I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression since 9th grade. Since I’ve graduated college, my issues have only gotten worse, and, unfortunately, I don’t have a support group to help me get through it, medications have only made me worse, and therapy has just left me feeling frustrated.
I don’t get much relief from the weight of these problems, but television and the fandom community have helped me more than anything else I’ve tried.
Last week, I was asked to speak on The Psychology of Cult TV on HuffPost Live. The segment was short and I didn’t have a lot of time to fully explain the impact TV has had on me so I thought I’d take some time today to talk a bit more about it.
Plenty of mainstream TV viewers do not know about the fandom side of Tumblr, SlashFics, or the nerd crafting community. I think a lot of people, in general, use TV to veg out and relax (thus explaining the popularity of CBS shows) and that’s it. They don’t engage in dialogue with showrunners (heck, they probably don’t even know what a showrunner is), and they aren’t ever inspired by the love of a show to create something based off of it. It’s hard for that type of person to understand that there’s a vibrant community and fanbase behind some of the more cultish TV shows.
For me, TV’s never been an escape from reality or a simple relaxation device (I use books for that). Instead, TV has always inspired me to tell stories, create things, and share my passions with others. Even when my life is going really poorly, my fandoms keep giving me means of moving forward, learning new things, and getting out of my comfort zone.
I’ve repeatedly used my shows and fandoms as a springboard to help me get better and stronger, and I’ve never used it as a shield to hide from everything that’s wrong in my life.
Examples ahead. . .
First off, I have an Etsy shop now because in high school I learned to crochet Doctor Who amigurumi. I was obsessed with Doctor Who and stumbling onto the crafty side of the fandom was like coming home. Crocheting had never been a big deal for me before, but, when I learned to crochet the Doctor and Rose, I began to see it as a fun way to express myself and my nerdyness. I’ve been making money the past year by selling geeky amigurumi (including Hannibal, Arrow, and Doctor Who dolls) online. It’s pretty much my sole income.
Basically, my fandom hobby has become a means of providing for myself and expressing myself as I deal with my issues.
Also, I’ve repeatedly made clothing items and accessories inspired by or based off of those worn by my favorite characters. I’m not a cosplayer, but I do know the pride of recreating costume pieces for myself. It’s empowering to be able to recreate what you see on the screen, and it’s even more awesome when someone compliments you on your handmade Dalek shirt or Jayne hat.
When I’m in deep depression, I cannot write–which is torture for me. In bad times, there gets to be this wall in my mind that I can’t break through (sometimes writer’s block isn’t something you can just power through). Some of the little fiction writing I did last year was inspired by television shows like Hannibal, Doctor Who, and Supernatural. Fan fiction was my one way of being able to produce stories–even if they weren’t completely mine. With the added help of having settings and characters already in place, it was magnificent to be given prompts from other fan fiction enthusiasts. With all the hard stuff out of the way, I could just write and not stress over creating everything from scratch.
Along the same line, being on a site like FanFiction.net and having my stories read my hundreds of people was a great confidence builder. Barely anyone read my one published short story and so to have people reading any work of fiction I’ve written felt very good and encouraging.
Fandom can be drama filled, but it also offers community for those who have trouble connecting with others in real life. I’ve found plenty of people to engage online with similar TV tastes as myself, and, through Tumblr especially, I’ve finally been able to realize that my love of TV isn’t so abnormal.
But the connections I’ve made haven’t just been virtual.
When you’re a single, childless twenty-something, it’s very difficult to have conversations with people in real life. I often get written off very early in conversations because of this. On top of that, if you’ve ever dealt with anxiety (social or otherwise), you probably know how hard it is to engage others in small talk–especially if you don’t have anything obvious in common. I’ve found a little trick, though. Since I’ve been buying Doctor Who and Hannibal-related shirts, I’ve found it’s so much easier to open conversations with strangers—especially those who see your shirt and compliment you because of it. I’ve not made any deep friendships through these shirts, but I have had casual conversations with strangers–which is a very big deal for me.
So, basically, what I’m trying to say is my love of TV doesn’t mean I have a loose grip on reality because my love of TV actually helps me cope with reality. As I’m dealing with anxiety and depression, my fandoms help me continue creating and connecting even when life is very difficult.
I know there are people out there who won’t understand this because it doesn’t jive with their experience, but I also know there are many others who have been inspired and encouraged by TV and it’s community like I have.
I’m tired of being made to feel weird for the things I like and that are important to me. We all have our way of coping with our difficulties, and I’m quite happy with mine.