A Side Trip into Neuroticism: Some Thoughts on ‘Lights Out’ and Depression

Warning: *Spoilers*

In Lights Out, Sophie is a woman with a history of depression, for which she had to be hospitalized as a teenager. While there, she met another teenager, Diana. Diana had a skin condition that precluded her from being in light of any kind (though she seems to do fine in the sun with a parasol). She is also jealous and dangerous, admitting to hurting Sophie because “She was getting better.”

The movie revolves around Sophie as an adult, with an adult daughter named Becca and a young son named Martin. Both of the childrens’ fathers have secretly been killed by Diana, because in Sophie’s words, they “made me feel strong.” Becca has commitment issues and is bitter toward Sophie for being so wrapped up in her depression that she was an incompetent mother. Sophie in turn insists that Becca abandoned her. Martin, who still lives with Sophie, is caught up in Sophie and Diana’s relationship. Sophie treats Diana as a friend and spends a lot of time talking to her (despite the fact that no one else can see her). Becca takes Martin to her apartment on the grounds that Sophie is a “nutjob” and “unstable.” At one point, Martin  asks Becca, “If Mom’s crazy, does it mean we’re crazy, too?”

As a mother with depression, Becca and Martin’s struggle to understand their mother is poignant. Once I was upset and weepy, and my husband was trying to shoo our toddler Orion out of the room so he wouldn’t see. Orion protested, “No Daddy, Mama cry.” The first time I saw Lights Out I was disgusted how Sophie is portrayed as a selfish trainwreck of a woman. At the end of the film she shoots herself in the head to get rid of Diana, telling Becca she is “saving your lives.” However, after a second viewing, I think that while Sophie is overdone in her helplessness, the message seems to be that depression can’t be cured alone. What Sophie really needs is supportive relationships, like with her children, who encourage her to do potentially helpful things like take her antidepressants and see a therapist (both of which Sophie refuses to do).

lights out1

A note Sophie secretly passes to Becca

Becca and Martin are contrasted by Martin’s refusal to leave his mother the way Becca did. Towards the end of the movie, Becca admits her love for her boyfriend and declares, “No more running away.” A major issue in dealing with depression is that it isolates people. The person suffering from it feels damaged and liable to be better off dead, as Sophie does.

I’ve struggled with depression since I was fourteen. I suffered for four years in silence before asking my mother to take me to get professional help because I didn’t think my problems were important. At times I hate myself. To be honest with you, I’m writing this while railing at myself for a mistake I made at work last week. I feel inferior to everyone else because I can’t function like most people. I have painful social anxiety, and actually feel general anxiety 24/7. Sometimes it feels easier to just be dead. Or asleep. Sleep is good. So why not stop? Why not goddamn just think positive? It’s not that easy.

Diana is such an apt metaphor for depression because she’s jealous of Sophie’s occasional ability to live and feel good about herself. Depression whispers, you’re too tired to write. So I pick up a book. Depression whispers, you’re not accomplishing anything. I go to work, where I’m generally competent. Depression lets me feel good about my performance until I make a mistake. You’re going to be fired, depression whispers. No one likes you here. Maybe you’re good, but you’re not good enough. You’re part time, you’re disposable, you’re stupid, you’re worthless, you’re complacent. You’ve been here for two years, why do you still make so many fucking mistakes?

lightsout2

Yeah, this is pretty much how it looks in there except with more cursing

I go to the gym. Depression says, look how fit those other people are, why do you even try? Fat bitch walking on the treadmill while everybody else is running. Is twenty pounds seriously all you can lift?  I hang out with friends or family, and afterwards I ruminate about mistakes I made. I live in terror of offending people and being rejected. In between writing this, I called my supervisor and confessed to the aforementioned mistake, which I have blown out of all proportion and actually wasn’t even a mistake. After hanging up, I realized that even if it had been a grievous error, nothing she said to me could be worse than that voice in my head. Nothing is ever good enough. Hey my counselor was right, writing this stuff out does help. It’s hard to pinpoint how fucked up the whole thing is when it’s just running a hamster wheel in my head. Whoever ends up reading this, I’m not fishing for compliments (I always think people think the worst of me, natch). Thank you for reading, I so needed to say this.

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