I Read/Write/Watch Horror to Cope with My Mental Illness

I always enjoyed horror though I never considered myself a fan of horror. I remember watching Tim Curry portray Pennywise the Clown in “IT” (1990) when I was three or four. I pretended to sleep while my parents (and I) watched the film “Dr. Giggles” (1992) about an escaped mental patient who kills with a surgical theme when I was six. I saw the film “Return to Cabin by the Lake” (2001) about a murderous screenwriter as a teenager. These films standout because they reminded me of suppressed trauma. Repressed memories that only recently returned.

I recall watching many films and having no emotional response. Scenes that made most tear up left me feeling numb or indifferent. I felt out of place and segregated from everyone else who had ‘feelings.’ Even horror films didn’t scare me or make me jump. I felt I knew the scares were coming. In high school and the first few years of college, I was described as ‘creepy’ by many of my peers. I could easily sneak up and scare others. I’d walk behind them for several minutes before they noticed me. One friend remarked after going through a haunted house it didn’t scare them because they had known me for so long.

I didn’t become an avid reader until my late 20s, but I’ve always had interest in writing. In the first grade, I wrote a detective story. It had all the tropes of film noir though I didn’t know what those were at the time. Film noir has similar elements to horror with suspense building and dealing with killers without the fantasy elements. I always enjoyed reading the works of Edgar Allan Poe and he is considered the creator of the detective story.

Many of the stories I have written or plan to write deal with death in one way or another. Some may not be called horror stories but still have death somewhere. I have written a few detective stories as well and they’re much better than that first one in the first grade. Serial killers, murderers, monsters, and people who’ve lost their minds take center stage in many of my stories. These are the topics in which I am most interested. Why do I have this fascination with killers, monsters, and madmen? Why would anyone want to think about these horrors?

I believe this is my way of coping with my own trauma. Upon writing this, I am 32. My trauma began when I was four. It had such an impact on me, I had to begin anger management counseling when I was six. We were cleaning up one day in class to go to recess. I was putting away a puzzle or something and this other boy tried to help. I told him I got it. He helped anyway. I got angry and hit him with a chair. I reacted with violence because I was exposed to violence at home. I thought that was the best response.

As I’ve aged, repressed memories resurfaced, and I’ve started to feel. I tear up during emotional scenes in romantic comedies or dramas. I can feel my heart racing during chase scenes in horror or action films. Horror films and horror fiction remind me of the violence and terror I experienced as a child without causing a panic attack. Writing horror fiction, I believe, is my way of dealing with the trauma and getting all the pain out. My mind has tried to pull my repressed memories forward through horror fiction. I think this is why horror is becoming even more popular as so many traumas continue in our chaotic world.

I am not the only person to experience this and this is not exclusive to PTSD. People with different anxiety disorders have a similar affinity toward horror fiction. Here are a few other articles I’ve found on the subject.

How do you feel about horror when it comes to your mental health? Is it helpful as it is for me or do you struggle with watching or reading horror?

Photo Credit: James & Carol Lee

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11 Replies to “I Read/Write/Watch Horror to Cope with My Mental Illness”

  1. I too enjoy horror films and I always have. I never thought about how my PTSD or depression might have had an influence on my desire to watch horror films.

    Thought provoking…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I used to watch horrors as a kid, not so much these days. A lot of the ones these days seem to be simple plot of mad killer maniac butchering loads of people before they meet their end. However, when I’m watching TV, I too can act out what is going on on the screen.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. yes, for Me, its been my go-to. it’s still my preferable movie type to sleep to. its predictable and familiar therefore its what i feel more comfortable with.
    the Hannibal series was always my go-to favourites for expression and repression. For expression of repressed violence, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (rape counter attack scene) is still my go-to. i just keep doing what works for me: and this works, for now 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Horror, but in particular horror movies about serial killers have always interested me too, perhaps because, even though the movies are the extreme end of the spectrum, its not supernatural – it’s humans doing awful things to humans. I’ve always had an interest in the why of things. Perhaps that’s also a reason you find yourself watching horror or writing it – an interest in human psychology and understanding why you went through what you did.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You had me at horror! I’ve been watching this genre for many years I can still remember watching “the howling” as my dad slept feeling the intensity of the suspense and my heart racing. I always thought maybe there was something a tad bit off deep inside my mind but reading your thoughts and predictions makes the light bulb in my head radiate! Something about the evil in the night makes me feel better humm glad I’m not alone. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. This is such an interesting post.

    I’m a horror-junkie when it comes to reading fiction and few raised eyebrows regarding my *taste*. But I suffer from depression-and-anxiety and it feels so good to escape myself in the magical world of zombies, ghosts and peeps battling them out or succumbing to them.

    I used to think I’m the “odd one”. Can so relate with this post. Thank you for writing it.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. An avid horror fan myself, from a very young age lol, and I have also written scary stories as well. I think I adore them so because it’s so very nice to be reminded that such things exist (even if just through movie magic) that can be scarier than the monsters in my head. Love the post and I appreciate the extra resource links!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Very interesting!!! I sort have always been attracted to the genre if only for the simple reason that the characters are real with real lives and real reactions/problems. Happy Disney isn’t always for everyone.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. This is fascinating! I was just telling my friends at dinner about how I’ve loved horror movies and I don’t know why (I’m a softy and love love). But I have PTSD, anxiety disorder and depression with a “bipolar trait.” So this explains it☝️. Thanks for a very interesting and informative post!

    Liked by 2 people

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