Sunday, September 12, 2010

“You’re only as sick as your secrets” – Ashley Judd plays the role of Helen TOO well . . .

I’d love to spill *all* million thoughts I have about the release of Helen, but I’ll settle for expressing my gratitude to Sandra Nettelbeck for having the courage to make this film, a 10-year process she describes in this Huffington Post interview. Despite the movie’s leap from Sundance straight to DVD, the very fact that this taboo subject matter is seeing the cinematic light of day gives me hope that the door to increased understanding has been opened. The movie will strike a chord deep in the souls of all who have suffered the torment of their inner demons as it explores “this extraordinary nightmare of the mind from inside.” Nettelbeck bravely assumed the task of telling the tale of suicidal depression from the point of view of the person afflicted. Yes, we glimpse the devastating impact on everyone around Helen, but it’s not often a movie portrays the depth of despair the sufferer is undergoing. Having lost her own childhood friend to suicide, Nettelbeck undoubtedly sought to do justice to the fragility of human life, and Helen’s poignantly disturbing denouement attains the intense realism she strove for.

Just a few of the dynamics at play in Helen which resonated with me:

Rage. NO ONE will control your decisions. If nothing else, you will live and die on your own terms.

“I want you to GO!” Pushing away the very people we, in fact, wish would never let us go. Every relationship is tested to its limits in pushing ‘unconditional love’ to the brink.

Ambivalence. You’re always teetering on the verge, wanting death as little as you want life.

Destruction. As Judd portrays so well, self-indulgence in the compelling urge to destroy yourself and everything around you is sometimes overpowering.

Impulsivity. Hair trigger. Any little thing or - more importantly – *nothing in particular* could send you over the edge . . . and that is terrifying to loved ones.

Flight risk. At any given moment you might up and leave. Because you can. You are done staying in places you don’t want to be.

There comes a point when there’s nowhere left to run or hide. Believe me, I have done both for as long as possible . . . nearly three years to be precise. The choice to “get busy living, or get busy dying” cannot be interminably dodged.

Helen can’t give us the “why” or “how” or "cure" of depression – as those answers remain elusive to researchers, psychiatrists, counselors, and sufferers alike – but its authenticity hit home enough to make me want to own my life again (as if I ever had a choice). Judd reminded me that the only thing that can save us – if anything can – is honesty. She has spent time in the grips of severe depression herself (see her interview here), and I look forward to her upcoming autobiography with great anticipation. “Her no-holds-barred portrayal brought me closer than was comfortable to feeling what it must be like to be severely depressed.” --Read Joseph Smigelski’s full review here, along with a Q & A with Judd.

Listen to "No Place to Fall" from the soundtrack:
(featuring Norah Jones of The Little Willies)

“If I had no place to fall 

and I needed to

could I count on you

to lay me down…”