This will probably be a pretty unpopular post. It might just rank up there with the one I shared when we decided to stop celebrating Halloween. But here’s what I would want anyone to know. I don’t ever share what I do to condemn anyone. That’s not my job. I simply share where I’m personally convicted. Then you can decide for your own life from there. After all, we all have to do what God specifically leads us to. I always share with the idea that someone out there may be in the same place as me, and this helps them know they’re not alone. Plus there’s nothing wrong with taking the time to think a little deeper about situations in life. So now that I’ve opened with a disclosure let me tell you what happened at my house.
My husband and I are homebodies and we love nothing better than curling up on the couch together watching a movie. It beats going out with a group any day of the week. In the past our favorite genre was horror, but it seems the past few years every scary movie released involved demon possession. This just wasn’t something we found entertaining, and in an effort to save money from renting movies on cable we opted to try Netflix. We subscribed last year, and we enjoyed watching different television series. We’ve watched a lot, but by far our favorite we found was AMC’s The Walking Dead!
We were hooked with the pilot episode and quickly fell in love with the show. It’s well-written and we became quite invested. It’s a sign of good writing when you can become emotionally involved with the character, caring about them like they’re real people. Many episodes would end at a cliffhanger, and afterwards we would say things like, “oh my gosh, I hope Daryl doesn’t die! I love him!”
We made a point to only watch one episode at a time, but we watched at least one episode every night when my husband came home from work. Of note, we did not allow our children to watch it with us, but we did become huge fans of this series. We didn’t just watch season one; our relationship with the series lasted long term. We finished season six on Netflix and quickly began searching for how to watch season seven. It didn’t take us long to find that season on Comcast On Demand, and since season six had ended with lots of questions we dove into seven. But I gotta be honest, it wasn’t an eager jump.
Something had started to happen to me that I didn’t like. After the majority of nights that we watched the show I would be left feeling downtrodden. The best way I can describe it was hopeless. I felt hopeless. The series wasn’t just a show about monsters or zombies. It was about life in a post-apocalyptic world. It was a raw and honest account of human nature at its worst. It’s like it ripped everything good from humanity and left it to its own sinful devices. The violence increased as the small sliver of hope and innocence faded, and it was affecting me more than a mere television show should. I would find myself being purposeful to put the contents of that night’s show out of my head or I would sit soaking in the feeling of desperate tragedy that had been passed to me.
But then it started flowing into the next day. I would wake up, and upon first opening my eyes I would feel steeped in that hopeless feeling I had experienced after each episode ended. I knew in my spirit that the depression I was feeling was related to The Walking Dead. That might sound melodramatic to some people, but I believe that what you put in is what you get out.
Around the same time my husband experienced feelings of anxiety and heart palpitations. He described it as feeling like a panic attack, but they had no cause and came without any specific precipitating factor.
Then season seven happened. Spoiler alert if you haven’t watched it. The first episode of season seven is probably one of the more graphic, anxiety-producing things I’ve watched lately. The violence had always been very real, but this took it to a whole new level for me. The complete lack of humanity or conscience of the characters hit me the hardest. Then I watched one of those characters I had talked about becoming emotionally invested in get his skull crushed in by a baseball bat, and I watched as his eye bulged out of its socket while he tried to tell his pregnant wife he loved her. That was the moment that tipped it over the edge for me.
Afterwards I couldn’t get his face out of my head. That bulging eye and sunken in head! Not to lessen PTSD in any way, but it was almost similar. I could not stop seeing that scene. I prayed for God to take it from me, but I felt guilty because I knew I’d watch the show again. Talk about conviction! I didn’t want to watch it anymore. It just seemed to be affecting me in a negative way. But then again another part of me still wanted to watch it. I felt very weak regarding that so I asked God something kind of strange but quite specific.
“Lord, if this is something you don’t want us watching anymore I wish you would let Ben know. Let him know and make the decision that we won’t watch it again.” I prayed in earnest.
The next night my husband came home from work and I waited. A part of me hoped that he would say “let’s not watch our show” (it had become our show), but another part of me wanted to see more. I felt very torn. I also felt very cowardly for not bringing my concerns forward to my spouse. And the only thing I can figure is I guess I knew that if I told him how I was feeling that would be the end of it, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for it to be the end or not. That night we watched the second episode of season seven, and it was very different. Before watching it he mentioned that he had been unable to get the image of Glenn out of his head and that if this episode was not better we might stop watching the series. At his words I felt relief. But then the weirdest thing happened. This episode was the mildest one we had ever seen. In fact it was almost comically mild. It was filled with upbeat, happy-go-lucky music that was so unfitting for the things that we had previously witnessed that it almost didn’t even seem to be the same series. I wondered if the writers knew they should throw this episode in there before everyone fell out due to the same hopelessness that I was experiencing. I did mention they were good writers, after all.
So they had given us a mild, happy-feeling episode, and my husband commented on how glad he was. Yet even though the episode was one that our young children could have watched, after it was over I still felt bad. Apparently so did my husband. The next night when he came home he told me that he had another episode of unexplained anxiety with physical symptoms.
“I know it’s related to that show. I just know it. I’d be fine if we didn’t watch it anymore.” He explained.
Relief flooded over me and I shared with him that my feelings mirrored his. Then I also shared with him my experiences and even my most recent prayers that he would be convicted like I was. So we ended up finding a series about parenting, and while it wasn’t as exciting as the walking dead, it didn’t leave me feeling like a part of me was dead.
I’m not naive, and I don’t wish to surround myself with just rainbows and butterflies pretending that evil doesn’t exist in this world. It does! Spend thirty minutes on social media or watching the news and you’ll see that. It’s not that I want to isolate myself from the reality of sinful nature, but when you consistently fill your mind with violence, death, and evil I think it starts to take a toil on you emotionally, physically, and spiritually. My husband and I happen to be kinda sensitive to that sort of thing, but even if you’re not I think it can still affect you negatively. Heck, it took us six seasons to realize it wasn’t feeding our spirits what they needed, but I guess it’s never too late to see how something may not be good for you and take action. In the future I know we’ll be more in tune to what we personally feel like we should allow into our minds and hearts. For us, we’re a work in progress