On Binge-watching and Depression

I read an article a couple of months ago on Buzzfeed. It was all about the TV series people watched when they were depressed (it’s here!). The thing I watched, in November and December last year, wasn’t on the list. For some reason, I was obsessed with House.

I was prescribed anti-depressants in November. I hadn’t taken them for nine years and I couldn’t remember how I felt when I was on them. I don’t remember being very present, so I was hesitant to start taking them again. When the doctor says that it’ll take around two weeks to adjust, they are being fairly conservative with their estimate. I couldn’t think – I got my boyfriend to look at an essay I’d written for uni because I couldn’t concentrate on it. It barely made any sense. My fears about medication had been confirmed but, hey, I didn’t really mind at that point.

I couldn’t read, couldn’t write and was feeling very tired all of the time. But at least I wasn’t constantly crying anymore. I had no job to go to and I was too tired in the mornings to get up to go to seminars. I found that I could do domestic cleaning and cooking tasks if I was listening to something. And then I realized that House was on Netflix.

When House was first on, in the long-ago time of the mid-noughties when we had to wait a whole week between episodes, I would watch it every week. I liked watching it with my mum the most, because she was a nurse (and has now just retired) and she would sometimes guess what the problem was before the doctors / actors. I liked that.

I started watching House. I can’t explain why I got so addicted to it. House made sardonic comments about the state of humanity – he lives in a worldview where ‘everybody lies’ – this appealed to me in my sedated but still fairly nihilistic state. It was a strange sort of comfort I got from watching these episodes. Based, as the show is, on Sherlock Holmes, there is a formula: clever man eventually finds out The Thing. Then everything goes back to normal.

Perhaps it was the curing of patients that got to me, perhaps it was the disaffected world view that Dr House presents. Whatever it was, watching Dr House was all I could do for a couple of months as my medication kicked in. I thought I was alone in the bizarre phenomenon, but the Buzzfeed article made me see that this wasn’t the case. When a person can’t read, they need to get their stories from somewhere. Maybe experiencing stories is something intrinsically vital to us. And, because television is so passive, it can just sit there with you as you attempt to get back on your feet. Binge-watching TV is not a solution to any problem, but it can help your brain switch off for a little while.

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