I recently finished reading Warm Bodies, the 2011 “zombie romance” novel that inspired the recent number one box office hit.
R, the first-person narrator and protagonist, is one of the Dead, victim of a mysterious curse plaguing most of the world. He’s happy with his brain-and-essence-eating self until he meets and rescues Julie, a rosy-eyed, Living human. Their budding friendship—and romance—slowly returns R’s desire to live, his conscience, and his empathy. Other zombies take notice, wondering whether the same can happen to them, too.
Great literature it is not. But this story about the things that separate the dead from the living did have something to teach me about myself, my life, and my depression.
- Without hope, we all die a little faster every day. Depression has been described as a disease so painful that people would rather die from it than live with it. (Over 90% of people who commit suicide every year in the U.S. have a mood disorder like depression.) I can’t beat depression with willpower, but I can keep hope that someday things will be better. If I give up the hope that things will get better, I give up on myself, my family, and my life. Without killing myself, I become one of the walking dead.
- I cannot live a borrowed life. My husband and I sometimes joke that I am “psychic vampire.” When he’s happy, I’m happy. When he’s sad, I’m sad. But it wasn’t until I was deep in the throes of a major depressive episode last summer that we realized quite how unhealthy that dynamic is. I was draining Adam’s energy—literally—and I was making him depressed, too. I might as well have been eating his brains! I can’t rely on the strength of others to live my life.
- Hope is contagious. Sadness may spread like a zombie virus, but so hope is contagious, too. I’m so grateful for the people in my life who set beautiful examples of grace and hope under fire. And, when I’m well enough, I hope I can spread hope to others, too.
- I can never be the person I was again—but I can be someone even better. Before I developed major depression, I was a newly-married, childless woman. My priorities and needs were different. And I will never be that woman again, any more than a zombie can pick up his old life where he left off. It’s more important for me to focus on who I can be, instead of who I was. I need to learn to see the good in myself now, instead of dwelling on all the things I miss about myself from the past.