Tag Archives: Horror Essay

Much More Than A Nightmare: “Dream Warriors” and the Mental Illness Stigma

Real talk: My horror blogging journey began about seven years ago, quite by accident. Was it fate? I think so. It was also around the time shortly before my internet rambling escapades that I was officially diagnosed with  Generalized Anxiety/ Panic Disorder along with Depression. Not that I didn’t know I had it all my life anyway. In any regard, through an opportunity presented by a dear friend who suffers as well, I gave it a shot and turns out I have a little knack for it. For the past several years, I’ve written on this subject a few times for different, popular outlets. And now, in a very stern Neil voice, it’s long overdue that I hit the lights here on this very dear to my heart subject here at NN in a very anxiety-induced state as I’m writing this.

How goddamn appropriate!

Much More Than A Nightmare:

It began in my teens with a horrific bout of Anorexia/ Bulimia. Which was on and off again until my late twenties with a suicide attempt in-between. *I’m recovered now with support from my family and using my own inner strength. However, after this, and a long conclusion to some other traumatic events, it manifested itself into a giant monster that made me worse off than I ever was. I was in and out of the hospital. I would hyperventilate to the point of paralysis. And of course, every doctor I saw wanted to shove zombie antidepressants down my throat. Not that I don’t have a thing against zombies, but you get the idea.

Alas, none of this was the answer. Now mind you, I realize they work for some people. Everyone is unique. But I am not “some people”, as I also have a hypersensitivity to a good portion of medications. That being the case, I have to rely on simply breathing through it all. This sounds easy- but sometimes it can be hell when you’re having an attack. And for those who don’t understand why I, and possibly others, who choose to get through this naturally, I’m making an example of one my favorite films that doesn’t shy away from some real mental illness issues that kids and adults alike face with a lot of misunderstanding.

Let’s take a “nice stroll” through Westin Hills Dream Warriors.

Much More Than A Nightmare:

Much like Freddy’s Revenge held a ton of sexual metaphors, Dream Warriors repeats the pattern with struggling within our own brains- mental illness. Dream Warriors does a really magnificent job, even if unintentional, of bringing some very real issues about mental health to light that might make someone mull over any previous conceptions about it. Mental illness does not discriminate- as we see in the film all walks of life are affected. Various types of disorders are addressed ranging from self-harm, PTSD, depression, anxiety, and of course, suicide.

At the time of the film’s release, there hadn’t been too many on-screen interpretations of mental illness that painted the disorder in any type of positive light. Well, none that I had seen anyway. Everything I had seen prior or even after, depicts sufferers as crazies in an asylum. Something dirty and to be feared. Dream Warriors gave us very real characters for people who suffer from similar ailments we could associate with. They came across as real kids. Normal kids. Smart as hell kids. With some problems that doctors still to this day can’t seem to figure out entirely. Or for that matter, care to really dive into and just like to throw the dice, prescribing an antidepressant that may or may not make you feel better, or worse even. As science can’t be argued, we are each unique and hold different DNA than the person standing next to us. What works for one, does not for another. And no two anxiety disorders seem to act the same. Everyone seems to have individual symptoms that vary from one patient to another. It would be nice if one magic cure exists for all. But it unfairly isn’t so. And just as art imitates life, the Dream Warriors’ fears and concerns about the one thing they have in common, Freddy, are swept under the rug as “crazy talk”. But here- let’s roll the dice on this non-approved drug Hypnocil and see what happens!

Sound familiar? Talk about feeling like the walls are coming down on you… and then you’re halfway devoured by a giant snake.

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Anyways, I can’t completely nail Neil Gordon to the wall for that- even if it did put Joey in a goddamn coma. Good intentions were there and were used in the hope to understand the tormented teens. After all, he does redeem himself later in a gutter match with Bone Daddy Freddy. Which brings us full circle to the grandmaster of fears and anxiety himself.

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Freddy is the manifestation of depression and everything the Warriors’ are afraid of. Much like anxiety and panic, he works off each of their greatest fears driving them to the breaking point; and in some instances, certain death. That theme would continue throughout the franchise but in the second and arguably greatest sequel, would remain the most relevant and alarmingly accurate. For instance, Taryn is a recovering addict. her fears are the drugs that once conquered her life. She secretly loves them but is determined to stay clean. Krueger plays on this of course and drives it home. Freddy is that little shithead voice in the back of our minds that alarms our senses driving us into panic mode. Kind of like Will going all out Wizard Master on Freddy, stepping out of his chair and using all of his mental powers to blast that bullshit into dust,  he is that voice we all know: “You are not enough.”

However, the ultimate metaphor in this installment is that support is needed. The Dream Warriors realized this, and so did Freddy. Which is why when they all entered the dream state together, he made a point to separate them. Fighting the monster of depression and anxiety alone can be quite an uphill battle. And sadly, statistics show that never ends up well for the sufferer.  No matter how tough one might think they are, a good support system is your ultimate weapon against the beast.

I hear the bullshit term all the time about older horror films about how the content doesn’t hold up decades later. In A Nightmare On Elm Street 3, the movie remains maybe even more relevant now than ever before. As we’re hearing of suicide hitting children even before they reach double-digits.

Look. Listen. Be supportive. And if you’re someone who is in dire need of that, I’m opening the lines of communication, free of judgment, for you to contact me. Everyone needs someone. Even an understanding ear can make all the difference. In the meantime…

Rock on Warriors.