So this thing happened to me a couple of months ago. It was one of those delightful reminders of how cruel and unfair this grand world of ours can be. And when life dumps a truckload of lemons at my doorstep, I am usually sent scrambling for my Buffy blanket. It’s hardly a secret that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my comfort food of choice when life gets crappy and that week in February was no exception.
Luckily for me it was close enough to my annual re-watching of the entire seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where I felt that once I started watching I could continue through the whole thing. And for some reason watching Buffy always inspires me to start writing.
Here I am – watching again. Seeing some things for the 47th time and seeing others for the first. What I love about Buffy is that the show has so many layers – like an onion (or a parfait depending on your point of view). There are some things that will endure forever. Like I will always ball my stupid face off during “The Body” and “The Gift.” I will always see my little sister in Dawn. Making it through season 4 is never an easy accomplishment. Spike never makes me not swoon.
But what really gets me is that each time I watch it, I see a side of the story that I never really noticed before. Case in point – Season 6. This has always been one of my favorites. Clearly because it is pretty fucking dark and I am not what you’d call a happy shiny person. I gravitate toward it because Buffy and her view of the world around her encapsulates how I felt when I was in the deepest, darkest pit of my depression. The theme here is self-destruction. There are episodes where I could have written her words from my own experiences and feelings (yes – I do have some feelings).
This year was a little different. I saw something that I swear to you never occurred to me in all of my earlier viewings. As always – I connected strongly with the expression of sadness, disconnection and depression but this time I watched the recovery… Shit… This time I saw the downward spiral AND THEN all of those little things you do as you dig out of that deepest darkest pit. It wasn’t simply plot devices to move the story forward, it was ACTUAL recovery. Mother Fucker. (Seriously when I realized it, I said that in utter disbelief).
Allow me to deconstruct:
Episodes 1 – 3: Dead Inside and Out
Buffy is brought back from the dead. She was in heaven. Now she is back on Earth. To her it feels like a fate worse than death. She is distrusting. She is numb. She can’t wait for it all to end.
Episodes 4 – 6: Ironic Detachment
Imagine going about regular life except there is nothing regular about it. Every task is unfamiliar and impossible – even simple ones. She is trying to be normal but what the fuck is normal? She is trying to fit in – but never feeling like she does. Of course you never tell anyone these things – bottle those bad boys up inside and push them deep down. On top of that a throw a bottle of booze, some shirked responsibilities and a few classic puns and you’ve got yourself a party.
Episodes 7 – 8: Boiling Over
Fake it ‘till you make it only gets you so far. Once More with Feeling really hits that home. Eventually those awful terribles you hide inside come out. Although the people around you already know something is up – because honestly you aren’t that good of an actor.
Episodes 9 – 12: Sweet, Sweet Self Destruction
After you can no longer stand to pretend that’s when you crave something drastic. If you are numb, find something that makes you feel. If you are empty, find something that fills that void. If you hurt, medicate. It doesn’t matter how – just do it. No one will understand. And at the end of the day you are always alone – so do what you need to do… even if that is banging a vampire, isolating your friends and family, and wishing all the world’s pain upon yourself.
Episode 13 – 15: Rock Bottom
Have you ever looked in the mirror and despised the image looking back at you? Buffy literally beats the shit out of Spike because when she looks at him she sees her own demons looking back at her. And the damage doesn’t stop there. It would be one thing if self-destruction only hurt the person imploding but the truth it is a disease that affects everyone around you.
Episodes 16 – 18: Step into the Light
Buffy comes clean. She shares her dark secrets with Tara. She’s outed by Riley. And this forces her to face what is really happening. She starts to look honestly at her feelings and her actions. She’s been weak and selfish – and it’s time to take accountability. It’s all therapy. Dig through the shit, find your truth and step into the light.
Episodes 19 – 23: Keep Fighting
These last episodes are all about the struggle that begins AFTER those first steps towards recovery; towards getting back to who you are. And it is best described by Dark Willow:
Always the Slayer…Right to the last. And it is the last, you know? For all of your fighting … thinking you’re saving the world… You’re a warrior. You won’t go out without a fight. I don’t really have time for one. But you should go out fighting.
And Buffy does fight. It is only at the end of the season does she remember what she’s fighting for.
That’s it. It is as close to my experience with depression as I could ever hope to share. I have always loved this season. I always thought is was because I am particularly drawn to the dark & twisty. But maybe it’s because when I am sad, alone and without purpose, like Buffy, I self-destruct in a big way. I do whatever I can to take everyone down with me – just to watch the world burn. But when the fire burns down and the dust settles, at the end of the day, you fight because there is no other choice. It’s who you are – a fighter.
For whatever reason this time around I recognized the recovery in Season 6. Call it perspective. Call it recovery. Call it growing up. Just don’t go thinking I’m all rainbows and sunshine after this realization. You’re unlikely to ever hear me praise the “dawn of a new day” or tag anything with #blessed. The point is I’m still me. Dark, twisty and occasionally a one-woman atom-bomb. Although maybe, despite all that, I can more clearly see a future worth fighting for.