October 4th, 2014

granada holmes

Sherlock Fic Rec: Lead, by SkinandPit

Sherlock fan fic rec time. I've been feeling a bit down leaden myself as I write this so I'm not entirely sure I'll do the story justice, but I'd like to at least give a pointer to SkinandPit's (Tumblr) story "Lead." Really very much worth the read.

This is a short fic where Sherlock struggles with depression. I'm not sure I ever imagined him suffering with this particular illness, but that's okay. That's half the fun of fanfic, really, imagining new possibilities for familiar characters. And the author does a really fabulous job of getting at the experience of depression. The desperation to have your boredom and irritation and all the rest be from external causes seemed very true to life to me, and the description of lead in the veins was a particularly apt metaphor. I hesitate to say there's anything beautiful about mental illness, but there's something about this author's description of it that's achingly sad and tender, and no other word seems quite sufficient.

I also really liked what she did with different peoples' reactions. I don't doubt that Mycroft, John, and Mrs. Hudson all meant well, or even that the first is definitely understandable (Mycroft is a teenager already dealing with one depressed parent) and even helpful in its own way in the latter. But I really liked the way the author got how hard it is for people to understand depression and the ways that helps or doesn't help, and how it finally takes someone who's been through a bit of it (maybe) to reach out in a helpful way. But I also like that this doesn't make it all better, even if it gives that oh-so-necessary inch of breathing-space.

It's ironic that I mentioned above that I was feeling a bit leaden myself above, because I suspect I'm dealing with a bit of what Sherlock is in this fic. I suspect I'm not the only one with that issue. What struck me was how risky an endeavor it is describing mental illness, because the phenomenon is so individual and even the same illness will strike different people different ways. (My own depression does have the trudging-around-with-lead-in-your-shoes element, but more than that it just leaves me feeling irritated and outright pissed off with the world.) And it's of course possible to be too connected with a character, to see your own experience mirrored in them and be frustrated when it doesn't match precisely. It's kind of similar to what MadLori talked about in Performance in a Leading Role, where she has John and Sherlock question how qualified they are to be standard-bearers for the LGBT movement after they've "outted" themselves, as they didn't really have the experience of being closeted the way a lot of gay people did. There's a question of where to draw the line between high-profile people living an experience akin to yours, and your own experience as it actually is.

I think SkinandPit does as well a job of this as anyone does. Certainly, the way she describes Sherlock's "black moods" seemed consistent with what I'd read about depression, what I know friends go through. It's not necessarily my experience, but expecting it to be that is something I as the author need to fight – just as Mycroft's reaction, while brilliant and understandable and heart-wrenchingly beautiful in its way, won't be something every depressed person may have to deal with, though many will. And I'm not sure how the author could have done better on this point. It's a limitation to this kind of fic, I think, or at least a complication given the way human nature drives us to read certain stories. I actually think she did a very good job of keeping this as Sherlock's experience rather than the way all depression universally will play out. Still, it's an interesting problem, and thinking about this aspect of the story helped me wrap my head around the way special subgroups (whether it's depressed people or gay people or anyone else for that matter) view representation in the stories we share, how we relate it to who we are, and what benefit I got (speaking as someone who struggles with mental illness) from seeing someone as brilliant as Sherlock struggle through it as well. It helped me in a lot of ways, but it also made me aware of the uses it's less suited to.

Anyway. This was a very well-done look at Sherlock's "black moods." Worth checking out, I think.