I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing this article other than to show you that comfort can be found in the most random of places and because my friend over a Facetime chat said she believed others could relate.
I’ve written before how much I advocate watching TV in life despite ‘dream chasers’ telling you otherwise but what I didn’t tell you is that it helped get me through my breakdown and my recent diagnosis.
At the height of my breakdown when I could barely remove myself from my bed to get to the bathroom, TV was often the only thing that got me through the day until my mum came home from work.
I either slept too much or too little and my days both dragged or whizzed-by depending on how I felt that day. But TV helped because it was often the only thing I would focus on.
I was incredibly depressed during those 10 months and because of that, I couldn’t find enough focus to read a book. One sentence in and I had already forgotten what I had read. It was frustrating and heartbreaking that I could no longer do something I had treasured so much. So I watched movies and specifically I watched two old, cheesy TV serials; Diagnosis Murder and Murder, She Wrote.
Why? Because they were easy to watch but allowed me to focus a little. They also became my clock. I would spend most of my day ‘zoned out’ in my head and the depressive fog that surrounded me but I would always look forward to 2pm because, not only did I have my programmes to watch, it also meant that I only had to last a couple more hours before mum came home. For a while, those programmes gave me purpose and something to look forward to. And on the days that I did manage to go outside, I would record them so I had something to watch when other days were a struggle.
I can’t tell you why I specifically chose them other than they were on every weekday which created a routine for me; something I needed to tap into when I was struggling so intently. I don’t regret watching them in the least because whenever I see them on TV now, I can take comfort knowing that they helped me through one of the most difficult chapters of my life.
And when I wasn’t watching them, I watched something that also comforts me – 1960s/70s Hanna Barbera cartoons. Scooby Doo, Wacky Races, Penelope Pitstop, Hong Kong Phooey, The Jetsons; I watched them all. And there is a serious ‘why’ behind those.
When I was younger and in secondary school; I was sick quite a bit (read: I would say I felt sick because school and life was torture and I needed to escape) which meant that, as my mum was working and I was still too young to stay at home alone, I would go to my Aunties’ house and my auntie had cable TV at that time so I got to watch Cartoon Network which showed all these series. As soon as I was in her house, away from the torment of school, I relaxed. And because of that association. I still watch those cartoons to this day. They remind me of safety and comfort at my auntie’s house. They reassure me that I am in a ‘safe place’ and I can mentally check out and relax.
When I flew home to the UK from Sydney last year sick, worried and alone, I opened up my Macbook and ate my in-flight meal whilst I watched Scooby Doo. Even the steward asked if I had ‘enjoyed my viewing’ to which I replied that I had because there is no shame in something that comforts you.
Do you know what else comforts me because of being at my auntie’s house? A white bread sandwich with lettuce, mayo and cheese. It sounds so incredibly trivial but I can’t tell you how much, both the sandwich and the cartoons, have helped me over the years.
When my mood tanks, there is another set of shows that I find comforting. Shows that were on air even before I was born – UK comedies such as Porridge, Only Fools and Horses, ‘Allo ‘Allo and Dad’s Army. They were made in the 70s but the memories I associate with them are a Saturday evening when I was about 11 in front of the TV (as a treat) with my mum snuggled up in Winter watching these with something yummy such as a cottage pie with veggies and gravy. Therefore these shows soothe me because of the connotations I have with them.
When you’re struggling in life and/or depressed as hell, we search for anything and everything we can to ‘cheer us up’. But that’s a huge task when you’re drowning in so much confusion and frustration so I settle on something that calms me. Something that comforts me to bring me back up from that dark place even if it’s only for an hour or two.
Some may argue that I’m too old to watch cartoons (I don’t know why – Family Guy is huge!) or that my TV shows are ‘embarrassing’. To them, I would simply say that they are jealous that they have yet to find the one thing that consistently soothes them. Watching cartoons or ‘stupid’ TV does not lessen my intelligence. It does not take away my ability to be an adult or travel the world. It comforts me and when I’m desperately travelling down the dark spiral my mind takes me on, I will use whatever tools I can to slow life down and even my mind out a little.
So if I write a status or post a photo of me eating a cheese/mayo sandwich watching a 1960s cartoon or Murder, She Wrote, you’ll know that I’m struggling and I’m doing whatever necessary to comfort myself because nobody knows how to do it better than ourselves.
What comforts you?