What Pennywise the Clown Taught Me About My Depression

Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for the movie “It.”

As a lifelong fan of horror fiction writer Stephen King, going to watch the cinematic reimagining of the prolific
author’s 1986 novel “It,” was a no-brainer for me.

It was the book that validated the fears of people with coulrophobia (that’s a fear of clowns, by the way) everywhere by introducing a malevolent, child-murdering being that sometimes takes the form of an equally unnerving clown named Pennywise.

The story follows a group of kids — who dub themselves the “Losers’ Club” — as they face off against the aforementioned monster in what is a metaphor for the loss of innocence.

But for me, “It” turned out to be much more than a horror movie. For it imparted on me an important lesson about the nature of depression — at least the way I experience it.

You see, in the book (as well as the film adaptation), Pennywise loses his power when the kids stop being afraid of him. The monster feeds off fear — it is what sustains him and makes him dangerous. Pennywise needs fear in order to survive.

When I recently experienced a serious depressive episode (for no obvious reason – that’s just the nature of the beast), I had to make the decision to face depression head-on. I had to prepare for battle.

It took every ounce of courage and strength that I could muster — at this stage my limbs felt as if they were made from lead — but I was determined not to let this monster win.

Yes, in my heart I was still afraid, mostly because I had never felt that low before. But I envisaged the disease as an actual, physical monster, something that could be fought and defeated.

And do you know what? It worked. It freakin’ worked. I have to add, however, that my wife was — and always has been — a powerful ally in the battle against the beast. When I faltered, or started doubting myself, she was right there ready with words of encouragement that left no room for doubt.

Am I cured of depression? Absolutely not. I’ve suffered from depression for the past 20 years and I acknowledge that the “monster” won’t just lie down and die after one decent fight.

But I’ve acquired a new way of thinking about my disorder. I’ve learned that, if I show depression I’m no longer afraid of it, it starts to back down and become afraid itself. Depression is a monster and, if countless books and movies have taught us anything, it’s that monsters are inevitably defeated.

Thank you, Mr. King!

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Screenshot via “It” movie Facebook page

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