Did the Depp v. Heard Trial Help Me Connect to a Larger Purpose?

This post contains triggers. Please read this only if you feel safe doing so. If you need it, here’s a hug from one survivor of IPV to another (read part of my story here). I see you.

That title sounds a bit like click-bait doesn’t it? I kinda love/hate it, but I am trying to learn to survive in the frantic online realm. I was a bleeding-edge technophile back in the 1990s but I now struggle to figure out what the hell is going on. Please be patient with me: the path connecting the trial to a major life decision is a bumpy dirt road. Alright, alright, alright…let’s go.

I started watching live coverage of the Depp v. Heard trial on YouTube because I was isolated in my room with Covid and needed some serious escapism. I’m triple-vaxxed and wasn’t that ill and have since mostly recovered from the virus. However, I’m still fully absorbed in this epic battle of modern-day fallen idols. 

Like most mid-life women I know, I spent my adult life as a fan of Johnny Depp. I remember him from Nightmare on Elm Street onward and I own a few of his movies. I remember when the ‘bruise hit the news’ in 2016. I was horrified and didn’t want to believe it was true. I followed the story briefly before sadly putting my Depp fangirl persona aside. I believed the reported news stories.

I approached the trial coverage cautiously, knowing it might trigger my CPTSD. Some of the witness testimony was exceedingly difficult for an IPV/SV survivor to witness (I may have dissociated for a bit). At one point I ventured away from traditional media and found @TheEmilyDBaker’s coverage of the trial. I felt an instant affinity– I recognized another rare jungle bird: another neurodivergent woman over 40 with purple hair, glasses, and tattoos. I love the cozy, quirky, and welcoming vibe of her channel. She’s created a safe space in the midst of the media carnival.

Emily D. Baker

At first, I will admit I was drawn to the salacious battle between these larger-than-life figures. I #believewomen and would have described myself as a Heard supporter. In fact, a couple weeks ago I began grieving my fandom and allowed myself a brief indulgence in all things Depp. If you are in that headspace, I recommend checking out footage of Depp at the Vancouver Children’s Hospital and of him singing Heroes with The Hollywood Vampires.

After a few days, I found myself troubled by questions about the larger social issues that surround the case, such as:

1. If Heard loses, will it be a step backward from the progress of #metoo and #believewomen? (with the heartbreaking Roe v. Wade draft out there, women don’t need another setback).

2. How can we reduce the impact of trauma on mental health? (we need some major societal changes in this area).

3. How the fuck in 2022 is Histrionic Personality Disorder still a thing? (a misogynist DSM-5 diagnosis rooted in centuries-old ideas of a wandering uterus causing illness around women’s bodies).

As the trial progressed and I saw Depp’s legal team masterfully (wasn’t Camille Vasquez impressive?) present their case, I began to lean in their direction. Could it be as Depp’s team offers: a tragic case of a female trauma survivor and perpetrator of DV who suffers from a serious mental illness, leading her to make defamatory allegations in her extreme distress? Or perhaps, with his wealth to fund an orchestrated coverup of DV, Heard is to become another abused woman the justice system failed: a tragic case of a male trauma survivor and perpetrator of DV who suffers from serious addiction and mental health issues, leading him to engage in a vindictive suit?

As the attorneys concluded their arguments, the preponderance of evidence seems to reside on Depp’s side. No matter what the jury decides, I feel there are no winners here. Just two people deeply impacted by traumatic experiences. The only uncontested expert opinion from the trial is that both Depp and Heard would have benefited from long-term therapy to address their mental health challenges. Recovering from childhood trauma takes a consistent effort over a long period of time, working in concert with a capable therapist trained in trauma-focused care. Specialized approaches such as EMDR are needed.

I started thinking more about my own journey and how difficult it has been for me to access the treatment I need. It has taken several years and many attempts to find a therapist who is a good fit and has the requisite training. I belong to a couple online groups so I know there are others like me out there. I wrote a post in 2018 pondering the potential for online personal supports and resources for individuals who have PTSD or CPTSD resulting from trauma.

What are your thoughts? I welcome comments.

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