Living With Yourself: Depression and mental health

I started watching the Netflix Original Living With Yourself at the end of November. It’s a clone story, which is always fun. There’s something that attracts me about stories that deal with created life — clones, androids, AIs. I feel strongly that there are ethical questions about what constitutes humankind that we can’t dig into any other way. So when the S.O. came to me insisting that I watch this dark comedy, I didn’t argue.

One of the things that immediately became apparent to me was that this wasn’t just a show about the ethics of cloning. It was a show about depression.

Spoilers, of course.

Miles, our main character, decides to go to a spa for “treatment” without realizing what that treatment entails. He does this after a day at work which struck me as too awfully familiar — he sits down at his desk to create something for a deadline, and can’t come up with anything. Miles works for an advertising and branding company, and they’re competing for a large contract to represent and rebrand another company. The morals are questionable, but Miles left behind morals a long time ago. He’s feeling pressured. He needs to come up with something, anything, for this company that he doesn’t really care about but can’t help caring about anyway. He stops a coworker and asks — how are you making this work? And the coworker points him to the spa.

He steals a bunch of money from his wife and he goes.

Anyone who has ever courted burn out is probably familiar with the desperate need to meet deadline and the utter, soul-crushing emptiness of having scraped the bottom of the barrel. I’ve written about burn out and the importance of recharging and regrounding a few times on here. At the risk of performing armchair psychology, it seems pretty clear that Miles has skated right through the initial stages of burn out and into full-scale depression. He needs a long vacation, a possible change of occupation, and some major therapy. But of course, he has everything he thought he wanted. It’s hard to throw that away, to redefine ourselves. He can’t see the path to the top of the hole he’s dug himself. It’s too deep and too black. He’s neglecting his marriage. He knows he’s going to lose his wife. They can’t have a baby, which is the reason they’ve chained themselves to this life in the first place, and Miles is afraid the problem is with him. He therefore makes the problem with him — a self-fulfilling prophecy. He avoids things instead of fixing them, making it all worse. He’s a classic case of mental illness — and when you’re sick, you get help. But the possibility of therapy is never discussed in the show. Instead, Miles tries to solve his problems with a spa day.

It doesn’t go well, as he wakes up in a diaper, wrapped in plastic, buried alive in the woods.

OG Miles finds his way back home on foot. He arrives home — to find himself.

At this point, the show backtracks. It shows us the first moments of Clone Miles, a happy, upbeat, inspired person who runs through cornfields. Clone Miles becomes a mirror for OG Miles. It shows him how far he has fallen, how little attention he is paying to his life. OG Miles hates Clone Miles for this. But ultimately (and mild spoilers here) OG Miles ultimately realizes that he can take steps to improve his life. He realizes that while Clone Miles wears his face, has his memories, Clone Miles is not him. OG Miles can be better in his own way.

It’s worth noting that despite the ultimate arc of the story, this show does not deal with mental health well at every (or possibly any) point and does contain several moments of suicidal ideation, as well as a disturbing moment featuring an evil anti-Semitic man and an eviscerated pig. But ultimately, Living With Your Self is a story about learning to do just that — both OG and Clone Miles are forced to face aspects of themselves, and they often redirect their own self-hatred at one another. It’s a well-written and entirely character-driven plot that mixes horror and comedy deftly, with an amazing performance by actor Paul Rudd. Ultimately, both OG and Clone Miles have to learn to forgive themselves for their faults in order to find a path forward — and that seems like good advice whether you have accidentally managed to clone yourself or not.

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