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Content warning: suicide, depression

It’s not easy being a cute and depressed Black girl.

Heck, we have a whole t-shirt design dedicated to this concept because the struggle is so widely relatable. For me, I’m the anime loving, yoga-doing dancer struggling through grad school for a Master’s in Counseling. I’m also someone dealing with Major Depressive Disorder, one of the most common mental health disorders among my age group in America. I’ve been in remission for a year now (whooo!) but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten the days of finding the will to live all throughout undergrad.

Sometimes I’m still one breakdown away from an episode.

And what do I do to relieve the stress that exacerbates my symptoms? Watch anime of course.  Now that I’m in grad school the binging has become less and less. But, once in a while I’m able to stumble upon a nice thirteen episode series that doesn’t fully prevent me from doing homework. That’s how I stumbled across Orange.

Imagine if your future self wrote you a letter of their past regrets.

This is what happens to cute and awkward high school student Naho Takamiya. She finds a letter written from herself ten years into the future about her biggest regrets. They range from small decisions of courage, to the most impactful of them all; they revolve around the new transfer student Kakeru Naruse. At first she doesn’t believe the letters. After all, where was the proof that this was her future self and bad things would happen? Then, after Naho chooses to do the opposite of a letter and invite Kakeru out with her friends, she realizes all too quickly what the consequences would be. They didn’t see him for weeks.

How would you prevent events that haven’t happened yet?

Naho then believes the letters to be true and works hard to ensure she doesn’t make another mistake. She stays especially close to Kakeru, and enlists the help of her friends to make him feel welcome and secure in their group. Kakeru is quiet and reserved, but begins to step out his comfort zone bit by bit the more time he spends with Naho. He doesn’t know why she’s taken a sudden interest, and she wishes she had the answers in how to keep Kakeru happy. In a letter, her future self tells Naho that Kakeru dies by suicide around Valentine’s Day.

In many ways, I saw myself both as Naho and Kakeru. There are rare times I find myself able to exude confidence. Mostly, I’m just an observe and quirky girl with an amazing group of friends like Naho. Even though she awkwardly stumbles around trying to explain why they should include Kakeru in their activities, her friends jump on board. Even Suwa who can barely hide his crush on Naho helps her get closer to Kakeru, and it’s later revealed he too has letters from his future self. With Kakeru, I know what it’s like to feel like an outsider looking in. Not only is he knew, but he struggles to express himself when he’s suffering. He blames himself for his mother’s suicide, and feels a lot of self-loathing at times that he won’t share with his new friends. Kakeru just smiles, and when he isn’t smiling he’s still suffering quietly.

To say managing depression is difficult would be an understatement.

For me, it meant knowing I had people who loved me and my brain telling me they hated me. I convinced myself everyone would be better off without me, so I withdrew. I forced a smile even when I was struggling to get out of bed. Paying attention in class was the hardest thing to do, and later I barely had it in me to concentrate on homework. I’d go to dance class feeling numb and detached. On the rough days, I somehow found it in myself to ask a friend to grab me some food because I knew if I didn’t then I wouldn’t eat. And when people I thought cared about me abandoned me, I blamed myself and just wanted it to end.

Finding something to relate to in this anime made me emotional. There was a point where Naho thought everything was fine, until Kakeru finally revealed the emotions he’d hidden. He’s still broken, he still feels guilty, and he still struggles with feeling true happiness. And of course this is hard to understand for anyone who hasn’t felt depressed. These aren’t thoughts and feelings you can just get over. As all the emotions finally boiled over, Kakeru set out to do what Naho had tried to prevent.

Sometimes it takes something life-changing to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Kakeru comes close to taking his life, and his friends almost don’t find him. But he doesn’t, and they do. They find him on the ground sobbing, and this is the moment that made me burst into tears. Kakeru tells them he couldn’t do it, because he was afraid he’d miss out on an amazing time with his friends. That’s when it hit me. The moment Kakeru said that I felt somewhat at peace. I realized that was the main reason I kept going and stayed strong. There are so many experiences I still want to have. So many moments I still want to share with my loved ones. It’s safe to say I was crying for quite a bit during this episode.

This anime grapples with so much. There’s loss, grief, and depression, but there’s also fun times, friendship, and courage. These people support each other, encourage one another, and make efforts to live their lives to the fullest.

Letters from their future selves became a push for them to cherish who they spend their time with, and it pushed me to seek help to get better.

IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE NEEDS HELP, PLEASE CALL THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE AT 1-800-273-8255 OR SPEAK TO THEIR COUNSELORS ONLINE.
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