If we’re being honest, the title of this post should probably be “My Love Letter to The 100”, because that was its original intent. But then Jason View Spoiler » and I was just too distraught to write it. Which is good! Because now I can write it here, and in a way that more thoroughly discusses fandom and mental health in general rather than just a personal post. It’ll be both, obviously, but I enjoy the idea of the two coexisting, especially for the purposes of #ShatteringStigmas.

Over the years, I’d often hear people say that a certain book or movie or show saved their life. And it seemed, in a way, silly. Or at least exaggerated. But then a show saved mine, and I understood. And sure, for most of us it isn’t in a literal sense, but it’s no less important. And for some, it is in a literal way, and that is everything.

If you’re here reading this post, this event as a whole, you likely have some idea what it feels like to have no hope for your future. Or maybe you don’t know, and that’s why you’re here, to gain some understanding. I’ll do my best to explain. My kids were young at the time, one (Sam) and three (Lena), and it was overwhelming. When Sammy was born, he was rushed to a NICU a few hours away. He was there for a week, but the months afterwards where a trying time. Surgeries, many doctor visits. And I felt completely alone. The thing is, once those long trips and terrifying moments were thankfully over, I was left with far more time to focus on my feelings. And most of them weren’t great. I was, of course, beyond grateful for my babies, but I think we can all agree that we can’t expect other people to fill the holes in ourselves. Not even adorable children.

I lived an hour away from my parents and extended family, and most of the friends I had lived quite far away. I stayed home with the kids during the day, and my marriage was already in collapse. Taking care of two kids around the clock is no joke, and exhaustion is real. I was, to put it bluntly, miserable. I cried every night after I got the kids to bed, just sobbed, often until I fell asleep. I wanted a way out, but could see none. As a stay at home mom with no income and no support to leave (my mom, who was my biggest support, thought I should stay “for the kids” which is a whole post for another time I figure), I felt utterly trapped. And quite frankly, angry at myself for not being brave enough to make a real change.

One night, as I was flipping through the channels, I saw an ad for a new show coming to The CW. It was compared to The Hunger Games, which, incidentally, was the last thing that had really brought me joy outside of my kids. (Actually- can we just agree for the sake of this post that I am always glad for them? Being unhappy or unfulfilled makes no one less of a parent, so let’s just set that aside now.) I’d heard about the book, post-apoc is my jam, so I tuned in. And yes, “Pilot” is cheesy, but I was still entertained. So I kept tuning in. And somewhere along the way, I fell in love.

Maybe that seems odd, it did to me when I first realized how enamored I was! But it brought me joy, total and pure joy, when nothing else seemed to. I began to write posts about every episode, sometimes with fellow fans, and then eventually alone. It took up so much time but I genuinely loved every minute of doing it. I learned new things along the way, too. I started to make my own GIFs, and I am even trying to get into video editing. I had the opportunity to attend a fan convention as press and be a part of a panel. It’s given me opportunities beyond my wildest dreams!

But that isn’t even how it saved my life. Not really, anyway. And it was a combination of things, to be sure. I had finally found a good therapist who supported me finding my courage. There were friends I made as a direct result of this show- many, in fact- who continue to be huge parts of my life to this day. They saved me, too, probably more than they’ll ever know.

It was seeing the characters risk everything to save themselves and their people. It was the cast and crew being genuine and caring and in support of mental health. It was the realization that if they deserved more, I too deserved more. So five seasons, four years, and several apocalypses later, I finally made the step to get out of a toxic environment.

If you follow along, you’ll know that it didn’t go the way I’d planned. I suppose that’s true of most things in life. But did The 100 and the great things it brought into my life help with that?

Because the crux of it is, fandom gives us so much. It gives us something to look forward to, to be invested in, to care about. It’s both an escape and a purpose, really. Because yes, it gives us an opportunity to get away from our troubles for 42 minutes, but it also gives us an opportunity to find our passions.

And yes, there can be downsides. I was inconsolable for days after Jason did that thing I referenced at the start. Even more so when it ended. But that too is part of life. Disappointments, and endings, and goodbyes. Regardless of the pain, I’d chose it again every time. Which is in effect what we should feel in our lives, right? Love that is worth the pain. And sometimes, until we can get to that feeling on our own, fandom can be a great stepping stone. I hope you can find one that gives you as much as The 100 has given to me. May we meet again.

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Has any fandom changed your life? In what ways? Do you think it’s a good way to cope with… ::gestures at world::?

Posted November 25, 2020 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in #ShatteringStigmas, Discussion, Discussion Challenge, Giveaway, The 100 / 13 Comments

13 responses to “Fandom and Mental Health

  1. Beth W

    Thank you so much for being courageously vulnerable in this post!

    Your story is so much like my mom’s (who had three of us kids, and my dad was in the Navy and kept moving the family every 1-2 years). She talks about the exhaustion and depression, though she was raised in an era where mental health was *not* discussed, and even post-partum depression was considered fictional. She thought it was a character flaw that she was miserable (although now she blames my dad 100% for everything, which also isn’t healthy), and she was also under the pressure of “stay together for the kids”.

    Let me tell you- the blaming yourself for not having the courage or self-awareness to make a change is HUGE and it’s EVERYWHERE. She felt it, for 30 years. I felt it (and still battle it), despite being in a much easier and shorter-lived situation than yours. And every divorced woman I talk to has echoed that sentiment. Which tells you it’s likely societal bullshit and not real.

    I love that The 100 experience (including the fandom and getting to share your love/thoughts about it) brought you enough light to see by. I really think community is what saves us in those personal dark times- it brings us perspective that ties to hope, it helps us feel connected and not isolated, it encourages us to talk about our experiences. And The 100 tackled some hefty issues in a framework that allowed us to delve into the darkness without fear of being consumed by it. That is such a vital thing in ANY fandom.

    You have been through the ringer- including a lot of shit you didn’t deserve to have to struggle with- and the fact that you found happiness and connection with a creative endeavor, as opposed to a destructive one (like drug abuse, disordered eating, etc.) is admirable. I hope you give yourself credit for that, ever day.

    And I’m grateful to have connected to you via the blog, and in turn connected to The 100, as well! So thank you for continuing to spread the light.

    • Aw thank you Beth! UGH the “stay together for the kids”, it makes me stabby! And I am sure the pressure was much worse back then, too. You make a good point about so many divorced women wishing they had left sooner- it’s so funny, you never hear anyone wishing they’d stayed LONGER ? My mom was in a VERY unhealthy (and abusive) first marriage and she too stayed longer than she should have, I think you are spot-on when you say it is a societal thing!

      You’re right about having community, and being able to connect to others. And in The 100, even they know that life should be about more than just surviving, and it’s like- if they can see their way out of human drilling and rogue AIs and 3 apocalypses, maybe there’s hope for the rest of us ?

      Your words are so very kind, you made me tear up (in the good way!) and I appreciate you so, SO much! ♥♥

  2. This is a fantastic post because I think a lot of people will relate. I never struggled as much as you did so I can’t fully relate to the extent that a fandom helped, but I have found that at times of high stress or when I’ve been struggling with life, the escapism of fandom helped. It gives you something else to focus on and often lets me see my problems in the context of other people’s lives and helped me figure out how to cope with things. It’s also let me just not think about the real world because sometimes it’s too much.

    Different shows have brought me closer with people in my life, like Buffy was something which helped me and my best friend become as close as we are now. Supernatural and Doctor Who helped me find friends I never expected. And these shows have formed part of my life, even when I stopped watching they still bring happy memories for me.

    • Aw thank you so much! You make such a great point too though- fandom can help with just the everyday stressors of life too, and that is no less valuable! I am really glad that it has helped you, too! And it is even MORE wonderful that you were able to connect with people through the shows, too- it’s got to be one of the best benefits of fandom, these unexpected relationships that form from them!

  3. Danielle Hammelef

    After reading this post, I just want to reach through my computer and hug you! Shannon, you are one of the bravest and most loving people on the planet and thank you for this post. I now understand why you loved The 100, why you needed it in your life. It’s been a long time since I’ve allowed myself to fall in love with a TV show (my family claims the TV, so I dive into my reading). One show that made me laugh, cry, even learn to play the theme song on my flute (ironically titled “Suicide is painless”), was watching reruns of MASH. I fell hard for the characters and the show sticks with me even today. I just never realized until after reading your post today that my own fandoms are not “silly” or eye-roll worthy, but important parts of my life.

    • AW Danielle! THANK YOU ♥♥ You are too sweet! I feel like I had been that way for a long time too, that I hadn’t really been able to let myself love something, but it certainly came along when I needed it most. And I am really glad that you can see the merit that things you love have in your life, too!

  4. “Because the crux of it is, fandom gives us so much. It gives us something to look forward to, to be invested in, to care about. It’s both an escape and a purpose, really. Because yes, it gives us an opportunity to get away from our troubles for 42 minutes, but it also gives us an opportunity to find our passions.”
    Absolutely. Of course, sometimes there’s a toxic side to it (some people think they own the shows/franchises they love/hate…), but the same can be said for…pretty much anything, really.

    Anything that helps us through the night AND makes us find likewise minds is worth it. Anything that ignites a fire in us is worth it. Sometimes it’s the only way to face having to get up in the morning. No one has a right to make fun of it.

    • Oh I agree SO MUCH. I see this all the time in The 100 fandom, the whole Bellarke versus Clexa nonsense, and people getting WAY too deep into the human actors’ lives (like stop it, that’s creepy, they are human beings!) but I try to ignore that side of it. And I do a pretty good job- I just don’t interact with people who engage in that kind of toxicity. And you are also right that it is an unfortunate side effect of pretty much ANY kind of media (I mean, we’ve all seen Book Twitter hah).

      And YEP I agree, it is definitely worth it ♥♥

  5. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt as intensely about a fandom as you do about The 100. The closest I’ve come is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I had lots of support around me at that point and didn’t need a show to save my life. I’m glad, though, that these sorts of fandoms do exist for people who need them. And I’m especially glad that you found the support system you did!

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