Guilty Pleasures, Mental Health, and What “Twilight” got Right

I’ve been working really hard at unlearning the tendency to shame people for things they enjoy. If it isn’t harmful to themselves or other people, what do I care if they listen to crappy music, or read terrible romance novels, or jump on the bandwagon of something just because it’s now pop-cultured?  It’s all opinion anyway.  And the world does so much work trying to beat us down, we need to lift up simple joy more.

So, with that being said, I’m going to tell you one of my dirty secrets, one of my embarrassing guilty pleasures:

I enjoyed the Twilight Saga movies.

There. I said it. You can go ahead and revoke my English master’s degree. I am shamed.

They’re terrible movies. I didn’t say they were good; I just said I enjoyed them. The books were worse. But I‘m here to tell you that when you are going through a depressive episode, you cling to whatever (at least moderately healthy) coping mechanism that works.

I was nonfunctioning when I was going to the midnight premieres of the last two movies. I was nonfunctioning when I was watching the DVDs over and over. I don’t know why. I still don’t know why I clung to those movies. It probably had a little to do with familiarity because other shows that I have repeatedly watched were also helpful during this time period.  Maybe because it was so fluffy but also about vampires which I have loved since I was little. Maybe because good triumphs over evil in the end. Who the hell knows?  It was a comfort to me and I shouldn’t have been shamed into hiding it. You do what you can to survive when you are that deep in the hole of depression.

Now I could sit and debate with you ad nauseam over why Twilight is a terrible piece of literature and why her editor needs to be fired, but it’s been done already and by people more qualified than I. So, in the same try for positive spirit as the above revelation, I am going to tell you what Twilight did right.

Yes. Gasp and swoon and then hear me out.

Twilight was a stunningly accurate example of an unhealthy, teenage relationship. Yeah, it got a lot of rightful flak for presenting the relationship as positive (especially since it flew to such heights in our culture) but hell if it wasn’t familiar. I can’t be the only one who was a maladjusted teen (isn’t that the actual dictionary definition of teenager?) and I can’t be the only one who found myself in an unhealthy relationship at that age. I was in love to the point of obsession. To the point of panic attacks and utter despair. Codependent. We see when Edward breaks up with Bella, she sits at a window for two seasons in the movie and the chapters are blank in the book. I’ve been there, guys. I was nearly the same age. I remember that mental state like a particularly sharp nightmare. I believed in first love and true love and that I would die without him. I even believed, sometimes, that I might live forever.

Perhaps this is another clue to the mysterious comfort I found in the Twlight movies. At the time, a good portion of my mental health was attributed to delayed-onset PTSD which can then be directly linked to the above mentioned young relationship. But I don’t have that answer. All I know is that those five movies helped keep me sane while I spent days in bed and nights on the couch wanting to die or not caring if I did.

So, don’t be ashamed of whatever keeps you breathing. When you come out the other side, we can laugh about it together.

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