Let’s Play the Real/Not Real Game

I’ll start this post with a mild spoiler alert for Mockingjay Part 2, if you intend to see it and haven’t yet. I don’t think I’m really giving much away about the plot that wasn’t in Part 1, but if you’re super keen not to hear a thing, maybe come back after you’ve seen the film. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Oh hey, welcome back. So, The Hunger Games. What have they got to do with perinatal mental health? More than you think, if you’ve had a traumatic birth. I’m a fan of the books and the films, and so far I’ve been impressed with how they’ve depicted post traumatic stress. Katniss’ sleeplessness, flashbacks, hyper vigilance and nightmares following the atrocities of the Games are depicted accurately enough for me to feel a lot of empathy with her. When she ran off, hid and drank herself into a stupor when they said she had to go back? Eesh, that could have been me if you’d told me I had to go through labour again in the early days of my recovery.

But they really upped their game with this film. Peeta arrives in the rebel camp tortured and traumatised by his time as a prisoner in the enemy Capitol. He’s so messed up, he doesn’t really know where he is or what’s real. Oh man, I did not expect to cry at this film. Suddenly I’m right back in my parents’ kitchen, not knowing where I am, if I’m alive or dead, if I’m still in labour, or whether I killed my daughter. Far from being horrified by his attack on Katniss, I really feel for the guy and the mental torment he is experiencing.

Later in the film, we see him crouching and sobbing, shielding his head to try and block out reminders of what he’s been through. He asks his friends to kill him he feels so unsafe. I know that feeling, like someone just snatched the floor from your world and you’re dangling over an abyss, with nothing and no one to catch you and no end to the terror in sight.  He doesn’t trust himself to be around anyone, and says they’re safer if he’s dead. I remember myself, wild eyed and pleading with the psychiatrist in A & E NOT to send me home where my baby was, to lock me away from everyone and sedate me until I couldn’t move so I couldn’t hurt anyone. Thankfully, Peeta and I, we both had people to tell us that they trusted us, that we were safe.

His allies encourage him to ask any time he wants to know which of his memories are real. My partner and I did this whilst I was in the mother and baby unit. 

I kicked you in the chest whilst you were trying to restrain me, real/not real? Real. I screamed a string of expletives til my throat went raw and I couldn’t talk anymore, real/not real? Real. You held me close and swayed me and asked me if I remembered Paris, and that we used to dance, real/not real? Real. You made me feel so safe at times that I thought I’d died and gone to heaven, real/not real? Real.

Watching the compassion, trust and dedication of Peeta’s loved ones as they support him through the worst time in his life, made me think ‘wow, we’re lucky’. The film’s depiction of what it’s like to live through PTSD is done so well I can’t even be mad at them for showing someone with mental health problems as violent and unpredictable. You just can’t help but have sympathy for this man when you watch it.

“Sometimes I have nightmares. Maybe someday I’ll tell you about them.”

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