Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of Bojack Horseman. Yes, partially to purposely procrastinate and screw my own academic career over, but also because it resonates with me. On a deep level I never thought a cartoon show about a horse could.
When I first started watching it, I laughed at the nonsensical, frankly messed up world Bojack resided in. Wacky characters like Mr Peanutbutter and extravagant plot lines like stealing the D from the Hollywood sign took me to a world completely different from my own- or so I thought. Until I started recognizing parts of myself in the show. Bojack’s self-destructive nature, his tendency to push good people out of his life, his fear of irrelevancy– holy horseshoe Bojack, that’s me.
And as I continued to watch I didn’t only relate to Bojack, and Diane, and Princess Caroline, but I saw story lines they went through in parts of my own life. It’s not new news that Bojack Horseman is a show about depression, and that it depicts it accurately– but seeing it for myself has really opened my eyes.
In episode 6 of season 4, “Stupid Piece of Sh*t”, the show highlights a part of depression that I particularly connect with: the inner monologue. As Bojack goes about his day with his newly found teenager daughter and estranged mother, we hear Bojack’s thoughts as he goes about his decisions. It begins off humorously as he eats cookies for breakfast, while his mind says “Stop eating cookies. Cookies are not breakfast. Don’t eat that cookie. Don’t- I can’t believe you ate that cookie.” But as the show goes on, and he continues to make bad decisions, we here his inner self berating him, insulting him, continuously calling him a “stupid piece of sh*t”, justifying why everyone in his life hates him.
This is a part of depression I experience regularly. The voice inside my head, commenting on my every move. “Your friends don’t really like you”, “what you’re doing doesn’t matter”, “you’re never going to accomplish what you want to”,”you are insignificant”. These thoughts weigh on me day after day. I try to drown them out with school, television, writing, working for the Mental Health Outreach Team, hanging out with friends, and yes, admittedly, drinking, partying, and in the past, self-harm.
At the end of the episode, Bojack’s daughter reveals to him that she has these thoughts too. She asks Bojack if they ever go away, if it’s “just a teenage girl thing”. To comfort her, Bojack lies. He tells her yes, they do.
As someone with depression, I know these thoughts don’t go away. They lessen as I distract myself, or when I’m feeling better, but they are always there, residing in that dark part of my mind.
But what I have learned is it’s not about getting rid of the voices. It’s not about drowning them out. It’s about fighting them back, challenging them. “No one likes you”. Wrong, I have at least 5 friends in my contacts who would text me back almost instantly, I have a boyfriend who loves me, I have a family who cares for me despite my flaws. “Nothing you do matters” Wrong, I started a team that may be small, but has begun to make positive change on my campus. “You are insignificant” Wrong, I might be in the grand scheme of things, but I mean something to some people, and I mean something to me.
Bojack is an imperfect character. He makes bad choices, he hurts people, he self-destructs. But he has heart, he means well, and most of all he’s in pain. I won’t go too deep into the character because hey, I didn’t write the show, but Bojack doesn’t fight back those thoughts. He lets them devour him, and he suffers for it.
Depression lies. It’s an ugly, mean monster who disguises itself as you. But it’s not real. You’re feelings are real, the bad thoughts you have are real, but that doesn’t mean that those bad thoughts are truth. Battling these thoughts is not an easy fight, but keep reminding yourself that it’s worth it. You’re worth it.