Bella Swan And A Diathesis For Depression

Bella Swan And A Diathesis For Depression: Mental Illness In The 'Twilight' Series

It is rare to see extreme weakness in a protagonist, and that might be why I am so fascinated by Bella.


I'll admit that I'm a sucker for teen fiction, and "Twilight" is no exception. Sure, the books are endlessly problematic, but I'm not here to roast Stephenie Meyer or the universe she created. There is something awfully attractive about "Twilight" for me, and it veers pretty far from the love story the books are so heavily attached to.

I've found myself wondering about the state of mind of the protagonist of the series, Bella Swan, more times than I'd like to admit. Even characters who I do believe to be well-written, like Hermione Granger or Katniss Everdeen haven't garnered as much of my attention as Bella has. Those who criticize "Twilight" typically cite the fact that Bella has very little personality as evidence of poor characterization on Meyer's part. Right from the beginning of the series, she comes across as mature and intelligent, but also cold and very empty. I have a theory about Bella, though, one that Stephenie Meyer herself would probably scoff at:

Bella suffers from a depressive disorder.

Now, wait! Hear me out, please. I'm a psychology student if that counts for anything (it really doesn't). Bear with me on this for just a little longer. There is major evidence in the books that Bella might be in a constant state of depression.

First, I would like to talk about Bella's upbringing. She reveals that her parents divorced when she was very young. This fracture in her family could have played a role in the development of a possible depressive disorder, but I believe that there are more components to this. Bella describes her mother, the guardian she primarily lives with before the start of the series, as "hare-brained." What does this mean? According to Bella, it means that her mother relied on her to do things such as paying bills and cooking meals since she was a school-aged child. This is majorly concerning and brings into play the term parentification. I learned about this phenomenon in my developmental psychology class. Parentification is a form of child abuse that occurs when the parent and child reverse roles. The child may be relied on heavily by the parent to carry out physical tasks (instrumental parentification) or to serve as a confider to the parent (emotional parentification). When Bella refers to her mother as, "her best friend," it is obvious that she was once a primary source of mental support for her.

Why is this a problem? It's troubling because parentification results in a premature end to childhood. In Bella's case, she grew up much, much too fast. This may explain why Bella is so withdrawn. She had no time to establish friendships or pursue hobbies, not with her mother's dependence looming over her. When Bella moves to Forks, Washington to live with her father, she shows the same strange desire to isolate herself from her peers. Her self-esteem is extremely poor, as evidenced by her constant questioning of Edward Cullen's apparent interest in her. She sees herself as nothing more than clumsy and average, while Edward is hailed in a fantastical light within her mind.

Next, I want to move to the events of "New Moon," when Edward leaves Bella. At this point, he is everything to her. She is dependent on him to a dangerous degree. With dependency comes instability and vulnerability. In his absence, Bella spirals into a four-month depressive episode. She barely eats and withdraws completely from every single person in her life. This major depression eventually lifts, but some very disturbing events occur during it. For one, Bella describes hearing Edward's voice when she acts in a reckless manner. Yes, she hallucinates him talking to her. There are parts in the book when his ghostly voice even instructs her to do things, such as lie. This can only be assumed to be a type of psychosis accompanying her depression, which is an extremely serious mental health concern.

When Edward returns, Bella's "normalness" also returns, but throughout the rest of the series, there still feels to be something missing in her. Perhaps it was something stolen away in her childhood, or maybe I am just analyzing these books way too much. Those who criticize "Twilight" often say that Bella is a terrible role model, and I can't say I disagree. However, there is something very refreshing about Bella being a sort of anti-Hermione Granger. Hermione is strong-willed, persistent, and did not fall apart when her love interest walked out. These qualities are amazing, but are they extremely realistic?

It is rare to see extreme weakness in a protagonist, and that might be why I am so fascinated by Bella.

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If You've Ever Been Called Overly-Emotional Or Too Sensitive, This Is For You

Despite what they have told you, it's a gift.

Emotional: a word used often nowadays to insult someone for their sensitivity towards a multitude of things.

If you cry happy tears, you're emotional. If you express (even if it's in a healthy way) that something is bothering you, you're sensitive. If your hormones are in a funk and you just happen to be sad one day, you're emotional AND sensitive.

Let me tell you something that goes against everything people have probably ever told you. Being emotional and being sensitive are very, very good things. It's a gift. Your ability to empathize, sympathize, and sensitize yourself to your own situation and to others' situations is a true gift that many people don't possess, therefore many people do not understand.

Never let someone's negativity toward this gift of yours get you down. We are all guilty of bashing something that is unfamiliar to us: something that is different. But take pride in knowing God granted this special gift to you because He believes you will use it to make a difference someday, somehow.

This gift of yours was meant to be utilized. It would not be a part of you if you were not meant to use it. Because of this gift, you will change someone's life someday. You might be the only person that takes a little extra time to listen to someone's struggle when the rest of the world turns their backs.

In a world where a six-figure income is a significant determinant in the career someone pursues, you might be one of the few who decides to donate your time for no income at all. You might be the first friend someone thinks to call when they get good news, simply because they know you will be happy for them. You might be an incredible mother who takes too much time to nurture and raise beautiful children who will one day change the world.

To feel everything with every single part of your being is a truly wonderful thing. You love harder. You smile bigger. You feel more. What a beautiful thing! Could you imagine being the opposite of these things? Insensitive and emotionless?? Both are unhealthy, both aren't nearly as satisfying, and neither will get you anywhere worth going in life.

Imagine how much richer your life is because you love other's so hard. It might mean more heartache, but the reward is always worth the risk. Imagine how much richer your life is because you are overly appreciative of the beauty a simple sunset brings. Imagine how much richer your life is because you can be moved to tears by the lessons of someone else's story.

Embrace every part of who you are and be just that 100%. There will be people who criticize you for the size of your heart. Feel sorry for them. There are people who are dishonest. There are people who are manipulative. There are people who are downright malicious. And the one thing people say to put you down is "you feel too much." Hmm...

Sounds like more of a compliment to me. Just sayin'.

Cover Image Credit: We Heart It

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Poetry On The Odyssey: It's a Girl

An ode to the little girl raised to be insecure.


They raise little girls to be insecure

Little girls grow to be big girls

People always ask big girls why they're so insecure

Big girls aren't quite sure

Day after day the big girl can't keep up

She's exhausted

Her soul feels worn

The big girl learns to grow hard

In a way, she's a bit stronger

People call her a bitch


What is that?

How can she let that affect her

It's simply the only way to be her

She mourns that little girl

Hoping that one day

She'll be strong

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