Mental Illness in the Movies

Earlier today, I took my daughter to see a movie called Words on Bathroom Walls. I will try to avoid spoilers. It was our first time in the theater since COVID-19. That theater is more spaced out than most anyways due to being a dine in with reclining heated seats, but they also seated at only 40 percent capacity and required masks when you were not eating and drinking. Refills were temporarily gone and self serve drinks were as well, but otherwise your normal movie going experience, which I have missed. I am not schizophrenic myself, so I cannot say from personal experience how accurate the experience of someone who has it was represented in the movie. I figure they did their research though, and as someone who suffers from a different mental illness, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which also causes Anxiety, I absolutely love that this movie portrayed someone with a mental illness in such a relatable way.  I personally did not know, and still do not a ton about schizophrenia, but I definitely think I learned a lot from the movie.

The movie we saw was one of those teenage romantic movies my daughter and I usually enjoy watching together. I honestly do not know if I have ever seen a movie about someone with such a serious mental illness from their perspective. Not only that, one that had a girlfriend, went to high school and tried his best to lead a normal life, and to even become a chef. When I think of other movies related to this mental illness, I think of horror movies, or shows and movies where the person has to be locked up in a mental institute for their safety and the safety of others. The movie brought me to tears a couple of times I admit. That is not hard to do for me though honestly, but it was so moving. There are many people in my family with different mental illnesses. I honestly judged some of them harshly before I realized I had one myself. I felt some used it as an excuse, and I honestly still feel this way about some.

Some people think I might do the same or have done the same, but for me, it was never about finding an excuse, it was about finding a cause and figuring out the solution. My family doctor has known me since I was 11 or 12, so he knows as soon as I leave his office, I am going to research whatever we just discussed and that I am a problem solver. When I realized I had severe postpartum depression about 10 years ago though, and tried to get better, this is when I also realized I also had OCD and Anxiety. I also eventually realized, this was not something you could simply cure. Like in the movie, there is no cure for schizophrenia. They hope there is one day, and in the mean time there are medications, and possibly other things that can help, but even the best medications have horrible side effects. Maintaining good mental health for me is a constant challenge. I have taken medicine for years now, in addition to other things, but I do have to change types of medicine or dosage every so often when they eventually become less effective. I also often have to deal with side effects at times. Like in the movie, sometimes these side effects may not seem as bad as what happens when you do not take the medicine, but they can still be life altering. In the movie, they make his dream career more challenging to pursue.

The character does not give up though, and I love that I could relate to him. Instead of using my mental illness as an excuse, I try to let it drive me to try even harder than most people, but it has caused many challenges at times, including in my career. Often, in movies and TV people with mental illness are portrayed as attention seeking or lazy, or as takers, and they are also often portrayed as harming people, when most people with mental illness do not. You do sometimes really see some of this in real life, but that is not the majority. Some of the most giving, hardest working, kindest people have mental illness. Mental healthy and physical health are both so important, but like it is pointed out in the movie, everyone gives you attention and sympathy when you have cancer, but often mental illness is met with the opposite reaction, even though the person did not choose to have it.

Like cancer, sometimes people can overcome mental illness, but know it might return. Sometimes people beat it and then it comes back, and sometimes they spend the rest of their life fighting it continuously or off and on, trying to live as normal of a life as they can. Being around a physically or mentally ill personal can both be depressing, and depression and some other mental illnesses can seem to be contagious, almost like physical illness. Being around a depressed person can be depressing, but when it comes to physical illness, we do not use that as an excuse to abandon the person and make them fight the illness alone. I really hope one day mental illness will be viewed the same as physical illness, and I think movies like this are getting us closer to that.

Bio: Amanda Dodson Gremillion published her first book in 2012. She began revising it in 2019 and republished it as Just Buy Her A Dress and She’ll Be Fine. The story chronicles her experience with severe postpartum OCD, anxiety and depression. Amanda is a graduate of Auburn University, and now lives in Calera, Alabama, with her husband, Jay, their daughter, Aubrie, and their two dogs, Honey Girl and Cooper. She hopes to write more books in the future. Follow Amanda’s journey on Facebook,  or twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaGremilli2 and order her book here.  Also, follow her on the Mighty here Amanda Dodson Gremillion | The Mighty Contributor

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s