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Explaining My Mental Illnesses Through 'Stranger Things'

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A few nights ago, I lay in bed willfully trying to wish myself to sleep, just like I do every night. My brain was buzzing and would not allow me the blissful escape sleep can sometimes bring. That evening, I had just finished binge-watching the series “Stranger Things” on Netflix, and I was processing the images and storyline in my head. It was during this time I realized the TV show could serve as a metaphor for mental illness.

Without going into too much detail, I’ll try and explain how I came to this conclusion.

*Spoiler Alert*

In “Stranger Things,” a hideous monster is stalking the town, appearing rather human-like from afar but up close is in fact far from it. Instead of a face, this creature has only a giant mouth, amusingly resembling a walking venus fly trap (it’s basically just teeth-on-legs). It feeds on flesh, whether that be human or not. Nobody really knows where it came from, but all of a sudden it’s just there, and people start to go missing – including a young boy named Will.

The creature evidently doesn’t come from our world – it resides in a much darker realm. In the show, the children named this world the “Upside Down” or the “Other Side” because it appears to be a parallel universe. Only in this version of the universe it is dark, cold and overridden with decay. This is where Will had disappeared to, where he was hiding from the creature, constantly in fear of being found and eaten.

I see these two worlds as my mind: they exist in the same place, but they are very, very different. At the moment, I am stuck in the Upside Down. I have been here for a while, and I am constantly in hiding. I feel detached from people around me, and my surroundings, although familiar, are not the same. I feel an evil lurking in my mind. It stalks me, and I am terrified one day it will catch up and eat me. I am convinced this is how I will meet my end. There have been times when I have almost given up, lain myself bare, and waited for the demon to find me. Perhaps it is then that my cries have reached through, and people in the normal world have heard me. Or seen me. For I am still here, still alive. I might find a good hiding place for sometime, but the demon always reappears. I am so tired, tired of struggling to stay alive. I feel I will never find a way back to the normal world.

I’ve realized I cannot rely on a person to save me. But I cannot yet rely on myself; it is a balance of the two. I need help, but I know I also need to be able to accept that help. Will (the young boy) would not have been saved if it wasn’t for the people who loved him, but it was also down to himself – he had to bang against the walls and cry out to his mum to get messages through. He almost gave up. But he survived.

I am hoping to explain this scenario to my family, so they have relatable imagery to compare my illnesses to. I hope it won’t frighten them, because the Upside Down is such a terrible and lonely place. But that’s the reality for me.

Although it may seem bizarre to compare mental illnesses with “Stranger Things,” it might just help.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Originally published: March 28, 2017
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