Last night, as I was finishing up the post I planned on putting up this week, something happened to me that has not happened in very long time. So, naturally, I decided to write a completely new post about it, and save the other one for next week.
Last night, seemingly out of nowhere, I had a panic attack. The ‘seemingly out of nowhere’ part is what really threw me for a loop because it has been a long time (years) since that has happened. I’ve had plenty of panic attacks (yay anxiety disorders!) throughout my life, but generally they are brought about by something. Large crowds, overwhelming work/skool* loads, disappointing people who are close to me, and the question, “what even am I doing with my life?!” will usually bring on an attack.
Now, for those of you who have never experienced an actual panic attack 1. you’re very fortunate and 2. it feels like you’re literally (not figuratively) dying. You struggle to get air, your chest feels heavy, and your lungs refuse to expand. Your heart starts to pound and you become convinced that it is going to actually explode out of your chest. Everything starts to spin out of focus and the only thing that stands out, crystal clear, is fear. You also become acutely aware of how alone you are.
It’s a super fun time.
You may be asking, “But, Michelle, what does any of this have to do with the super-fun-awesomeness that is BF Geek Girls?” Well, dear reader, the answer is this: in those horrible, dark moments geeking saves my life.
A little dramatic? Maybe, but still true. You see, when any sort of mental illness has a firm hold on you, you can’t logic or reason your way out of it. I have a background in psychology; I also have specialized training in practical applications of cognitive-behavioral techniques, but do you think any of that helps when I’m the one convinced she’s drowning while sitting at her computer?
What does help is turning to the stories and characters I love. Sometimes it’s as simple as looking at my Kushiel’s Dart tattoo when I’m feeling weak due to a particularly bad depressive episode. I’ve even been known to turn to episodes of Sailor Moon when my eating/body image issues decide to rear their ugly heads. I mean, Serena (yes I’m dating myself), loves to eat AND she still looks fantastic and kicks ass. They even did an episode that addressed the dangers of being too obsessed with your appearance. The point is, the things I geek about help me in very real ways, even as an adult.
Last night I turned to iZombie.
As anyone who has struggled with any sort of mental illness/disorder knows, it is very easy to feel unworthy of being loved or even cared about. I was feeling that hard last night and that’s why I chose to escape into the world of iZombie.
I am absolutely in love with the friendships Liv has, particularly the one between her and Ravi. I also just adore the character Olivia Moore in general. I want her to be my best friend. Well, if I’m being super honest, I’d want her as my girlfriend, but, canonically speaking, she doesn’t swing that way…MOVING ON!
If you’ve never seen the show, stop reading this and go watch it right now.
One of the really cool things about this show that sets it apart from others in the zombie genre is that the zombies get the memories and core personality traits of the brains they eat. The psych major in me could write an entire paper on that alone, but that will be a topic for another day. Liv is almost never only Liv, she always has something else influencing or overriding her behavior. In her case, it’s the memories and traits of the person whose brain she ate, but for those of us who live with mental illness/disorders this is a very real and all too familiar feeling.
Liv doesn’t have any control over how the brains she eats will affect her. She also can’t control that she NEEDS to eat said brains in order to survive. She is ‘living’ with this condition that is frightening and isolating. She feels like she can’t share what she’s going through with her friends and family because, even if they believed her, there’s a very real chance they’d be afraid of her and treat her differently. Again, the parallels are astonishing. The only person who knows she’s a zombie is her boss and friend, Ravi. Liv didn’t tell him, he’s just super smart and put 2 and 2 together.
Instead of freaking out or judging Liv, Ravi immediately tries to understand her situation. He instantly begins work on finding a cure for zombie-ism, but, in the mean time, he treats Liv like the person she is and accepts that being a zombie is just another part of who she is (for the time being). Ravi takes all of her personality changes and brain-related quirks in stride. At one point Liv eats the brain of radio personality who was all about “straight talk” and she ends up saying something pretty hurtful to Ravi to which Ravi responds, “This brain you’re on, she’s a bit of an ass.” He knows that it’s not Liv saying those things and that sometimes she genuinely can’t help herself, but no matter how mad, or hurt, Ravi gets he doesn’t lose sight of that fact.
That’s how geeking out over iZombie helped save my life last night. Spending time with Liv and Ravi helped get me out of my messed-up little world long enough that I remembered how to breathe. It also helped me realize that, if a zombie can have such an accepting and wonderful friendship, I’m worthy of having wonderful and accepting friendships too…even if I break down crying and feel like I’m suffocating to death for no reason sometimes.
This is one of the reasons BF Geek Girls is so important to me. Having any sort of physical or mental health issues can feel incredibly isolating, but having these worlds to escape into when things get particularly hard can make all the difference for some of us. My favorite stories and characters aren’t just pieces of fiction; they’re how I connect to and make sense of the world around me. I think this is something most geeks or fanpersons have in common and that’s why fostering a sense of respect and acceptance for all things geeky and fandom related is so important.
You never know what a certain story, character, or fandom means to someone. It very well could have saved their life at some point. So, always be excellent to each other and geek on.
*Yes, I am aware ‘school’ is spelled incorrectly. I do it on purpose whenever I write that word because I’m a giant Invader Zim fangirl.