After about three years of peace, my depression has come back in full-blown Crazy!Yuri mode.
While I am fairly easily able to say, NO YURI, FRIGGUN STOP SUGGESTING THAT, it’s a never-ending thought now that my depression is back. And it’s awkward because on the one hand, I kinda want to ask for more attention from the people around me – I mean, an uncontrollable part of my subconsious is trying to convince me that suicide is a good idea – but on the other hand, I’d be asking for attention and I kind of hate doing that because then I feel needy and/or like an attention whore.
It made me think of how it can also be awkward writing about a person with a mental disorder – like any character with a “glaring” personality trait, it can be hard to have them be fully fleshed characters instead of just embodiments of their unique “thing”. Kind of how if you’re trying to diversify your cast and you include a POC or someone who’s gay, making it so that everything they do is a highlight of that trait is a particularly unuseful way of diversifying your cast. It’s better to write the person as a normal individual and what makes them unique just changes some of their behavior rather than overtly reminding the audience repeatedly that they have this unique trait.
Which, surprisingly, brings me to the Octonauts.
The Octonauts are undersea explorers/marine bioligists/police maybe. It’s a show I don’t mind watching with my daughter, since they explore sea creatures even I’ve never heard of before and teach new things about the ones I have, and that’s always good for writer brain. Siphonophore, for example. I mean, look’em up, they’re pretty cool.
One thing I really appreciate about the Octonauts is that they often have some kind of environmentalist agenda, but they’re pretty subtle about it – and not just for a kids’ show, they’re actually subtle. For their full-length Earth-day special, they addressed global warming without ever actually even saying the words global warming. All they did is that the polar bear captain went home to his sister to help her cubs go to the arctic circle and they couldn’t find any ice floes to rest on until they were crazy exhausted and then the one they did find already had polar bears complaining that they couldn’t find any others, either, and that the one they were on was already suspiciously smaller/thinner than it should have been. Then the Octonauts did their thing and got all the polar bears to their hunting grounds on their ship. The end.
I mean they introduced a problem that I, as an adult who is aware of hot button topics, knew to be more than just an “oh no” problem that shows up in a kids’ show. But for a kid who doesn’t know about global warming, it is just an “oh no” made-up problem no different than the episode where a fish gets stuck under something or whatever. It was just showing the consequences for the characters of a problem (whether or not global warming is real isn’t the point here). Just like the trash episode where the Octonauts are cleaning up ocean trash, and some fish show up in a feeding frenzy, and they have to get help from pelicans to get the trash away from the fish. No belaboring where the trash came from, or what a huge problem it is that people litter, could have just as easily been about kelp and fish that can’t eat kelp or something.
When they bring up issues like litter or global warming, instead of educating my child, it gives me, the parent, the opportunity to talk to my kid about this. If a parent didn’t believe in global warming, the show just presents that it’s an issue for polar bears if there isn’t ice between the continent the bear lives on and the arctic circle. That’s it.
If you were to write about what I look like when dealing with depression, it wouldn’t look so much like a neon “depression” sign hanging over me; there’s a reason why mental disorders are an “invisible” illness. It’s instead just going to look like the consequences – being subdued, sad, empty for no real reason, avoiding activities I love for no reason, being tired for no reason. You can specifically highlight that I’m walking around a restaurant looking at tables with my head cocked at a weird angle because I have OCD, or you can just write about my bizarre walk around the restaurant. You can try to imitate my self-interrupting dialog that is always spoken just a little too fast without saying it’s becasue of my ADD.
And honestly writing the consequences of mental disorders without the neon sign label might be beneficial anyway, because I’m still a normal person and I’m more than my illness. The only reason I find knowing my issues spring from depression useful is so that the people who get it can know “get more sun” is not going to cut it as a fix. It might be worthwhile to specifically say “this character has X disorder” and it might not – and either way it’s probably a bad idea to belabor the point.
So when implementing a mental disorder, consider just writing out the behaviors without needing to carefully dissect each one. And seriously, look up Siphonophores.