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    Community Voices

    The Healing Power of Dude on Netflix is so relatable. Even though I'm an adult I find the situations and perceptions associated with social anxiety to be well represented. The humor is a positive also❤️

    Conor Bezane

    Hulu’s ‘Dopesick’ Is a Triggering Exposé on Addiction and Opioids

    Quality television isn’t hard to come by nowadays, especially with the burgeoning of streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Apple TV+ , Disney+, HBO Max et al thriving in the media landscape. My picks of late are “The Morning Show,” “Ted Lasso” — I’m late to the party — and Peter Jackson’s Beatles docu-series “Get Back.” I would vouch for “Dopesick,” but I couldn’t get past the first episode. Here’s why. Based on the true story of OxyContin, “Dopesick” is bleak, solemn and funereal. I’m a recovering alcoholic and a person living with bipolar disorder. I am not in a depressive or manic phase at the moment, but this miniseries could trigger my depression if I continued to watch it. Why? Because it is as sad and sordid as it gets, and I’ve come very close to these realities. I have spent time past midnight in the dark alleys of downtown Chicago doing hardcore drugs — drugs stronger than weed — in below freezing temps with people who are extreme addicts. I’ve seen lives wrecked by crack cocaine, and desperation unfolding before my very eyes. I have witnessed the vicious cycle of addiction in others and myself. These were my lowest moments and they led to my stint in rehab. The depressive nature of “Dopesick” is not unlike the feeling I get watching “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a dystopian series starring Elizabeth Moss (“Mad Men”) about the takeover of American government and the oppression of women. It’s great television, but my psychiatrist actually told me not to watch it because of its depressive particularities. “Doctor’s orders,” he said, LOL. The same could be true for “Dopesick.” The series showcases how the opioid crisis has destroyed communities. It highlights the evolution of OxyContin, the dark side of Big Pharma, its criminal negligence, and the outbreak of addiction that has dominoed and still reverberates to this day. It feels like a dark filter has been placed on the camera lens, giving the series a particularly ominous look. “Dopesick” stars Michael Keaton (“Beetlejuice,” “Birdman”) and Peter Sarsgaard (“Kinsey,” “The Batman”) and the show centers around a small-town doctor in West Virginia (Keaton) and his Appalachian community’s descent into opioid addiction. Sarsgaard plays a lawyer trying to make Purdue Pharma pay for their role in sparking the addiction crisis. The evil empire behind OxyContin is Purdue Pharma. In the first episode of “Dopesick” we see the Sackler brothers, founders of the corporation, discussing how their new “miracle drug” painkiller OxyContin is not habit-forming and completely safe to treat pain. That in fact is a lie; OxyContin is highly addictive and a member of the opioid class of drugs that includes heroin. In the episode, we also see drug reps hawking the pills to doctors. Purdue targets rural areas for the launch of the drug, places like the coal country of West Virginia and its many blue-collar workers who tend to have accidents on the job and end up needing pain meds. They knew what they were doing. While I am happy that the opioid crisis continues to garner more attention, I just couldn’t handle watching this because it triggers bad memories of my days hanging out with homeless people and doing drugs. In the first episode of “Dopesick,” there is a desperate teenager turning to prostitution to get more money to buy drugs. I never reached that point of desperation, but I could’ve. One freezing evening, a man exposed himself to me, offering to give me drugs if I performed oral sex on him. This is an anecdote that is not in my memoir “The Bipolar Addict.” I’ve never told anyone that story and I would never do something like that. I have lost two people to suicide because of their addictions — a former boyfriend in Chicago and another friend in New York, both of who just couldn’t kick alcohol and drugs. I have said that I don’t mind “sad art” as long as it is truly great. My list of 11 Classic Films to Watch About Addiction is testament to that.  I’ve also written about “Melancholia,” The Most Depressing Movie You’ve Never Seen, But Should. Seeing it several times, I regard it as an absolutely grand piece of cinema if not completely depressing. But for some reason I just couldn’t stomach “Dopesick.” It rubbed me the wrong way. As a journalist, I watched the first episode thinking it was my duty to pay attention to any pop culture related to addiction or mental illness. This is my beat! But it conjured up uncomfortable memories. The Sacklers have just settled a major lawsuit, paying out $4.5 billion just a few months ago because of the havoc the company wreaked. This comes after the company filed for bankruptcy in 2019 after more than 3,000 lawsuits from states, local governments, hospitals, unions and others. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 70,000 Americans died of overdoses in the period of 2009-2019, including prescription opioids and illicit drugs. And just this December, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City dropped the Sackler name from its galleries. No more corporate sponsorship for the Sackler family. The saga of OxyContin and the Sacklers continues. The saga of the Sacklers and OxyContin continues. While I’ve never done Oxy — alcohol was my principal drug of choice — I will celebrate 10 years sober in February. If you’re feeling up for it, check out the trailer for “Dopesick.” And if you do end up watching the miniseries, tell us what you think in the comments. All eight episodes are available to watch now, the last one released on Nov. 17.

    Mel Hebert

    'Supergirl' Final Season Shows Even Superheroes Can Have PTSD

    When I hear “Supergirl” I automatically think of two things: my favorite TV show and one of the few female-leading superheroes. Supergirl —also known as Kara Zor-El, is the infamous Superman’s cousin in the show. She came to Earth to protect Superman as he grew up, but was stuck in the Phantom Zone for 24 years, so when she finally came to earth, Superman was all grown up and he certainly didn’t need any protection. Meanwhile, Kara hadn’t aged a day due to being in the Phantom Zone. For the first five seasons, Kara brings up being in the Phantom Zone many times, but never discusses it further. It’s merely a brief mention in conversations before she moves on. The most Kara had said about the Phantom Zone before the sixth season is that it’s “cold” and “dark.” However, in the final season, one of Supergirl’s biggest enemies sends her back to the Phantom Zone, leaving her trapped once again, and this time things turn out differently when she returns to Earth. While her friends were figuring out how to save her, viewers finally got to see what the Phantom Zone consisted of. For the first time, we saw that it’s filled with phantoms that make people relive their worst nightmare again and again. For Supergirl, this meant losing her powers and seeing her family and friends die repeatedly. In the show, these are called “Fear Visions.” And even after she gets back to Earth and the phantoms are gone, there are a lot of signs that point to Kara having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from her experience. Symptoms of PTSD include avoidance, lacking interest in activities you once enjoyed, being easily startled or frightened, always being on guard for danger, and trouble concentrating. Additionally, PTSD often includes having intrusive thoughts, such as reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again, recurrent unwanted memories of the traumatic event and irritability or anger outbursts due to the traumatic event. Throughout the sixth season of Supergirl, all of these symptoms are present. As Kara returns to Earth, trauma appears to overwhelm her. She starts having what’s clinically referred to as “flashbacks” of being trapped with the phantoms. The show replays the look of pain on her face as the phantoms take over her thoughts, and viewers watch as Kara relives her trauma again and again. The phantoms created lingering panic about the possibility of her friends and family getting hurt. Due to this, Kara pushes the rest of her life away, focusing solely on being Supergirl. This means that she quits the job that she loves, pushes away friends and colleagues, and continues to have flashbacks — even in the middle of saving the day. Eventually, she stops living her normal life altogether. She’s afraid of being Kara because it means putting Supergirl aside — which could lead to the people around her getting hurt because she wasn’t there to save them. And while the show never brings up PTSD directly, the panic that Supergirl feels is something I can heavily relate to. Obviously, I’m not Supergirl by any means, but I do feel panic when I think about my trauma. I have flashbacks the same way Kara does, except instead of freezing, I tend to cry in my room as I relive the events. There are times I have unwarranted anger, the same way Supergirl does when her friends aren’t saving the day quickly enough. There are also times I push people away due to my trauma because I don’t want them to get hurt. Additionally, when I think about how Kara portrays the Phantom Zone the first time versus how she portrays it after returning the second time, I think a lot about how I coped with my own trauma. Just like Kara, my primary coping skill was pretending the trauma hadn’t affected me at all — that I was completely fine. However, when I was forced to face it, I realized my trauma had affected me a lot. I just never took the time to process what happened to me. And when I was forced to face it, those years of minimizing my trauma came back to bite me as I finally began to realize that what I went through wasn’t normal — the same way Kara finally acknowledges her own trauma. So while the show never outright calls Kara’s flashbacks and behavior post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, I still think it’s groundbreaking that they would include PTSD-like symptoms at all. It sends the message to everyone watching that even a god-like superhero can struggle with mental illness, which is a message that needed to be sent. Many victims of trauma never speak up or get help due to thinking their trauma “isn’t that bad,” and I think seeing that even a superhero can go through trauma can be extremely validating to viewers. It may even encourage others to talk about their own traumas and realize they’re not alone. Seeing Supergirl show how traumatic events can affect even the strongest of people gives me hope that one day society will also see that having PTSD isn’t a sign of weakness. PTSD is a legitimate mental illness that can make it hard to function in day-to-day life, and it can happen to anyone. And that was an important message to send.

    Andrew Lampe

    Game of Thrones Star Kit Harington and Mental Health for Actors

    Last week, “Game of Thrones” star Kit Harington went on the Jess Cagle show and talked about the time directly after the final season of Game of Thrones, when he took a year off from acting, and even checked himself into a mental health and wellness facility. He explained that the “ mental health difficulties” he experienced began toward the end of filming and were “due to the nature of the show” and the many years he had been doing it. At the time he did so, most of the press reported that this was due to alcohol issues, but as usual with celebrity mental health they were only interested in the sordid, and it now appears the truth was much deeper and much more mental health -related. When I read Kit’s brave reveal this week, while I am inside a mental health facility myself , I was really moved and affirmed by his courage. It also got me thinking about the nature of acting and its toll on the mental health of actors which the industry itself, and particularly the celebrity publicity machine, seem entirely uninterested in. Recently, there has been a very overdue push toward more diverse casting, and also intimacy coordinators who help make the filming of sex scenes between actors safer. But what about the mental health of the actors themselves? Where is the policy on how to protect an actor’s psychological health on set? Where is the course in drama schools or film schools to emphasize mental well-being? When the job requires you to take on the identity of a usually fictional identity, where is the support to keep your own? Where is the healthy boundary between where you end and the character begins? Since the development of method acting (particularly in the Hollywood system), immersion into a character and the experience of the actor has become commonplace in film and TV. Basically, think of many of the performances that win Academy Awards, like Robert De Niro in “Raging Bull,” or Joaquin Phoenix for “Joker,” Anne Hathaway for “Les Miserables” and Natalie Portman for “Black Swan” — all of whom lost significant weight through extreme dieting — or Leonardo Di Caprio, who actually eating a raw Bison’s liver for “The Revenant.” The list could go on and on. And these are all related to physical health — what about the psychological effect of playing these characters? Returning to Kit Harington’s decision to take a year’s break and to be treated for his mental health, I tried to find out what happened to him. While I haven’t found evidence that he is a method actor, I did find clues for what so ailed him on the show, for which eight seasons were shot over an eight-year period in wintery, austere locations — a show that, needless to say, became an absolute worldwide phenomenon. Firstly, in the earlier seasons, Kit’s character of Jon Snow received scathing criticism from some critics and fans as he explained in an interview with Variety : “My memory is always ‘the boring Jon Snow.’ And that got to me after a while… Some of those words that were said about it stuck in my craw about him being less entertaining, less showy.” As well as dealing with unkind condemnations, he also found the pressure of being such a pivotal character in such a show very destabilizing: “When you become the cliffhanger of a TV show, and a TV show probably at the height of its power, the focus on you is f—ing terrifying… I felt incredibly concerned about whether I could even f—ing act.” Later in the same Variety article Harington nails exactly how and why his mental health was affected, which prompted him to seek treatment: “It wasn’t a very good time in my life. I felt I had to feel that I was the most fortunate person in the world, when actually, I felt very vulnerable. I had a shaky time in my life around there — like I think a lot of people do in their 20s. That was a time when I started therapy, and started talking to people. I had felt very unsafe, and I wasn’t talking to anyone.” It seems it was the controversial final series — that seemed to be more reviled than loved — that particularly affected Harington. The pre-shooting table reading of the final season shows him breaking down at what happens to his character, or what his character has to do in the final episode. The line between the character and him, between the Thrones world and his own, seems as one. In the Variety article, Harington himself explained what happened when he shot his last day: “I took off the costume, and it felt like my skin was being peeled away. I was very emotional. It felt like someone was shedding me of something.” You can see video of the speech he makes at the end of his last filming day where he can barely speak but manages to say: “My heart is breaking. I love this show more than anything. It’s never been a job for me, it’s been my life… You’ve all been my family and I love you for it.” The last point about the cast and crew of a set becoming his family is also key, especially over eight years of filming and often in very difficult locations, and often shooting explicitly violent and sexual scenes in a bleak fictional world. Clearly, the toll on the actors and crew is immense. The heartening thing about Harington’s experience is that he took a year off acting and even sought professional help for his mental health , and has now gone public about it. Perhaps some change can come into the industry as a result of his courage. But I wonder if more can be done to help when actors are on set and are immersed in their characters and the world of their characters. And also, what about the transient nature of filming and how very intense relationships are made in a very artificial context and then suddenly everyone is separated? Each set usually has a nurse, so what about a set psychologist? A mental health professional on call for whatever distress arises, any past traumas reignited, how their sense of self is affected, or any other deeper mental well-being need, whether cast or crew. Finally, when actors do seek help and are outed for doing so let’s not mock them and reduce their help-seeking. We know from our own experiences that our issues go much deeper, and how fragile our mental health can be.

    Monika Sudakov

    HBO's 'In Treatment' Is an Accurate Representation of Therapy

    “In Treatment” is a critically acclaimed series that originally premiered in 2008 on HBO and ran for three seasons. It starred Gabriel Byrne as psychotherapist Paul Weston, and each season followed not just the work he did with three-to-four patients, but his life outside of the therapy room. The show has reemerged this year with a new star, new patients and a storyline that exists within the current world of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement for social justice. This iteration of the show follows Dr. Brooke Taylor, played by the incomparable Uzo Aduba of “Orange Is the New Black” fame, and her three patients: Eladio, Colin and Laila. While this season does pay homage to the original version by referencing Dr. Paul Weston as having been Dr. Taylor’s mentor and supervisor, it stands on its own as a completely unique show and does not require seeing the previous seasons for it to make sense. Full disclosure: I did watch the previous seasons because I was curious as to how they compared and I found them both fascinating and brilliantly acted, but I’m kind of a “therapy connoisseur” when it comes to the media I consume so I don’t expect everyone to invest in that time commitment. The genius of this show is its ability to offer the viewer a peek not only into what it’s like to be a patient in a therapy session but more interestingly into what therapists’ lives are like outside of the therapy room. It has a voyeuristic quality to it that makes it extremely appealing to anyone who has ever been in therapy or who has ever wondered what therapy is like. The writing this season, like the previous seasons, is masterful and the acting is absolutely superb. What this season has that the original didn’t is the relevancy to issues that occupy the realm of our current collective existence. It deals with the challenges of therapy during the pandemic, including how telehealth therapy sessions can pose a unique communication challenge for certain patients, to the fact that Dr. Taylor has resorted to doing in-person sessions from her home since her office is still closed, which poses a completely different set of challenges. We see how representation matters and why it is critical for therapists of all intersections to exist, including those who are Black and those who are members of the LGBTQIA+ communities. And, we see how the personal lives of therapists can and do affect their interaction with their clients, particularly when they experience complex grief. This season has 24 episodes, each episode focusing on one patient, with every fourth episode focusing on Dr. Taylor and her personal life. The arc of each patient’s story follows specific mental health challenges and themes with Dr. Taylor being the fourth “patient,” if you will. I’ll include a brief synopsis of each, but will focus on Eladio in more detail because of the unique similarities his experience has to that which I experienced with my now-ex-therapist. Colin: Recently released from prison, Colin is a pro bono case that Dr. Taylor has agreed to. He presents her with unique challenges related to compulsive lying, a need to be liked and behaviors attributed to narcissism. His episodes are particularly contentious and clearly illustrate how a therapist can deeply dislike a patient and still do effective therapeutic work with them. Trigger warning for anyone who has experienced interpersonal violence as these sessions are very heated. Laila: A young, Black lesbian woman who is processing trauma relating to corporal punishment, enmeshment with her grandmother, abandonment from her mother and an absentee father. She also struggles with reconciling her racial identity and discovering who she is as she becomes an adult. Her episodes deal heavily with suicidal ideation and could be potentially triggering. Dr. Brooke Taylor: Dr. Taylor has recently lost her father and is in the throes of grief. We watch her turn to alcoholism to self-soothe and struggle with her identity. Her episodes with her AA sponsor Rita are poignant and heart-wrenching to watch. We see clearly how addiction relates to trauma and how unresolved trauma can lead one right back into their addiction . Her episodes could potentially be triggering for those with substance abuse issues or those who have recently experienced the loss of a loved one. Eladio: A 20-something Latino gay man who has a severe fear of abandonment. From the very first episode, we see how transference and countertransference can adversely effect the therapeutic alliance when it goes unchecked. Eladio desperately seeks a maternal figure in the guise of Dr. Taylor and she not only obliges but gets extremely engrossed in the dyad. His attachment to her and her affection for him results in poor boundaries, unclear goals for treatment and ultimately create an untenable situation that cannot continue. I struggled with exactly this dynamic with my ex-therapist in the beginning. Her ambiguous boundaries, insistence on my attachment to her and insertion into my life as a pseudo-mommy morphed into a trauma bond. It became a toxic relationship that was not only not conducive to healing my relational trauma but ended up retraumatizing me. Dr. Taylor eventually recognizes that she would do Eladio more harm than good by continuing to see him and ends up referring him to another clinician, something I wish my ex-therapist would have done. We see how, in spite of her own feelings toward Eladio or what she is going through in her personal life, Dr. Taylor is a caring and ethical clinician who ultimately puts the needs of her patients first. Frankly, I found these episodes with Eladio painful to watch because I could feel his desperation, confusion, fear and sadness at understanding that Dr. Taylor could never actually be his mother no matter how much he wished it to be so. It’s a black hole in your heart that feels like a vacuum and can never be filled. For anyone with developmental trauma associated with parental neglect , these episodes could be potentially triggering. While I don’t think this show will accurately represent everyone’s experience in therapy, it certainly does a remarkable job of providing a template of what it could look like, particularly in a psychodynamic approach. And, for those looking for more insider information and analysis on the actual therapy conducted on the show, there is a companion podcast called “In Session” featuring a clinical psychologist named Dr. Janelle S. Peifer who offers a unique perspective on the sessions in the show both as a clinician and specifically as a Black woman practicing in a field that tends to be dominated by white males. The podcast features interviews with actors from the show as well as its writers discussing their own relationship to mental health and personal experiences in therapy. For me, this was one of the most entertaining, thought-provoking, cathartic and emotionally satisfying shows I’ve watched in a very long time. I think for many of us who live with mental illness and have spent any time in therapy, there are very few concrete examples of what it looks like to experience mental health challenges or go to therapy. It can feel isolating at times. That’s why seeing our experiences so accurately and carefully portrayed is incredibly validating. It helps us to feel less alone, normalizes the idea of going to therapy and helps to eliminate the stigma, particularly in communities where mental health tends to be neglected or where seeking help is frowned upon.

    Maya Lorde

    Tips for Watching Shows and Movies That Trigger Your PTSD

    I find that I am drawn to TV shows that remind me of my own abuse . I watch in horror but still cannot stop. I watch shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Forensic Files, Criminal Minds and so much more. I almost do not have an appetite for anything else on TV. Why is this? Initially, I did not even know this was a problem. I just thought I liked the shows and wanted to learn more about crime. But that is not the entire story. If I really examine what the draw is about, I see a few things: 1. The adrenaline rush. I experience a physical reaction that is reminiscent of past experiences of trauma . I am attracted to this because it is familiar. I sit on the edge of my seat waiting for the climax and the discovery of the perpetrator and the fear they are causing. I am riveted and breathless as I watch. 2. Empathy for the victim that I did not receive. The police officers and agents are treating the victims with care and understanding. They are surrounding them with attention and are not blaming them for the abuse or making them feel responsible. They are acknowledged as a victim with courage and agency. I did not have this. No one came to my rescue. No one said, “this should not be happening to you and I am here to save you.” Instead, I was alone and judged and made to feel guilty. I was a victim with no one to cry out to. 3. Positive outcome. They catch the bad guy and they are punished. My abusers are on the loose and no one is looking for them. They are carrying on with their lives as if nothing has happened. At least on the show, justice is served. The abuser gets shamed and held accountable. All their worldly privileges are taken away and they suffer — directly in opposition to what my abusers are going through. 4. Solved in an hour. In an hour, all is solved. My decades, or abuse boiled down into an hour. These abused women get justice right away and that is a reward like no other. I am still waiting for justice that is clearly not coming any time soon. When I went to my first trauma unit at a mental health facility, the stated rules said that you could not watch any triggering TV. That was the first time I had ever considered that I was doing harm to myself — that my watching these shows was causing me distress and that it was impeding my healing. I was even watching them right before I was going to sleep. I now know these should only be consumed in moderation and when mentally stable. The flashbacks they caused were very distressing. When I pulled back from watching the shows, my anxiety noticeably reduced. More survivors need to know that they do not need to revictimize themselves by consuming media that is harmful for us. I have many friends who are survivors as well, and who do what I do and watch these shows. They also say they are drawn to them for basically the same reasons I outlined. With all that said, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) gives us some helpful tips to be better consumers of movies and TV that may be triggering. When watching TV and movies, you will notice that sexual violence is a dramatic part of the plot, sometimes contain overly graphic scenes and will often focus on trauma over healing. 1. You are in control. The remote is in your hands. You do not have to subject yourself to these images and themes. For once, you are in control of what you experience. You can turn away and practice self-care for PTSD triggers. 2. Pay attention to the warnings. Find out through research what kind of content a show has. My friends usually warn me when recommending a show, or you can check sites like here to see what they outline as triggers in specific shows. Do your homework; it matters. There are a lot of tools on the internet for this. 3. Remember, this is not the whole story. The show or movie lasts for a couple of hours. In no way can they cover all the context that is involved in addressing a sexual assault, the aftermath and all its nuances. So be aware that this is not reality and there is so much more to these situations that remains unseen. Use your best judgment. This perspective has been very helpful for me. I would also add that you know yourself and what you can handle. Take care of yourself and do not force this. It will take time to remove yourself from these shows if you are anything like me and that is all you watch. I know there are many landmines in the media. There are also many options for media these days. Be a mindful consumer; that will pay off in the long run. You deserve stress-free viewing. You do not have to be retraumatized. That is not OK. You can do better by yourself. I wish you safe and happy watching.

    Community Voices

    📺 What TV show are you hooked on?

    <p>📺 What TV show are you hooked on?</p>
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    Why I Use Horror to Take Control of My Anxiety

    For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with anxiety . I grew up as an anxious child and I have struggled with severe “worrying” my entire life. I have been on and off various anxiety medications and have participated in just about every form of therapy and exercise designed to help relieve anxiety. But nothing has helped me to manage, and take control of, my anxiety more than the horror genre. When I was younger, I was terrified of anything having to do with horror or Halloween, but as I have grown older I discovered how those intense feelings of fear and unease that horror movies, books and series brings provides me with an outlet to take control of my anxiety. Most of the time, I feel like my anxiety controls me by taking over my body with intense shaking, a rapid heartbeat, uncontrollable, worrying thoughts, and a shortness of breath. But, when I watch a horror movie or series, or read a horror book, I am looking my anxiety in the face and saying, “I am not afraid of you.” Staying in my body and being in the present moment is one of the things that I struggle with the most with my anxiety because my thoughts take me out of body and catapult me into the past or the future; but the horror genre captivates my attention and forces me to stay present. While it elicits the same anxiety symptoms that I try to avoid normally, it is a unique experience because I am welcoming those symptoms. I am allowing myself to experience them in a way that lets me release my tension and welcomes the endorphins to overwhelm my body. However, I do have to be careful of what type of horror I consume due to my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Anything to do with sexual assault or animal and child abuse will put me over the edge and does not provide a safe space for releasing anxiety. This is why I stick with supernatural horror or horror that is not as realistic because it transports me to another world and doesn’t trigger my panic. While horror movies provide two hours or so of anxiety experience and relief, horror books and series are a different form of outlet. Because it takes me longer to read books or watch a series than watch a movie, I am able to build up my anxiety and experience a greater sense of release by the end because of the anticipation. Horror literature is beautiful in that authors have to provide imagery to create fear in the reader, and if the author is good at their craft, the book will become all-consuming. When I read horror, I don’t have the mental space to let my thoughts consume me because my mind is fully captivated. This is why horror is my favorite genre to prescribe as a bibliotherapist — a therapist who uses books and reading as therapeutic tools. My top 10 favorite books, TV shows, and movies for releasing anxiety in a safe environment are: “ A Haunting in Connecticut” (Movie). “ The Conjuring” Series (Movies). “ The Curse of La Llorona” (Movie). The “Annabelle” Series. (Movies). The “Child’s Play” Series (Movies). “ My Best Friend’s Exorcism” by Grady Hendrix (Book). “ The Merciless” by Danielle Vega (Book). “ The Haunted” by Danielle Vega (Book). “ The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson (Book). “ The Haunting of Hill House” (Series on Netflix). If you struggle with anxiety, I challenge you to find a form of horror that is safe and creates a space for you to experience your anxiety and release it. You deserve to control your anxiety, rather than having it control you. What would you add? Let us know in the comments below.

    Sky Taylor

    How Midseason Finale of 'A Million Little Things' Deals With Suicide

    I will never forget the weeks that led up to the series premiere of the TV show “A Million Little Things” last year. ABC hyped that show up more than I’ve ever seen them hype up anything. Every commercial showed previews of the premiere. And, as someone who has attempted suicide and who has struggled with depression and anxiety for years, I was extremely intrigued. All I could do was hope it lived up to the hype. And it did. I’ll never forget watching that premiere on the couch with my roommate and just sobbing. I had never seen a show depict mental illness so well. I had never seen a sho w handle depression and suicide as well as they did. Even from just the first episode, I knew every TV show that talked about suicide needed to take notes from this one. And so, I became a huge fan of the show. Watched every week, and cried pretty much every week. And then came the season two midseason finale that premiered Thursday … and there are not words to describe how seen and understood I felt watching it. There is a scene with two characters, PJ and Rome, on top of a building as PJ’s suicidal thoughts escalate and Rome calmly talks with him. The words exchanged hit so deep. As PJ talked about not fitting in with his family, specifically his dad, he said: “For so long it didn’t make sense, we’re so different. I blamed myself for not being like him.” Anyone who knows me knows my mother and I do not see eye to eye on a lot. I love her and she has done so much for me, for which I am forever grateful, but our relationship is rocky. My mother and I are so different. And, up until just a few months ago, I spent my entire life blaming myself for not being the daughter she wanted or needed. Most of my friends are very close with their parents, and this moment in the show made me feel less alone so much. As they continued talking, PJ talked about how he felt like he had finally found a family in this new group of friends: “I got to know them. And I liked them. And they liked me. And now I’m more alone than ever … I finally felt like I had a family. I don’t have that anymore.” It has been a long fight for me to try to find where I fit in and feel loved, supported and comfortable. Over the years, I kinda found my chosen family. But even then, there have been people who I have truly considered family who have left, who have moved on with their lives. And I don’t blame them … but it still hurts. And during those times, I feel more alone than ever. Rome responded to PJ, saying: “Family’s the people who raise you. The people who love you.” From youth group leaders, to roommates, to friends I’ve had since elementary school, to camp friends, to teachers, to leaders and role models — these people are who I call family, and I am so thankful to have them. My friends and I did a Friendsgiving on Friday, and sitting around that table looking at them all, I wanted to cry. They are family. However, as touching as Rome’s response was, PJ was still overwhelmed and everything became too much as he said: “For as far back as I can remember, there’s been this weight and didn’t know why. I thought I finally figured out the reason. I finally figured out why I feel this way … God, no matter what I do. It’s never going to go away.” Cue all the tears. The most frustrating part of my depression has always been not having a reason why. It makes me feel invalid, weak and like there is something fundamentally wrong with me. Eight years later, I am just now starting to gain the tiniest bit of insight into my “why.” But I still don’t really have a reason. More than that, I know what it’s like to feel like nothing will ever change. I know what it’s like to feel like it’s never going to go away. Every word PJ said, I have literally said myself to people in my life. After PJ got on the edge of the rooftop and Rome joined him, Rome said: “A year ago I was right where you are … Yes man, there are some dark days. But there’s also tomorrow. And I’m here for you. We are all here for you. I will not lose you. I will not lose you.” And again, cue all the tears. I’ve been there. And watching this episode, I thought about where I was a year ago. My mother and I had the biggest fight of our lives, I wrote her a letter that ended up being a suicide note, my grandmother passed away and I fell into the deepest self-destructive spiral of my life (which is saying something, because I’ve had quite a few). But I think about where I am now. And God knows it’s not near where I want to be, but there are no words to describe how much a year did. Finally finding a good therapist, finally putting the work in, finally prioritizing my health for the first time in my entire life. It’s been such a journey. I am here because of the people who tell me tomorrow will come and it will be better. I am here because of the people who have supported and stood by me for years. I am here because of the people who haven’t given up on me. I am here because of the people who have told me they will see me tomorrow because they will not lose me. I am here because of the people who fought for me and held hope for me when I couldn’t. I am here because of people like Rome. This show is beautiful. It is the best depiction of depression I have ever seen in the media. It tackles depression and suicide perfectly. This show is forcing conversations that need to happen. This show is doing it right. And we could all take a page out of their book. If you’re struggling, please know you are not alone. If you don’t fit into your family or even if you haven’t found your chosen family yet, they exist. They’re out there. You will feel supported and accepted and comfortable again. You will. If you don’t have a reason for your depression , it’s OK. You’re still enough. The sun will rise. Tomorrow will come. And I’ll be right here with you. We’re gonna get there. I promise.

    Community Voices

    What are your favorite Tv shows you use escape mental illness for a little while?

    I love shows that involve really close friends because I crave friendship like that. I have a wonderful fiancé, but there's something really special about friendship. I hunger for friendship & genuine connection so bad that watching shows like Friends or The Office or How I Met Your Mother or Glee really help fill that void for a little while. Can anyone else relate? If so, what shows do you watch? #Anxiety #Hunger #Connection #Friendship #tvshows

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