After several days of suffering almost nonstop from a heavy dose of clinical depression, last Monday night I started to crawl tentatively out of my funk (emotional and olfactory) and felt well enough to attend a movie screening. It was for “Extract,” which I thought I would probably enjoy, and which I knew some of my critic friends would be attending. I had no intention of reviewing it. I just wanted to do something NORMAL, something that’s usually part of my daily life, but without any of the pressure or obligation.
I was right; I enjoyed the movie; it was a good experience. Afterward, my friend Jeff asked if I would be at “All About Steve” the following afternoon. I said I was on the fence. While I’d had some non-professional interest in “Extract,” this Sandra Bullock thing was something I would only see if obligated to, and I was at this point trying to curtail my obligations as much as possible so that I could recover from my illness.
Then my other friend, Dawn, asked me the same question, and I told her the same thing. But she pointed out that “All About Steve” was probably going to be pretty bad, and I do enjoy writing scathing reviews of terrible movies, so maybe this would be a good thing for me to do, to help me get back to normal?
She made a fine point. I went to the press screening of “All About Steve” the next day at noon.
As you know by now, “All About Steve” turned out to be one of the worst movies ever made by human beings without the direct involvement of Lucifer. I was glad I saw it with friends who were not in the throes of clinical depression, so they could confirm to me that it wasn’t just my state of mind. It really was that bad. I did go home afterward and have a sobbing meltdown, but let’s be honest, so did a lot of other critics.
So this was Tuesday. By Wednesday night, things had improved enough to where I felt vaguely capable of perhaps writing a review of “All About Steve.” I know that many readers love those D- and F-grade reviews, and heaven help me, I sure love writing them, especially when a movie gives me as much to work with as “All About Steve” did. I banged out the first couple of paragraphs and felt good about what I’d produced. I called my editor at Film.com to see if he needed a review of this particular travesty, and it so happens that he did. He gave me the tentative assignment, still with the gracious addendum that it would be OK if I proved unable to write it after all. There was no pressure.
I continued to write. The words flowed out of me like stink out of a monkey. And as I went, I began to feel … normal. During the worst part of the depression, the scary and surreal thing was that I didn’t feel like me. That’s a common figure of speech — “Oh, he’s not himself today” — but I really felt it. These crazy feelings, this despair, this hopelessness: that’s not me! That’s not how I feel! Who is this impostor inside my head making me feel these things?! (Knowing that your feelings are wrong yet being powerless to fix them just makes the depression even worse.)
Another thing I’d felt during my low moments was that even if I did feel like working, even if I were capable of writing … well, what would be the use? You feel worthless during a bout with clinical depression, like the things you do don’t matter, and so it’s just as well that you can’t do them anymore.
But now, here I was, feeling like Eric D. Snider again. You have no idea how awesome it is to feel like Eric D. Snider! Usually I feel like that every day, but I hadn’t lately. Writing the review felt natural, and comfortable, and normal. Everything clicked into place: Ah, yes. THIS is what I do. I watch an awful Sandra Bullock comedy, and then I eviscerate it for the amusement of others.
In the grand scheme of things, maybe it’s not so important. But it’s WHAT I DO. It is my contribution to the world. It doesn’t matter how insignificant it is compared to what some other people might contribute. It’s WHAT I DO. And here I was, doing it, and enjoying it.
This battle with depression isn’t over yet, but things have improved remarkably in the last week. The new medication is helping, and I believe the prayers (mine and others’) have helped, too. The “All About Steve” experience, as goofy as it may sound, was a major step forward. When you’re struggling with depression, it’s the little victories that get you back on track, back to where you’re doing whatever it is that you do, no matter how ordinary or trivial it may be.
So thank you, Sandra Bullock! Thank you for making a terrible movie. I knew I could count on you!