What to watch when you’re losing your shit

Breakdown:

When you’re on medical leave, attending daily group therapy in a mental hospital, original Law and Order is your friend. There are literally hundreds of episodes on Netflix, and each one rolls smoothly into the one after, its arrival and departure heralded by a reassuring thump thump and its ingrained pavlovian response. The original series is the best, before the plot twists and ripped from the headlines episodes of SVU or Criminal Intent. As you sleep most of the day away in a fog from meds and depression, it is easy to follow the thread of the plot, and doesn’t really matter if you can’t.

Alternate Choices: Star Trek the Next Generation.

Early recovery

When you finish your program and quit your job, days of exhilarating freedom will stretch out in front of you. In time, however, you will begin to miss the structure and support of your group. As your vision clears, you will understand the depths of your breakdown, you wonder how you got there and if you will ever be the same again. Watch Intervention. Each episode will be like revisiting the varied personalities and tragic histories of the other patients at the hospital. You will watch along, waiting for the revelation of devastating childhood trauma and wondering what your excuse is. When the theme song begins you wait to see how much time is left at the end, and guess whether you will see a rosy, re-energized face telling tales of redemption, or a tragic black screen announcing early exit from rehab and inevitable relapse. Try not to be convinced that your own recovery is somehow linked to their success or failure.

Alternate Choices: None. Intervention is one of a kind.

Rebuilding

You will reach a point where Intervention is no longer cathartic, just depressing. This is good. You are ready to move on to the next stage of your life. You are working, making art. And although with every twinge of sadness or anxiety, you are afraid that this is it, you’re slipping back again, you’re really getting stronger every day. The BBC is your friend. Watch Luther or Sherlock. Watch Call the Midwife, or Hinterland. They will be well made enough that you don’t feel like you’re wasting your life away in front of a screen, but not too bleak or challenging. Think about the dignity of the British, the lean years after the war, and what they have rebuilt from the rubble.

Alternate choices: The West Wing

One of the bizarre things about coming to understand my mental illness is really being able to see the emotional dysregulation in action. This week I got two, really amazing pieces of art news. A piece of mine is in a juried show and a small magazine wants to commission me to do (paid) monthly illustrations for their calendar section. Which is like, beyond incredible. But my crazy brain does not understand appropriate emotional responses to stimuli. So both times my immediate response is to feel kind of panicked and nauseous followed by vague anxiety and depression. 

It’s really good to be able to identify what’s going on in my brain and step outside of it, but at the same time, it would be really nice to have a normal brain that allows me to feel pleasure when good things happen. One day, hopefully.

Was just chatting with an out of town friend, and realized that since I quit my job in July, I have:

  • Gotten an embroidery piece in a juried show in Detroit
  • Gotten two paying fundraising and communications consulting gigs
  • Started TAing at Lillstreet
  • Laid the groundwork for two collaborations with artists and activists that I love
  • Found an MA in Art and Social Practice program that I’m applying to.

It’s easy to feel like I’m floundering or failing when I can’t afford my psyche meds or I’m making less money that I’m spending each month, but I have to remember that I am building the groundwork for the life I want to live, because I am.