After a whole week (read: life) of bitching about annoying, unrealistic representations of mental health, this weekend I watched something awesome. I know, real scary territory for me, not being able to be mad and ranting, but instead be proud and appreciative of something. It's very fresh and exciting for me.
With too much self-deprecating fanfare coming with it, enter the Amazon Prime original, Undone.
For some context, Undone is a series about a young woman, Alma, who, after a car crash, starts being able to see her dead father. Because of her family's history of schizophrenia, she's kept herself distanced from people she loves, but that distance only gets worse after her crash. Happens when schizophrenia starts manifesting. The show paints her hallucinations in this surreal delusion about time travelling capabilities, and even though aspects of those powers seem real, the show makes it clear that she probably suffers from the same illness as her grandmother. It's just her personable intuition and kindness that makes her seem "psychic" when talking to people.
Throughout the entire experience, though, the show never makes Alma seem like a bad person. She's imperfect, self-deprecating, and self-centered. However, she's also funny, caring, and thoughtful. She works at a daycare, supports her mom and sister's goals even if she doesn't like those goals, and she makes every decision with her loved ones in mind. She's complicated and makes questionable decisions, and she's always lovable.
And that's so important.
In the end, she doesn't push everyone away. Alma has her highs and her lows, but her mother, boyfriend, and sister band together to try to help her through her manifesting condition.
This Sunday, my FIL turned the first episode on and my boyfriend and I were just passively watching. However, by the end of the first twenty minutes we were enraptured. So enraptured, actually, that we watched the entire season in one sitting.
I could spout in circles about how much the show meant to me, but it all can be summed up in the way my boyfriend reacted to a scene where her boyfriend accepted her: he squeezed my leg and gave me this smile. It was a mix of, "that's you and me", and "there she is; she looks like you".
Unless you understand what it's like to never see yourself in media, you won't get this. But if you have felt that, you feel this, even when you're just thinking about it. It's something magical when most of the time media couldn't give a fuck about you.
I am not schizophrenic and I have only dealt with moments of psychosis and paranoia. However, that doesn't matter. What mattered is I saw a young woman with horrible lows who was trying to push people she loved away because she was desperately afraid of hurting them with her broken brain. That is something I can relate to.
Not all this "crazy people murder" or "the mentally ill who survive and do stuff, which we don't expect, are inspirational, broken heroes".
Yeah, fuck all that. Give me more Alma. She's just a daycare worker, but she's kind and a daydreamer. She has a little bit of a drinking problem, but she loves her family and wants the best for her loved ones. She makes bad decisions sometimes, but she also is charitable and makes people laugh. Mental illness doesn't make people bad. It just is and people deal with it in different ways.
But most of us? We're just Alma and we just want to protect and love the people and things we care so deeply about.
For me, I am bad at friendships, but I am dedicated to my little family of my boyfriend and dog. I write my ass off, but I have some pretty bad days where I can't get anything done. I love creating, whether its baking or writing or drawing or photographing, but I also have a hard time following through on long projects.
And I've been using "but" structures here a lot, but my therapist has made a good point about the little conjunctive word: a lot of people think this way and end up at their "they're crazy BUT have good reasons" kind of logic. Something more accurate, to describe real people, is that they are crazy AND a mother or a spouse or a researcher or a creative. Alma and Undone hit that sweet spot, reminding viewers that Alma has schizophrenia AND is all these other great and complicated parts of herself. None of them negate the others, they just exist.
That's what I'm most thankful about Undone. I am so happy that this show dared to give people a slice of life experience where a person with mental illness is just existing. She had bad moments and great ones, and at the end of the day she was just a person who loved people.
I dream of the day where more stories like that get to make my chest get all warm and fuzzy inside, telling our real mental health stories. Until then, Undone just won itself a beautiful place in my heart. And, if you have Amazon Prime, you should check it out. We need more shows like this so show the people who care about the money part that this matters, because it matters so fucking much.