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What 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' Got Right About Mental Illness

 

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This piece discusses suicide and contains spoilers for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

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Whenever I used to try and describe suicidal ideation, I always found myself at a loss for words. How can a person not suffering understand what it’s like to rather be dead than alive when their life is seemingly normal?

It has become much easier for me to expound on those thoughts since my actual attempt.

I was sitting in my private bathroom, my back against the cold porcelain toilet. I had tears coming out of my eyes, but they were not from fear or sadness. In fact, I was completely numb; the only feeling I had left was the excruciating pain in my chest.

When you’re ready to kill yourself, a certain relief washes over you, taking any feeling of guilt for what you are about to do and letting it slip away into the ether.

I started to rock back and forth, scissors in hand. I was drowning. I felt like a ton of bricks were placed on my chest as I was thrown into an ocean of unforgiving water. I couldn’t breathe, there was no way out. All I saw around me were my friends and family who thought I was enjoying lif …enjoying being in the water, because I never asked for help and never let them on to the fact that I no longer wanted to be in this world.

My attempt failed, or I wouldn’t be writing this. I’m now thankful for that, however, I do still suffer from ideation occasionally…on those days where the wind is rough and the tides are high.

The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has been a favorite show of mine since its pilot episode. Musical numbers mixed in with a protagonist who was clearly mentally ill? SIGN ME UP!

In the third season, we watch Rebecca Bunch spiral out of control as her life takes twisty turns she never expected. Finally, on a plane escaping her controlling mother and back to the life she thought she ruined, she swallows almost an entire bottle of anti-anxiety medication.

Watching that was absolutely triggering for me, as I started to feel that heaviness in my chest and the idea that maybe Rebecca had it right. It’s much easier to go away permanently when your life is a mess.

Is my life a mess? Not exactly. But there are situations out of my control that sometimes cause me to spiral into a midnight black depression, where the only light I can see is that of my full 30-90 supply of psychiatric medication that I have, that I know I could swallow at any moment and end the pain.

Rebecca asked for help from a flight attendant, and in the most recent episiode, we see heer placed in a hospital for a stomach pump and a psychiatric diagnosis while her friends…no, her family...surround her with love and support.

I myself do not have family, much like Rebecca, whose chosen family is a group of friends led by Paula (played by another fantastic actor, Donna Lynne Champlin). I have my very own Paula, and her name is Danielle. Paula is the mother figure, the friend who will help you do “crazy” things but also talk you down when things get a little out of whack. Rebecca is lucky to have Paula. I am lucky to have Danielle.

I have a husband and son, as well. A husband I couldn’t dream of being more supportive than he is, so I consider myself incredibly lucky (#blessed, y’all). Any other blood relatives of mine are either dead or no longer speak to me, because what’s life without family drama, right?

When the doctor handling Rebecca explained that she had been diagnosed, you can see, sense, and FEEL the relief. Kudos to Rachel Bloom for the most realistic acting I’ve seen about the need to have a diagnosis.

I’ve been to several doctors, all telling me different names of “issues” I have: Bipolar Disorder II. No, wait, but this doctor said it’s Borderline Personality Disorder. Hang on, the new doctor said it’s Bipolar, but their colleague believes it’s Borderline Personality Disorder.

Understand this, both Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder are, for the most part, treated the same way with medication and therapy. But who wants a personality disorder? Not Rebecca. Not me, Liza. I continue to go under the assumption I have Bipolar because, like Rebecca in the latest episode, it’s hard to reconcile the fact that something is wrong with your personality and that it’s not just chemical.

There’s a stigma attached to having a mental illness, especially now with the onslaught of mass shootings and the media proclaiming, “The shooter had a mental illness” before the bodies of his victims are even cold. It’s misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and often goes untreated due to fear and shame. But we are not alone! Take a look at these numbers from the National Alliance on Mental Health:

• Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.

• Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.

• Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.

• 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.

• 2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder.

• 6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.

• 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.

• Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.

Like Rebecca Bunch; like me, Liza Walter; and like all the other “crazy” people out there: There is hope. There is a way out that doesn’t end with death.

Not everyone who suffers with a mental illness will be as vocal as I am (my goal in life is to break the stigma, and maybe the patriarchy if I have time) but that’s what I’m here for. I want to speak for those who don’t want to or can’t.

Let me be your voice. Let’s crack this shame of mental illness and get the proper help we need without fear of shame or bullying.

Thank you to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for shining a light on a taboo topic that needs awareness.

If you or someone you know show signs of taking their life, please reach out for help. The National Suicide Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. You can can even do a private chat on their website here.

More from BUST

"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" Is Doing Important Work With Mental Health This Season

Why "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" Star Donna Lynn Champlin Never Saw A Woman Like Herself On TV Until Now

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Liza Walter is a mom, writer, and lover of all things cheese and Game of Thrones. She can be found on Twitter @NerdyLiza.

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