Today, Netflix released the trailer for the second installment of the final season of Bojack Horseman.
This makes me immensely sad, as Bojack Horseman has a special place in my heart and is among my personal pantheon of great television shows. A few years ago, if you had told me that one of my favorite shows involved an animated show about a half horse, half man who struggles with anxiety and self-image, I would have called you a lunatic. But this was a show that was different. It came along at the perfect time, as mental health was just beginning to be de-stigmatized in the cultural zeitgeist.
For the better part of a decade, I have struggled with mental health issues, specifically depression. I was turned onto this show during the midst of one of the darkest periods of my life, a time when I felt alone, unsure of myself, and scared. One reason for mental health issues going unaddressed is that people who suffer from them often feel afraid to speak out about them, partly because of a fear of ridicule, and partly because we feel alone in our battle. And, when we ultimately gather the courage to talk about it with others, it is so hard to verbalize exactly what we are going through. How do you describe the feeling of being depressed to somebody who doesn’t know what it’s like to have a shadow hulking over you every day, all the time, weighing you down? It’s almost like the idea of running with a parachute on your back – you might be pushing as hard as you can, but everything is slogged down and slow – as if you’re immersed in quicksand. This was what I felt during the worst stretch of my life.
Then, I was introduced to this show. The way that they elegantly described exactly how I felt was shocking to me, and such an enormous relief. To log on and see millions of people who felt the same as I did and how they related to the show was unimaginably touching and comforting. Yes, I have my support system, I have wonderful parents, two incredible sisters, and a bunch of friends who would and have supported me the whole way. Yet this was something I had never seen, a group of people who got me and what I was going through. For the first time in years, despite the rash of people around me who love me, I didn’t feel alone. In fact, I had felt the exact feeling that I had dreaded for so many years: I felt seen.
In season 4, there’s an episode called “Stupid Piece of Sh*t” that features Bojack’s inner monologue throughout the course of his days. It’s essentially 30 minutes of him berating himself, saying he won’t do a stupid thing, doing stupid things, then berating himself for them, and the cycle begins anew. This is the most picture perfect projection of how people with depression often go about their days. Saying they’re screwing everything up, yelling at themselves, and ultimately falling deeper into their hole because of it, which leads to more self-hatred as the hole gets deeper. Basically, spending every day calling themselves a…well…Stupid Piece of Sh*t. I’ve never related to any piece of tv, media, movie, etc. more than this. It was hard to watch, knowing that this is how I lived my life every day. it’s an exhausting watch, and that’s exactly how it felt to live this day after day–exhausting.
There’s a wonderful Bo Burnham song (he’s my favorite comedian, I really have an existential dread and irony problem) where he rips on people for finding motivation in listening to songs like “Roar” by Katie Perry (naturally the song is called “Kill Yourself”). It’s wonderful.
And, in the first installment of this final season, Bojack alluded to this same idea in a bit of a third-wall breaking moment. While I agree with that sentiment to a degree, I did not seek help because of Bojack (as per Bo’s instructions), rather I took away some lessons from this show that I hadn’t been comfortable with confronting up to that point.
Bojack is endlessly trying to be better, and for the vast majority of the show, he seems to be doing it in earnest. He wants to be a better man (horse?) but every time he tries, he seems to get in his own way. Three steps forward, four steps back. Oh, how we all know that feeling. There is no perfect version of you, there is always an improvement to be made, and at the end of the day that honest effort is the best you can do sometimes. Even the bad things that we do can come from a good place. The world keeps spinning, and you are not the end-all-be-all of existence. Depressing thought, sure, but also a good reminder that this is never the end and you can bounce back.
After I had hit rock bottom, I saw a therapist, made an appointment with a psychiatrist, got medicated and talked my way out of my funk. It’s taken a lot of hard work and perseverance, and while I understand that I may never be fully “normal” and am likely to go through these depressive spells for the rest of my life, I also know that it’s gotten better. I am miles ahead of where I once was, and for that I am eternally proud of myself. Nobody will ever take that away from me. For years now, every day has gotten just a little bit better. The weight is slowly being lifted, if not pound-by-pound then ounce-by-ounce. I can breathe freely again. I still have my slip-ups and bad days, but they are far and few between at this point in my life, and if that’s as good as it’s going to get, I’m damn happy with that.
Happiness is not a myth, but perfection is. It is human nature to never be truly happy. We always strive for more, for better, and rarely is it enough. Being happy does not mean being perfect, it is accepting who you are and that you ARE enough, even though you might not see it that way. It’s taken me years to see that, and it’s taken some people longer. We see people splattered over media who are seemingly perfect, and with Bojack, we finally have an imperfect character who can relate to us. He’s the perfect anti-hero, because he’s the anti-hero of his own story and his own life. And this is how people who suffer from mental illness often feel.
I’m far from saying this silly show saved my life. But it has provided me such immeasurable comfort in knowing my struggle is not alone. That I am not the only one who had to wake up and hate themselves, or the only one who puts on a mask to prevent the world from seeing what’s really there–or at least, my perception of it. This show has been a beautiful reminder of that. You are not alone. If you need help, get it. It has taken Bojack Horseman 6 seasons to finally begin to accept himself for who he is, it has taken me almost 7 years to accept myself and to love myself. It is the most freeing, beautiful feeling in the world to do so. I was scared to work on myself, to look in the mirror and confront my demons. It took years of therapy and work to get to where I am now, but I can say in all honesty it has worked, and been the most rewarding feeling of my life.
As the Horsin’ Around theme song says, “We were lost, and now we’re found, and we’re…Horsin’ Around”. I was lost, scared, and isolated. I had no idea who I was and couldn’t have listed anything I liked about myself. After all these years, I found myself. So goodbye, Bojack, and thank you. From the bottom of my heart, you’ve been with me for years and I owe you for the lessons you taught me. It feels fitting to close with this quote from Season 2, where a baboon comes across an exhausted Bojack, who has just tried to take up running. “It gets easier. Every day, it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day – that’s the hard part. But it does get easier.”