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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.
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 calling himself Pennywise (expertly portrayed, in the new film, by actor Bill Skarsgård).
The story follows a group of kids – who dub themselves the “Losers’ Club” – as they face off against the aforementioned monster in what is ostensibly a thinly veiled metaphor for the loss of innocence.
But it turned out to be much more than an allegory disguised as horror, for it imparted on me an important lesson about the nature of depression, at least the way that I experience the disease.
You see, in the book (as well as the film adaptation – spoilers ahead), Pennywise the Clown 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 the Clown 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 the disease. I’ve learned that, if I show depression that 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!