Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find an embeddable clip of my favorite example of gratuitous self pity in a movie, so here’s a link to it!
Do you ever come out of a funk by just realizing how absurd you’re being? That happens to me pretty frequently. I by no means intend to invalidate clinical depression or any other mental illness – I know that these things are very real. In my case it is pretty atypical for my depression to get very bad for very long. There have been three times in my life thus far that doctors have advised me that antidepressants would help, and I have been able to decline the meds and deal with it behaviorally each time (though none of those times were super-fun. My depression tends to manifest as anxiety and/or compulsive behavior).
At this point in my life, the line between depression (feeling utter lack of motivation or hope, accompanied by obsessive thought and usually excess of some kind; whether it’s eating, drinking, smoking, whatever) and wallowing (feeling sorry for myself) is pretty clear. Usually I can avoid depression all-together if I stay on top of my game in terms of eating well and getting enough exercise. However, sometimes at the tail end of an episode of depression I will catch myself dragging it out by wallowing. Let’s face it: feeling sorry for yourself can feel pretty good. Wallowing in self-pity and blaming everything and everyone but yourself and thinking about how the-whole-world-is-against-you-and-you-can’t-help-it can be strangely comforting. It protects you from taking any responsibility for your life and from doing the work that you don’t feel like doing.
When I was just coming out of my most recent bout of depression in March, I had one of those “lightbulb” moments while I was talking with a friend. I had been relating some of my woes about my financial situation and feeling like a failure and blah, blah, blah; and there might have also been a little bit of “so and so doesn’t realize how good they have it.” Then, just as a charitable gesture, I said “but it’s all relative. One person’s terrible situation seems ridiculous to someone whose situation is terrible for real.” In that moment, it suddenly dawned on me what a jerk I was being whining about my student debt and my lack of a house or kids or other tangibles. I said “Wow. I just realized that I pay $18 per month to not be fat (Weight Watchers), while a huge percentage of the world’s population is starving.” Um, yeah. I have nothing to feel sorry for myself about. Wallowing desisted. The depression was over.
I think that this is why it’s funny in movies, etc., when you see scenes of gratuitous self-pity. It’s funny because we all do it, and because deep down we all know we’re being ridiculous. We’re lucky to exist. We’re lucky for so many things just by being alive. We’re luckier still if we are not hungry, have access to medical services, water, etc. If we’re lucky enough to be watching a movie or reading a blog, we’re luckier than most of people on this planet.
Ah perspective. Ain’t she a bitch and a blessing sometimes?