First of all I should explain that I’m going to split this post into my usual ‘thoughts on…’ section and then a section where I answer the prompt questions asked in the programme, hope that makes sense for you!
Secondly I have to say that this was a brilliant, brilliant documentary and I’m only annoyed that it didn’t go on for longer- it completely lived up to my expectations and I’m so glad, honestly I was pretty worried that it would fall short and it didn’t.
I would however like to bring up a point I think I made in my ‘Thoughts on: ‘Don’t Call Me Crazy’’ post about how ‘acceptable’ mental illnesses are portrayed more- for example depression and eating disorders over more unusual and stigmatised ones like schizophrenia- I’m obviously not saying that there isn’t stigma for people with depression, just that it’s not got as bad an image as schizophrenia and isn’t as hard for non-mentalists to empathise with.
I also would have loved it even more if there had been more men featured and more psychosis, but I don’t know if those were creative decisions or because mood/eating disorders are more common and women like to talk more (I’m not just being randomly sexist there, it’s a genuine thing- trust me, I actually have qualifications in psychology… yeah, that’s right- be afraid, be very afraid!)
Also interesting to see the partners of the participants and hear what they had to say, there wasn’t a large enough sample to make a proper judgement on how mental illness affects partners and it’s far too subjective- but the guilt felt by the sufferers appeared to be the most negative aspect.
A common theme echoed throughout the programme was that no-one understands mental illness and that the biggest problem with being mentally ill the stigma that you have to face… if people take away anything from this programme I really hope it’s this, if we could just eradicate stigma then we’d take a huge weight off the shoulders of everyone who suffers from a mental illness. It’s so powerful and so, so simple.
My favourite part of the programme was hearing Jess talk about her DID- it’s a condition that I’ve heard of before but it’s the sort of thing that you have to really see to understand, I was completely riveted and found it so genuinely interesting- if you have even the tiniest interest in psychology or human beings just watch it for this.
Again the motif of medication only treating the symptoms was explored/mentioned, something that I think became really apparent in this was the reliance on medication in order to treat symptoms- it made me glad for the first time in a while that the psychiatrists decided not to put me on meds.
The thing that this programme did really well was give a glimpse of how it is to live day-to-day with a mental illness, showing the daily highs and lows of people and showing them candidly talking the camera through their break-downs was something that you really couldn’t find anywhere else and I really hope this honest, personal edge helps some people to understand mental illness.
I just want to finish this one off by saying that if this doesn’t inspire empathy, education and understanding in the general public then I really don’t know what will. Open your eyes, make an effort- you have no idea how much making the simplest little effort to understand what we’re going through could help us.
PROMPT QUESTIONS: MY RESPONSE
Throughout the programme the participants were given prompt questions, I think I managed to record all of them… so I’m going to give the questions and my answers here:
If you blog and have mental health problems feel free to answer these questions yourself in a post- I’d love to see it!
WHEN DID YOU FIRST NOTICE SOMETHING WRONG?
I could say ‘always’… there were a couple of false starts, probably when I was being molested aged thirteen and I got so low I lost the energy to get out of bed. That lead to my first suicide attempt.
The start of the last four years came probably a year after that when I just lost all my energy- it happened slowly, creeping up on me until I stopped sleeping, eating, washing… pretty much everything.
IS THERE STIGMA AROUND MENTAL ILLNESS?
Okay, yes- there is A LOT of stigma, more than I can properly describe. I mean, my parents told me I’d be better off dead when I was first diagnosed, so I think that was probably the introduction to a life of secrecy, lies and discrimination.
IS THERE ENOUGH SUPPORT?
Just… no, not enough, not by half. The system is fucked people- I mean, I was trapped in it for three years being shunted from treatment to treatment, getting diagnosis ranging from ‘nothing’s wrong’ to ‘brain tumour/schizophrenia’ and being repeatedly let down and patronised. I eventually told my psychiatrist to fuck off (and no, I’m not paraphrasing) and I’ve been doing much better since (though that’s really a matter of opinion.)
WHAT DO YOU MISS OUT ON BECAUSE OF YOUR DISORDER?
Whew, because I’ve had it since I was 13/14 it’s hard to have an accurate picture of this- but I think the most obvious one is proper relationships/friendships. It’s hard to have a relationship of any kind when you’re hiding something as big and life-defining as that, obviously the other person doesn’t really notice, but I feel like I’m cheating them.
Other things such as being able to be around loud noises (screaming) which is really hard as an actress. I can’t deal with raised voices, planes (all the voices in a small space make me think of hallucinations) I can’t push myself emotionally, I always have to be super-careful that I’m not too stressed or tired or taking on too much as it can lead to psychotic symptoms flaring up.
I also miss out on alcohol, caffeine and weed… joy.
DO YOU TAKE MEDICATION?
No… and I think this makes me strange, they’d never let me go on meds even though my mother repeatedly lobbied them. To be honest I’d bet my entire month’s wages that I could walk into any GPs surgery, describe my symptoms and come away with drugs were I to choose to. So it really comes down to the fact that I chose not to.
WOULD YOU GET RID OF YOUR CONDITION IF YOU COULD?
Oh this is a good one- it’s not a simple answer, not for anyone so I’ll break it down:
YES: I could live my life with total freedom, I wouldn’t need to hide with anyone- I could have proper relationships with everyone. I could push myself to the limit for my career, I could eat and drink and smoke what I wanted- I’d be able to look to the future without fear.
NO: it’s made me who I am- and continues to do so, it teaches me every single day that I’m a good, strong person because I can battle it and keep it under control. It gives me wisdom, maturity and empathy. I can help people because of it and that’s something that I will always be glad about.
So, to summarise- I basically have no idea how to answer that question. I think I may veer more towards ‘no’ but it changes all the time.
Once again, thanks for reading- feel free to comment or email me if you’d like to,
’til next time,