Thursday, December 1, 2016

Movies, Love and Escaping Abuse

by Melissa Uhrin
The end of the year marks a season of change for me, and I have many a reason to celebrate. Christmas is just around the corner, November 29th was the first of my wedding anniversaries (the one that legally tied us together before going to Cuba for a romantic beach wedding...Daryl is lucky to have SO MANY anniversaries to remember), and December 1st will be eight years since I figured out life is too short to not thoroughly enjoy and said goodbye to an abuser.

I don't need to go into details of all the bullshit; abuse is abuse is abuse. The focus of this is to reinforce that it is possible to break the cycle and remove yourself from any given situation, whatever it may look like. YOU DESERVE HAPPINESS. Not just a light smile here and there; I'm talking about happy down to your guts, sicken everyone with your ridiculous smile, laugh so loud you can be heard miles away, and sing all your sentences kind of HAPPINESS. I'm a better me on the other side of the bullshit, I appreciate life, now know true love and find joy in almost everything I do. This is all about rising up out of the deepest and darkest of depths and celebrating the happiness in life you deserve.

I have written about comfort movies before, but this is about a different kind of comfort, in that I find certain films have the ability to recharge my happiness reserves and be there for me through difficult times. When I needed to rediscover myself and become me again, movies helped fill in the blanks, rebuild my personality and tie me back together.
It's no secret that I'm a Harry Potter freak, right down to the fact that I created a bunch of HP-inspired jewelry to share with my fellow exchange for money. While I was isolated on the opposite side of the world (Australia), far from the support of my family and friends and going through a world of hurt that at the time I felt I had brought on myself, I found comfort in the sanctuary of J.K. Rowling's magical universe. The escape provided by both the books and the films was pivotal in maintaining my sanity and the familiarity of the music, characters and story became my support system. (Is it even possible to write about this without coming off as depressing?) Thus was my reality at the time, and I used whatever means I had available to survive. The world of Harry Potter saved my life. Is that too bold a statement to make? They offered the ultimate in comfort during the darkest time of my life and wrapped me in a magical cloak that protected my brain from snapping. In fact, during the entire 33 months that I lived in Australia, I was only "allowed" to go to the cinema to see one movie. ONE. Which just so happened to be The Order of the Phoenix. As the darkness overtook the series, OOTP in particular being the shift, I felt I could relate to some of the struggles facing Harry and I felt less isolated and alone because of this.

I took back control of my life on December 1st 2008, packed my life into a suitcase, scribbled a quick note and ran away in the wee hours of the morning. I don't remember much from that extremely long day aside from a horrible desperation to make it home safely, but one thing that thoroughly stuck in my brain is that I paid $16 to rent a movie at the hotel at my stopover in Sydney. Yep. Sixteen bucks for Kung Fu Panda. And I don't remember a damn thing about it.

A couple months after I was getting settled back into my life in Canada, I began what would turn into a five and half year career as a mechanical insulator and spent the first couple years on the road with my new foreman, my brother Tim. After every ten-hour day, we would grab a couple drinks, some tasty foods and settle in for an evening of video games or movies. A large chunk of my personality was moulded from the crass, sarcastic and in your face humour of a few impactful comedy and horror-comedies that were the key to forming a new, and improved Melissa 2.0. A couple examples:
You would not believe the amount of times I have fit a robotic "I Hate Your Face" into conversation. I'm THAT annoying person. I've said it before and I'll say it again, most people don't talk to me by choice. Thank you, Grandma's Boy.

This is a safe place right? Free from judgement? 'Cause I am that person that has stood in the middle of the room, stared fixedly at your confused face and rapidly swished my hips side to side, saying flap flap flap flap flap flap FLAP FLAP FLAP for no other reason than I am entertaining myself. Like I said, my personality has been forever altered thanks to the movies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

In the same way that punk and metal calm me when I need my music, a great horror provides the therapy that only an expensive doctor could provide. (I'm not even going to begin to break that down, could lead down a very dark and twisted path that probably stems from a repressed alien abducted during my teens or something equally awesome.)

Event Horizon - There's just something about delving into someone's deepest and darkest fears that puts your own fears and reality into perspective. While pain is pain, removing yourself from it and living in another's reality can somehow be therapeutic.

Another favourite is Drag Me To Hell. I'm not ashamed to admit that I have reenacted for my mom, through mime, the old lady corpse spewing embalming fluid into Alison Lohman's open mouth. Daughter of the year here.
I hate to think what an expert in analyzing how our movies choices make us happy, but these are what work for me! Dysfunction and Dooooooom.

Defeating years of physical and emotional abuse is possible. I found that coming to believe that happiness could be a real thing again was half the struggle. Feeling utterly alone is a direct result of the abuse, but you are never truly alone. Support can be found everywhere, from family and friends, to snuggles from a furry friend, to the movies that we love and take comfort in, to a random person telling you that you deserve to live a happy life in the words you are reading right now. YAY YOU!

Thank you movies for helping me become me again. However weird that might look, I love me.



  1. You're a wonderful and infectiously positive and upbeat lady, Melissa, and I'm glad you are in a great place now and have movies that help you! Go on being your weird, fun self! Much love to you! <3

  2. Thank you for sharing your story!

  3. This is a truly wonderful personal essay about the importance of film. I will not be forgetting this any time soon.

  4. Thank you for this article - as usual so warm and inspiring. I was just having a similar conversation with someone about Harry Potter, about how like you it resets my factory settings. After watching Fantastic Beasts, even though far from perfect - it just reminded me how happy and safe I am in this world. So I am back reading the books and watching the movies. And though not my personal worst, 2016 has been kinda rough year, like it has been for a lot of people, who have had it lot worse. So some times you need that resest. Again amazing article.

  5. Wow. Fantastic article. Very happy for you!

  6. Super cool! My Mom has gone through some very low times based on childhood trauma, and being a young kid I tried to help her with the thing that makes me feel better, movies.

    We both use movies for self therapy now, and strangely enough one of her favorites is Freeway with Reese Witherspoon and Keifer Sutherland.

  7. Fthismovie is my therapy, because of columns like this

    I love every single silly face you pull on my Facebook feed
    You rock Melissa