Hulu recently added British dramedy This Way Up and it really got to me — in more ways than I’d like to admit.
The six-episode debut season follows two Irish sisters after one of them returns from a rehab facility following a suicide attempt.
The story picks up about four months after Aine gets out and follows her recovery as she attempts to re-enter society.
Aine is particularly close with her older sister Shona, who, for the most part, has her shit together. But Aine’s breakdown has completely changed Shona and she becomes obsessed with looking out for her baby sister, constantly checking her location on Find My Friends.
As someone who has been to the depths of depression and back again, I can tell you that Aine’s story is scarily accurate.
Just like Aine, I’m crazy close to my sister. And I’ve seen how depression can affect your loved ones first hand. It’s painful, knowing that you’ve caused this severe distress onto your own family.
It’s extremely rare that a TV show captures how depression and mental health issues can not only affect those at the center of the situation but also everyone around them. Because depression isn’t just about you, it’s about everyone who loves you too.
Shona becomes a slave to Aine’s depression. She’s compelled to answer every phone call from Aine, no matter the situation because she never knows if Aine could be in distress.
Aine in return becomes reliant on Shona and when her sister starts to put her own life first, Aine becomes increasingly frustrated. Isn’t she supposed to come first?
But balancing your concern for your loved one and the need to keep living your own life is difficult and stressful, to say the least.
After the fog began to lift and I was feeling a bit better, my sister planned to take a trip out of the country with her friends. But she was scared to leave me, scared I might do something horrible (suicidal) while she was gone. Unintentionally, I had penetrated every aspect of her life.
There are so many small moments in This Way Up that, if you’ve never experienced depression, might not have meant much to you.
Perhaps the best example is when Aine and Shona’s mother comes to visit. Aine and her mother haven’t talked since she got out of rehab. After a tense evening together, Aine finally confronts her mother. She starts crying and asks why her mother didn’t pick her up from rehab and take her home to care for her. She says that she needed her mommy and couldn’t understand why she wasn’t there.
And that’s the thing: you’re so incredibly vulnerable and all you really want is to feel taken care of, especially by your parents.
I remember feeling so small in the midst of my depression. I felt so helpless and childlike. And all I wanted was to feel like a kid again and have my mom take care of me.
But the thing is, nobody knows the right thing to do for a loved when with mental health. As Aine’s mother said, she just figured that the professionals at the rehab center knew best.
It’s funny because I’ve read quite a few reviews of the show and it’s clear that most, if not all of the authors have never truly experienced the full weight of depression. So their analyses are coming purely from a place of entertainment.
But the truth is, This Way Up isn’t necessarily meant for everyone. And while it’s certainly possible to enjoy the show without experiencing mental illness, it will definitely hold a very different meaning for you if you have.
So, I’m not going to officially recommend This Way Up. Just because it really resonated with me doesn’t mean it will resonate with you. And that’s ok. Not everything has to be for everyone. All I can say is that I’m grateful that a show like this exists. It’s a nice reminder that we are not alone, even if our depression wants us to think otherwise.
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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and The Challenge. When she’s not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her taking an absurd amount of photos of her tuxedo cat Tom.