Posts Tagged ‘depression’

 

 

Hereditary was one of the scariest films of 2018. It’s considered so unnerving and terrifying, watching it a second time is considered by some to be a masochistic act (believe me, I was called that when I watched it again a month or two ago). So when we all heard director Ari Aster was following it up barely a year later with Midsommar, horror fans everywhere get excited. We were even willing to forgive him diving back into the evil cult trope just because he did so well with it in Hereditary. With the bar set high, I went to the theater today to see if this follow up could measure up to its predecessor.

Midsommar follows Dani, a young woman who, after suffering a family tragedy, joins her boyfriend and his friends on a trip to Sweden for a summer solstice festival held in the childhood home of one of the friends. While at first things seem innocent enough–minus a bit of drug use, of course–it soon becomes clear that these rituals and celebrations have a dark side to them. And not everyone will survive the nine-day festival.

I can say this movie is weird and fucked up. But not in a good way.

Obviously, this movie’s going to be compared a lot with Hereditary. But you know why that film worked? Because everything in it, from the painful breakdown of the family to the supernatural occurrences–felt like one big domino effect or Rube Goldberg machine. And in the end, it turned out to be that way. And it was done by looking into every situation where horror could be derived and then exploiting it to its most effective length. There’s none of that here. It felt like Aster just took one of the most prominent factors in Hereditary–the cult aspect–and extended it with psychedelic imagery and as much weird stuff as possible, though with barely any rhyme or reason, let alone with a Rube Goldberg-like exactness.

Even worse, it wasn’t scary. Actually, at times it feels kind of comical. One guy in the theater laughed at out at one point, and I couldn’t blame him. What happened was ridiculous.

And the majority of the characters are flat as rocks. You can sum most of them up with a single sentence, and it’ll encompass all of them completely and succinctly. You have the horndog who’s pissed he’ not having sex every other minute; you have the scholar who only cares about the research; you have the boyfriend who clearly isn’t happy but is guilted into the relationship; and you have the friend who invited everyone and is obviously hiding a lot.

Oh, and there’s something involving disabled villagers which just…didn’t sit right with me. I won’t go into spoilers, but I’m troubled by it, and let’s leave it at that (if you know what I’m talking about, let me know if you were troubled as well in the comments below).

Was there anything good in this film? Well, there’s some beautiful cinematography, shots that take weird angles or go on for minutes at a time. The psychedelic imagery, at times, is pretty cool. There are moments where flowers seem to breathe, which is visually stunning. And Dani is not only a fully realized character, but one whose battle with anxiety and depression come across as very genuine. You really see this woman who has been beaten down by life, and is just trying to find some joy and happiness while on this trip. It’s really heartbreaking.

But on the whole, Midsommar feels like a promise broken after the gem that is Hereditary. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the film a 2. If you really want to watch this one, I’d wait until it’s on DVD or streaming. Either that, or watch either Wicker Man movie, because they deal with similar concepts. Or The Apostle or The Ritual on Netflix, because they have similar concepts as well and are done soooo much better.

Either way, Ari Aster will have to do a lot better with his next film to regain our trust.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Hopefully the next review I do is for something that really hits it out of the park. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

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I was going to wait a little longer to announce this, but I’ve already announced it on Facebook and Twitter, so I’d be a bit of an ass if I didn’t let you guys know. As you can tell from the title of this post, after about five months of job searching and wondering how long this period of unemployment will last, I’ve finally been given a new job!

To be more specific, it’s another three-month internship with the United States Armed Forces. Instead of the Army though, I’ll be working with the Air Force. Instead of the Equal Employment Opportunity office, I’ll be working in their legal office doing customer support work (more on that later if it’s allowed), and I’ll be working at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base here in my home state of Ohio, rather than halfway across the world. Not that I wouldn’t love to travel to Europe again, but I think it’ll cost a bit less money to go and live near work this time (especially without having to buy really expensive plane tickets! Those were a real drain on my bank account).

To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether or not I should take this internship when it was offered to me. Five months into a job search, and I was still holding out for a permanent, full-time job. But I asked for a day to think about it, and after talking about it with some people and thinking about it, I realized that while I had job history, I only had so much history and job skills, and that could be a huge barrier in getting me a permanent job. Doing this internship would change that, it would give me a few more skills and some income while I was at it. And while I worked, I could continue the job search without having to worry about my finances drying up (and maybe get out of my dad’s house while I’m at it). So I decided to take it, and I’ve been on a high ever since.

And honestly, I needed this high*. These months of unemployment have been some of the worse in my life, and they only got worse as they went on. There were days I sat on my bed at home, looking for jobs and filling out applications, hoping against hope for a phone call or an email and feeling lower than the earth when none came. Plus there was the occasional friction between me and the folks, which happens when several people are living in one house and at least one or two wish they or others were living elsewhere. Add in the bank account slowly losing income every month, the feeling of being useless if you’re not bringing in money, and a few other things (possibly the winter blues?), and you’ve got a slight case of situation-based depression.

Now that I’ve accepted a job, I’m definitely not going to be feeling that down anymore. We’re aiming for an April 1st start date (since I previously worked for the Armed Forces, the background check and everything else should be much quicker than last year), so in the meantime I’m going to be looking for a place to sublease or do a rent by the month thing, as well as doing whatever else I can to make sure I have a wonderful and productive time in my new position. Hopefully by the time I show up for work, it will all fall into place and I’ll have a blast being there.

In the meantime, I’d like to thank everyone who helped me get this far. My family and friends, and all my supporters online and in-person for making me feel loved and making sure I never gave up. Jewish Family Services of Columbus for their invaluable support and advice they gave me while I searched, and their MAX program for Young Professionals for giving me excuses to socialize and get out of the house. The Big Guy Upstairs, because I like to think that He has a Hand in all the good stuff that happens in my life. And…well, you know. Thanks. I could not have done this without all of you.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. It’s getting late, so I’ll be signing off now. Expect another post from me in the next day or two, I’ve got more stuff to post about here that I’m eager to share with you. Until then, have a great weekend!

* This is not encouragement to do drugs. Rami Ungar does not endorse the use of any sort of narcotic substance. Even marijuana. That stuff will mess with you in seriously bad ways.

Well, Wi-Fi’s back, after being off for about a week. It’s the highlight of a week that’s been rather rough on me.

Don’t get me wrong, for the most part I’m loving Germany. I’m getting great work experience that’ll definitely come in handy after this internship, I’ve got great prospects for afterwards, I’m learning a lot about this country, its people and the language everyone speaks. And I’m seeing and doing amazing things that some only dream of doing.

But like anything in life, there’s ups and downs and lately I’ve been getting a lot of downs. My catchphrase lately is “if it’s not one thing, it’s always another”, and it definitely applied this week when a lot of the time I felt stressed and fatigued and just plain miserable. In other words, not me. At some points I wondered if I’d made a mistake coming to Germany. At other times, I wondered if God was maybe punishing me for something I’d done (perhaps getting into Tarot was a bad idea after all).

What’s been causing this, you ask? A number of things. Work, for one. It’s good people and it’s got great benefits and I get to write articles, which is fun. But often I’m doing tasks that nobody likes doing, and they stress me out. There’s also a hundred different that for some reason or another are mixed up or unresolved and when that happens it comes back to bite me in weird ways. I only just found out that somewhere along the line, my mailbox wasn’t properly put into the system, so I wasn’t receiving any mail! You can imagine the annoyance fixing that was!

There are other problems, as well. It’s not easy to go shopping. The closest supermarket is limited in what it has (and it’s in German, so I can only get things I can make on my own), and the base’s commissary is a trip to make, so unless someone’s providing a car, I can’t go there to get the stuff I’d like to cook with. So this leads to me eating things that may not always be good for me, which affects my health (and I was starting to lose a little weight).

And you already know there was the Wi-Fi situation. For a week because of a bank error we couldn’t connect to the Internet. And let’s face it, you need Internet to live in this world. So much of our lives is invested in it these days, being cut off at home and having limited access at work was another trigger for stress.

Add in a few other things, and it got really bad for me some days. Today, I even snapped at my roommate who was trying to help me resolve a problem. I apologized right after I realized what I’d done, but it was still awful and I felt really bad for doing it. And there I was, beating myself up for that. Another problem.

As I’ve been saying from the beginning, it’s been a tough week for me.

But there are reasons to feel optimistic. For one, the weekend’s here, and our Wi-Fi’s been restored. Always a reason to rejoice there. I can relax at home and watch Netflix, or go out on the town and explore areas I haven’t seen before. And while I was without Internet, I got a lot of work done. I finished editing Video Rage, rewrote Streghe, wrote a lot of blog posts on MS Word which I would post at lunch the next day, and I wrote two outlines for short stories I plan to write before starting on the next draft of Laura Horn. Definitely not bad. Pretty prolific, actually.

Plus after kind of getting off it once I got to Germany, I’ve started meditating again. I think that made a major difference. Meditation lifts my mood, makes me calmer and helps ground me. Not doing it affected my mood, so I’m definitely trying to make it part of my life again.

And now that the Internet’s back, I can also Skype with my folks when they’re online! That’s a huge reason to celebrate right there.

And the other problems…well, I’ll resolve them somehow. I’ve got to think positive. Can’t let myself mope over them. After all, you can’t accomplish much if you spend your whole life depressed over every little thing, and I certainly don’t plan on that happening to me. I’m doing what I normally do, and I’m going to seize life by the horns. It’s how I’ve gotten this far, after all.

So wish me luck and encouragement, my Followers of Fear. After this week, I’ll need it so I don’t have a repeat next week.

Have a great weekend!

I was having a comment conversation the other day with another blogger Caitlin Kelly, a freelance journalist from New York who at the moment is teaching at the Pratt Institute. Her post, which you can read here (and I highly recommend you do), was about how the effect of all the horrors going on in the world and being reported to us by the media. I mentioned in my comments that after digesting all the real horrors, it’s not uncommon for me to immerse myself in fictional horrors. Caitlin replied that one of her students, who “has seen his fair share of horrors”, also prefers the genre of horror. I said that for some people, horror acts as a kind of therapy.

Now, some of you who are reading this will probably be thinking “Horror? As a kind of therapy? We’re still talking about the genre where serial killers can be heroes, what trait your character embodies can determine whether you’re killed or traumatized, and fans debate on how good a movie is based on use of suspense, special effects, and gore, right?” Yes, we are still talking about that genre, but just bear with me.

Look at a news feed, particularly one devoted to global events or major issues facing Americans today. This is probably what you’ll see:

  • ISIS murdering Shiites, Yazidis, journalists, and anyone else that they don’t like.
  • Ukraine fighting both its own people and Russian insurgents.
  • Hamas attacking Israel and Israel firing back (and it’s only a matter of time before that starts up again, mark my words).
  • Several cases where police have shot and killed unarmed black men, with the most recent and famous case in Ferguson, Missouri.
  • Congress’s constant squabbling and bickering
  • An immigration crisis that continues unabated
  • Ebola spreading throughout West Africa and father beyond
  • Kristen Gillibrand, a well-respected senator and possible 2016 presidential candidate, being sexually harassed by older, male senators
  • The suicide of Robin Williams and the hurtful responses from people and groups such as Westboro Baptist Church, Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, and Gene Simmons (my article on that is here)
  • CeeLo Green making horrific remarks on the subject of rape on his Twitter account
  • Justin Beiber is in trouble with the law again.

Depressing to read, isn’t it? What’s worse is that this is only the tip of the iceberg. All over the world, people are facing discrimination, violence, poverty, illness, corruption, greed, incompetence, and just about every other horror under the sun. And these problems are huge, multifaceted, and difficult to resolve. In fact, there are many people who may have multiple opinions on how to resolve just one of these issues. And assuming that the people in positions of power are able to come to an agreement and implement some sort of solution, there’s no guarantee that the issue in question will be fully resolved or not or will leave lingering micro-issues that will eventually grow and become major issues in their own rights.

“It’s true, I got defeated by some snot-nosed brats. I don’t like talking about it, though.”

There’s that. And then there’s the stories told within a horror novel or the latest scary movie. Let’s take Stephen King’s IT, for instance. The antagonist is a shape-shifting demon that can take on the form of your greatest fear and prefers the form of a clown. Well, that looks tricky to defeat, but it isn’t as hard to pin down or as multifaceted as an insurgency group or a virus or children brought to this country illegally fleeing violence and poverty. And guess who defeats It? Seven kids. They face their fears, band together, and defeat the monster in its own lair as kids, and then most of them come back as adults to finish the job. And after they’ve fought It for the second time, It’s dead. It isn’t coming back in any form ever again. Sure, at the end of the book the characters start to lose their memories of their war with It, but the story ends on a happy note.

In this way, horror stories–fictional horror stories–can act as therapeutic. We see very real versions of hell unfolding at home and abroad, and then we dive into a story where the characters are fighting their own hell. And we know deep down it’s fiction, but we don’t care. We sympathize and empathize with the characters. Occasionally we even recognize ourselves and our own brutal, tortured pasts in one or two particular character. And we see them defeating demons, exorcising ghosts, kicking serial killer butt, solving murders, and sometimes even bringing back the dead! Sure, plenty of people die in these stories and a good number of them end up traumatized by their experiences. But they usually defeat the enemy, they come out of the conflict stronger, and they sometimes even find romance.

What a horror novel can do for us.

And that fills us with hope. We think to ourselves, “Sure it’s fictional, but I see myself in these characters and the problems they face. So if they can take on ultimate evil and defeat it, what can I do?” In essence, horror takes the feelings of depression and jaded cynicism out of us and fill us with possibility and optimism. Weird, I know. These are stories that aim to scare us and fill our dreams with terror. But horror can do that and lift up your spirits too.

Horror is certainly one of the things that can lift up my spirits when I’m feeling down.

Has horror ever made you feel better after you’ve been feeling down? What happened? Why do you think you felt better afterwards?

Gene Simmons, frontman of KISS

Since the unfortunate death of Robin William on Monday, there’s been a lot of memorials, tributes, and discussions about the loss of this famous entertainer and his battles with depression, substance abuse, and, as we learned recently, with Parkinson’s disease. While most of the discussion has been rather good and dedicated to healing and trying to understand the tragedy, there’s been a lot of people whose contributions have been less than helpful. After the coroner’s report came out, some news networks chose to focus on the degree of rigor mortis that had set into Williams’ body or how he killed himself rather than have a meaningful discussion on the effects of depression or on the actor’s life (why would we want to know that CSI stuff on a real actor?). Rush Limbaugh said that the reason Williams took his life was that, as a leftist, he was never satisfied with what he had and kept wanting more, and his dissatisfaction led him to ultimately take his life (why does anyone listen to this guy anymore?). And that group of ignoramuses who think they’re Christians but are not, Westboro Baptist, has announced plans to picket Robin Williams’ funeral (do any of these people have day jobs, or do they make and sell crystal meth to finance their protests?). And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that numerous people sent hurtful and abusive tweets to Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda on Twitter, causing her to shut down her account (sometimes I think the Internet just brings out more of the worst in us than the best).

But the worst reaction I’ve heard is from Gene Simmons, frontman from popular band KISS. Mere days after telling immigrants to the United States to “learn goddamn English” on a HuffPost Live interview, Simmons said during an interview with SongFacts.com that he doesn’t “get along with anybody who’s a drug addict and has a dark cloud over their head and sees themselves as a victim.” He went further to say:

Drug addicts and alcoholics are always, “The world is a harsh place.” My mother was in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. I don’t want to hear fuck all about “the world as a harsh place.” She gets up every day, smells the roses and loves life. And for a putz, 20-year-old kid to say, “I’m depressed, I live in Seattle.” Fuck you, then kill yourself.

I never understand, because I always call them on their bluff. I’m the guy who says “Jump!” when there’s a guy on top of a building who says, “That’s it, I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to jump.” Are you kidding? Why are you announcing it? Shut the fuck up, have some dignity and jump! You’ve got the crowd.

Now, I’ve never exactly been a big KISS fan to begin with, but Simmons’ comment have definitely made it very unlikely that I ever will become one. Sure, your representative has sent a message to the HuffPost saying that you regret your comments and that they were spur of the moment, but I’m not sure how many people will be forgiving you any time soon for this. Especially since you didn’t come out and say it yourself but had your representative shoot off an email.

And let me take the time to point out a few things about depression, and other mental disorders that can cause suicidal thoughts and behaviors. First, let’s get one thing in the open right now. Depression is an illness. Sometimes it’s even a chronic illness, like diabetes or cystic fibrosis. Plenty of people forget or don’t realize that depression is an illness, maybe because it’s in the brain and isn’t caused by a virus. Even so, telling people with a chronic illness that they should kill themselves is just wrong. We don’t tell people with MS, Crohns disease, and lupus to kill themselves. Instead we tell them to have hope that treatments will emerge someday and give money to the charities that raise money for research. I don’t see why people with depression have to be treated differently.

Not to mention that if every person with serious depression followed your advice and actually took their lives rather than mope around, we’d have a lot of deaths. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 16 million adults aged 18 and over suffered from at least one major depressive episode in 2012, or 7% of the US population. Some of those people would be people I know. I and many of my friends and family have dealt with depression or know someone who has dealt with it over the years. That’s how prevalent depression is. At one point in my life my own depression was bad enough to make me consider suicide. Should I kill myself then? Or should I work on treatment and making myself better?

And I applaud your mother for being able to continue living and finding meaning in life after her experiences with the Holocaust. It’s not easy to do that. Many survivors suffered from problems afterwards, including depression, paranoia, anxiety, and many other disorders. A few even took their own lives. And they probably felt the same sort of feelings of darkness that the kid in Seattle felt.

That’s the insidious thing about depression. It affects people in different ways, from all walks of life, and it affects so many. And still we have no idea what causes it. There’s plenty of research that points to it to being a biological or genetic disorder, as well as research that points to environmental or social causes. And there’s even evidence to support that a combination of these factors could cause depression. Depression can also be a side effect of other chronic illnesses. Plenty of people with cancer, Parkinson’s, or MS end up developing depression. We don’t entirely understand what causes depression like that either, but we do research and we try to fight back.

And don’t be the person who yells at the person on the ledge to just jump and get it over with. Very rarely is anything ever grained by taking a life, especially one’s own. And people kill themselves for a number of reasons: depression, anxiety, paranoia, schizophrenia. Sometimes they feel they are actually helping people or the world by taking their lives. Other times they feel that they don’t matter in the long run and no one will miss them. And occasionally we can’t understand the reasons why people take their lives. But that does’t mean we should ignore them or egg them on. That’d just be too cruel and would mean humanity isn’t worth savng after all.

Rest in peace, O Captain, My Captain.

So let me do what you obviously couldn’t do, Chaim Witz. I’m not going to tell people with depression or considering taking their lives to either have an attitude adjustment or just get it over with and kill themselves. If you are depressed or considering suicide, talk to a licensed therapist. If you can’t afford one or there’s none in your area, talk to a teacher, counselor, clergymen, or someone you trust who is in a position to help you. Or if you live in the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, where therapists and counselors are standing by to help you.

And I know things won’t always be sunshine and daisies. In fact, even with treatment there are plenty of people who have trouble and feel down or upset. But that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. Like any illness, you’ve just got to keep working at it and hoping that things will improve. Perhaps then, things will get better.

It seems easy these days to get caught up in all the horrors and tragedies going on lately and feeling hopeless and depressed over it. Right now in the Middle East, two wars are going on, each a continuation fo a longstanding conflict that is older than most of the readers on this blog. Go up north, and you’ll see a huge superpower that is making aggressive moves at its neighbors in order to reassert itself as a once feared and respected empire. And then come home to the United States, where the federal government resembles more of a daycare full of squabbling children than a functioning body of elected officials. We’ve got continuing problems with immigration, gun violence, police abuse, the wage gap, and more problems than I care to put in this post, all with no end in sight. Add to that the recent deaths of so many people, some of whom died before their times and under tragic circumstances, and it feels easy to give into despair.

But it’s in these times that we must look to the good and remember all that we have to be thankful for. Sure, my home country of the USA is far from perfect, especially on the federal level, but it is a country with plenty of opportunities. I’ve been able to take advantage of those opportunities, getting a quality education that I’ll finish up this coming May with my college graduation (any further education will be several years down the road if I decide to pursue it), and while receiving this education, I was able to receive counseling that allowed me to learn how to interact with people and get along (a subject which confused me growing up and still confounds me sometimes). And if that was not enough, I’ve been able to pursue my passions and publish three books, with another one recently finished, another one in the editing stages, and a sixth planned for this school year. Am I making lots of money each month? No, but that doesn’t stop me from working hard and making my dreams come true.

I’m also blessed to have a loving, if somewhat kooky family, great friends, and the near-guarantee that they won’t be suddenly taken away from me (it could happen, but it’s not likely). I also have a steady job that allows me to pay my bills and afford the things I need to get by, and I have taken part in programs that will help me find a job after graduation.

And I’ve been lucky enough to travel to other countries, Israel the summer before my senior year of high school and England, France, and Germany this past May. And there’s a chance (slight, but there), that I could go abroad again in the coming years, God willing.

And that’s not all. There are stories appearing in the world every day that makes life seem magical. A man in Florida graduated from college with a 4.0 GPA in business, all while battling cancer he’d had since he was 18. A dog whose hair was so overgrown you couldn’t tell which end was the front got her hair cut off and is now getting adopted. And my friend Matt Williams tells me that scientists have developed a new method for finding people more predisposed to commit suicide, so maybe someday we can make suicide a less common problem in the world. Even with the dark stuff, there’s still room for the light.

Look around you. What are you thankful for? What’s good in your life? Your friends and family? Your job or school? Is there someone or something that makes you forget all the bad and feel at peace? Did something come in for you at the library or in the mail that you’ve been waiting for a long time? Is it a book by me, by any chance? If it is, you might have just made my day.

When you think about it, you can find plenty more reasons to be happy than to be sad. So keep strong and never stop hoping and looking for a better tomorrow. I know life isn’t always easy. For some, it’s a constant hell. But we’re human beings, and while we’re capable of great horrors, we’re also capable of great good, and of being able to find the silver lining in any grey cloud.

So if events around the world have you stressed out, take a moment to reflect on the good. You may just find your stress and sadness floating away.

I’ll eave you with this video by the immensely talented singer Alex Boye. From the moment I saw it, I knew it was an incredible video with the power to help so, so many people. Check it out for yourself. You might just ind yourself perking up a little. I know I do when I watch this video. Especially shots with the special guest star of the video. You might recognize him. He’s quite the famous anchorman.