to cut him in half. Maybe he’s chained to a pipe in a room rapidly filling with water.

The first Austin Powers movie spoofed this brilliantly with the platform that casually lowered the heroes into a pool of water filled with ill-tempered mutated sea bass.

Well, Dr. Depression has similar plans for us, but they are usually more conniving, more subtle, and far more difficult to escape. Part of the reason is that we are, on a subconscious level, complicit in his plans.

Dr. Depression wants to hurt us, and because he has us so thoroughly convinced that we deserve it, our subconscious brains are more than happy to play Jones to Dr. Depression’s Dr. No.

While we may not be on the verge of being sawn in half, we face elaborate traps of our own.

Let’s say you’re in the office and it’s someone’s birthday, so there’s a cake. Being that cake is awesome (though still not as good as pie), you want a piece. But you want to lose weight, and after hours of research, you know very well just how many empty calories are in that cake, so you say no.

But you want it, and you resent not letting yourself have it until you finally give in and grab a slice. You wolf it down, but take no pleasure in it because you spend the entire time beating yourself up over it. Then, at lunch, you ignore your brown bag lunch and get a burger. After all, you’ve blown your diet for the day, so there’s no use in holding back.

This leads into a spiral of self-ridicule and inward anger that drags on and on and just gets worse and worse as the day goes on.

Depression Attacks The People You Love

Most of the time, no one around you has the slightest clue about the continuous berating coursing through your head as the day goes on. You smile and pretend that nothing is wrong. You don’t want them to know how broken you are inside. So you continue on, and the loathing and sadness and everything else builds up in your gut.

Until it becomes too much and erupts.

The result of Dr. Depression’s parade of lies, whispers, and plots to drive you deeper and deeper into his clutches is, like most explosions, collateral damage.

Maybe you shout at your child when they want attention. Maybe you snap at a client or a co-worker. Maybe you say something terrible to your spouse and hurt their feelings.

Which begins a whole new cycle, reinforcing the belief that you don’t deserve to be loved and that nothing will ever get better.

Depression Can Be Beaten

No matter how impossible the situation or how bad the odds, in the end, James Bond always rises victorious. The world is saved, the villain dies or ends up in prison, and Bond relaxes with a beautiful companion and a glass of champagne.

Still, the villain may well survive and come back to fight another day. Just before the credits roll, you see a hand reaching out of the rubble or some hint that he will rise again. This is certainly the case when it comes to Dr. Depression. That doesn’t make the victory any less real, or the reward any less sweet.

The battle against Depression is an ongoing one. It never truly ends. But that doesn’t mean that there is no hope, or that there is no point in waging the war. Every day you wake up, every choice you make, every breath you take, I’ll be watching you is another chance to strike a blow against Depression.

You are worth it, and you don’t deserve to be depressed.

Let me repeat that: You ARE worth it, and you don’t deserve to be depressed.

Fight the good fight, and full steam ahead.

Book Review: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

The-Gifts-of-ImperfectionIf you’ve been following me on Goodreads this year (or stalking; don’t think I can’t see you hiding behind that squirrel), you have probably noticed that I’ve been reading a lot of self-help and life-improvement books this year. Part of that is due to a renewed effort to help myself (see what I did there?) improve my life (I did it again! +25 XP), break out of a decades-long depression, and just in general makes things better for myself and the people who put up with love me.

To some extent, despite a constant string of disasters and setbacks, I have done that. The latest book from which I sought to extract knowledge by means of dental pliers learn is The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. The idea is to learn to accept yourself for who you are, faults and all, and show that same compassion to those around you. So, did it work, or did these Gifts of Imperfection turn out to be full of so much coal with much nicer, more personable hair than I’ll ever have?

Here we go.

There Is Still Hope

Why do you linger here here when there is no hope?
There is still hope.

When you struggle with the constant threat of self-shame and the depression that follows it around like an evil little puppy, it can be hard to remember that things can, and probably will, get better. One of the points made over and over is that perfectionism, along with much of the negativity we direct at ourselves and others, is the result of shame, and that shame’s kyptonite is compassion.

This gives you a weapon that you can deploy (or have Green Arrow shoot, if you have Justice League connections) when the shame kraken rises up out of the sea and tries to eat the Andromeda of your happiness.

No, that didn’t make any sense to me, either, although Andromeda of Happiness would be a great name for a Jefferson Starship cover band.

Basically, the idea is that you’re going to screw up, I’m going to screw up, and that’s okay. Forgiveness all around, and then we get on with our day. Things can’t suck forever. Just learn from your mistakes and try to not be a jerk.

A Roadmap to Compassion

The Gifts of Imperfection is divided up into what Brown refers to as guideposts. Each one is focused on a particular aspect of perfectionism. Think of them as minions of the shame kraken. Each one attacks you from a different angle in order to break down your self-esteem and make you put up all sorts of barriers that prevent you from seeing things objectively.

I thought that breaking things down this way made it easier to isolate and identify each of those little minions and attack them one at a time, rather than going after the shame kraken and its army all at once. Everyone stacks up differently when faced with those aspects of imperfection (which totally sounds like an Enigma album name). One person may be particularly weak against the fear of scarcity, while another might have a problem where they constantly compare themselves to others.

And if you have to face a Charmander, I recommend using Squirtle. Water Gun is super effective!

A Little to the Left

While I did learn a few things from this book and feel that, overall, I am better off for having read it, I couldn’t help shaking the feeling that I am not the target demographic. Most of the stories, anecdotes, and advice cover people and situations more in line with mothers, many of them single, and almost all of them of a strong financial background. As I have not (to my knowledge, at least) given birth to a baby human or become financially independent from my workplace, I felt a little left out.

This is not a mark against the book or anyone more suited to its material. It just would have been nice for it to be more inclusive for people in differing situations or less affluent monetary conditions.

I still want a Scrooge McDuck money bin. Ah well; maybe next year.

I’ll Have One With Everyone

As someone who has flirted with Buddhism (but never closed the deal; I’m not easy, you know), I couldn’t help but notice quite a few similarities between Buddhist teachings and many of the recommendations on the book. The central theme revolves around letting go of the fixations and obsessions that make you unhappy and color your perspective with excrement-colored glasses.

That’s some old-school sutra right there.

Spirituality is a fairly constant theme throughout the book, but it doesn’t seem to point the reader toward any particular faith. Maybe the idea is that happiness depends on having some sort of connection with something larger and more powerful than yourself, whether it’s God, Jesus, the universe, or Andre the Giant.

Have fun storming the castle.

So, the book. Definitely some good lessons, though many people may find themselves on the other side of the shop window, looking in and trying to gleam whatever knowledge they can from how the other half lives. The focus on spirituality may come across as new-age-ey, but I can understand why it was included. Like any self-help book, you’re free to take what you find helpful and ignore the rest.

Overall, I would have to say that while there are some good lessons to be had, the book isn’t perfect, and that’s okay. I forgive.