Depression, anxiety, and Disney/Pixar

My husband and I can rarely agree on a movie to go see, which I suppose is alright since movies are so damn expensive!
Anyway, my birthday was this past Friday and I took a long weekend off of work.  I mainly took today (Monday) since husband’s and my work schedules are so different that a real ‘date day’ hasn’t happened in a few months.  I used the leverage that it was my birthday to get him to go see Inside Out with me.

This movie… guys.  THIS MOVIE.

I make no secret out of the fact that I struggle with depression and anxiety.  The ebb and flow of it all can vary, but it’s a part of who I am and it’s something I have learned to deal with to the best of my abilities.  The worst part of it, for me, is trying to tell other people or explain to them what it is like to live with mental illness.  Because they can’t see it and I ‘don’t look sick’ I must be fine.  Because I smile, I must not be “that” depressed.  Because I go out to work every day and sometimes go out with friends there is “no way” I have severe anxiety.  I wish it was that easy.  But the fact is there are times where the depression and/or anxiety is so crippling that I can’t get out of bed.  If it’s a day I have to work I literally wish that I would drop dead on the spot so I didn’t have to endure the day.  Thankfully, days that are like that are few and far between – but they do happen.

I am lucky in that the people in my life that I trust the most know my struggle.  Many of them get it.  I have a support system that is amazing.  But all of that still doesn’t change the fact that what I deal with on a daily basis is often blown off by others because they don’t get it and/or can’t see it.

Cue the film Inside Out.
Eleven year old Riley was just moved from her hometown to another state with her family.  At first she handles it just fine but quickly that ‘fine’ veneer starts to crack and she starts to crumble.  The exceptional part of this film?  It’s told from the main emotions in the ‘headquarters’ of Riley’s brain.  I won’t go into much detail to avoid spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t seen it but wants to… but for most of Riley’s life Joy has held the reins.  Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Sadness are there as well but in smaller portions as Joy wants to keep Riley happy.  However Sadness accidentally touches some core memories and turns them from joy to sad… and thus begins an adventure that brought tears not only to my eyes, but to my husband’s as well.

For those of us who struggle with mental illness the idea that sadness is important to the self is a no brainier… but the character of Joy doesn’t see that.  She thinks that all sadness does is mess things up… and it’s heartbreaking to watch how rude she can be in the name of keeping Riley “happy”.  By the end it is realized that all the emotions have a place and are needed and that sadness doesn’t have to be a negative emotion.

As I watched the movie I realized quickly that we were watching Riley fall into a deep depression.  Each of us who struggle have our own story of how it started, and for me it had nothing to do with being moved from my hometown… but the descent was the same.

The idea of the personality islands and what happens to them as Riley descends into depression was spot on for what happens in our lives when depression sets in.  The idea of how memories are stored and how the emotions work was beautifully done.  This movie captures what it is to be depressed in a way that is accessible to everyone – children to adults and all done in a family friendly PG-rated format.

I cannot say enough good things about this film, especially when looked at from a mental health standpoint.

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