‘You’re the Worst’ Tackles Taboo Topic of Depressive Disorders
I want to start out by saying, that I was not expecting to stumble across such a serious topic while watching a comedy tv show that centers around sex and friends. However, I wouldn’t trade those episodes for anything. In Season 2 Episode 7 of You’re the Worst, one of the main characters, Gretchen, slowly and reluctantly reveals that she suffers from clinical depression.
When I saw the episode, I thought to myself WOW. This isn’t one of those shows that takes “sadness” and wraps it into a neat little bow of “problem solved, character happy”. The show hit on some very real troubles that people with depression experience.
Let me backtrack for a minute and explain why this episode, and the episodes conjoining to it, effected me so much. I’d like to present you with some facts that I found a little surprising when I first learned about them:
-Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older, in a given year. (Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun; 62(6): 617-27)
-As many as one in 33 children and one in eight adolescents have clinical depression. (Center for Mental Health Services, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 1996)
-Women experience depression at twice the rate of men. This 2:1 ratio exists regardless of racial or ethnic background or economic status. The lifetime prevalence of major depression is 20-26% for women and 8-12% for men. (Journal of the American Medical Association, 1996)
-Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44. (World Health Organization, 2004)
I hope that you were as shocked as I was when I first read these statistics. What this means essentially is that you or probably someone you know struggles with depression. It is a much more common problem than you might think.
In the episode I referenced, Gretchen begins driving away from her boyfriend Jimmy’s house late at night and breaking out into sobs while sitting in her car. (This actually starts happening toward the end of Season 2 Episode 6.) Jimmy desperately tries to find out what is wrong with Gretchen so that he can solve the problem, but she finally admits to him that there is nothing he can do to fix her and that she has depression.
His initial response is that he’s angry. He wants her to pick herself back up immediately and be the sarcastic snarky girl he knows and loves, but she starts to have trouble getting out of bed, and he begins to feel pushed away.
This is a very real response. People who don’t have depression or maybe don’t understand it so well, can’t understand why their loved ones can’t “snap out of it.” I once heard an analogy of depression and I feel that it fits the description to a “T”.
A friend is standing in an open doorway. His friend is on the other side of the threshold. The friend on the threshold reaches out his hand and asks his friend to join him on the other side, but the first friend shakes his head. “Why can’t you just step over the threshold? There’s nothing there!” the friend on the threshold asks in a frustrated voice. The other friend responds, “I know you can’t see it, but there’s a wall in that doorway, and no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to break through it.” The first friend can’t understand, because he can’t see the wall, but the second friend can’t join him because all he SEES is the wall. It’s a suffocating force that takes his breath away in heartache and misery the moment he tries to step through it. This is how many people with depression and their loved ones sometimes feel.
Although the character of Gretchen does slowly pull herself out of the depression-if I remember correctly she wasn’t taking medication for it before and she begins to-the writers make it clear that this is an existing condition for her and isn’t going to just “Poof! Go Away!”. I think that’s why I found those episodes so riveting. Too many times, tv shows present problems and they are eliminated in 60 minutes or less, but is that realistic? No. We can’t have happiness all of the time. There is a struggle at some point in everyone’s life. There’s the stress of school, the stress of life, the stress of being a parent, the stress of being an adult. That’s just life. And why not present the bad as well as the good? Maybe that makes us in audience land feel a little less like we’re crazy and a little more like other people in the world might understand us.
And here’s something you may or may not have guessed by now. I suffer from depression. I’ve had it in one way or another since the age of 11 or 12-yes it goes that far back. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it-not because I am ashamed of the disease, but because there are people that react to it fine and then others who see it as weakness and don’t believe it’s a real illness. And I’m sure they can argue with me about it, but facts don’t lie and there are many more other facts than the ones I’ve included. People who don’t have depression think depressed people are gloomy Eeyore types who are joyless. That isn’t the case at all. You’d be surprised. People with depression can be some of the happiest people you know. We experience joy with all of our hearts, but can also feel sadness with all of our hearts. That’s the breaks!
But if you are curious to see a good example of a portrayal of depression in a non-serious setting, then I do recommend you watch those episodes of You’re the Worst. Hell, I recommend you watch the show period if you’re into sarcastic, silly, and sometimes shocking humor all rolled into one show. The show airs on FX, but episodes from Season 1 and 2 can be streamed from Hulu.
And lastly, I feel like it’s my responsibility to attach the below information:
If you or someone you know suffers from depression and is desperately wanting help, please call:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255 (24/7) Press 1 for Veterans line
Here are some clips from the show. First, a typical episode (Just a heads up that that it’s a little sexual), and then the episode dealing with depression. Thanks for tuning in Geeks! Let us know if you’re a fan of the show.
Do you think more shows should talk about depression? Or is it too serious a topic? Give us your thoughts.