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‘MODERN LOVE’ SPITS SOME TRUTHS ABOUT BIPOLAR DISORDER

(This article may contain some spoilers) This may already be two years late, but over the weekend, I stumbled upon the third episode of season 1’s Modern Love titled “Take me as I am, whoever I am” which talked about bipolar disorder. First, Modern Love is a series from Amazon Prime inspired by personal essays from The New York Times column of the same name. 

The episode was based on Terry Cheney’s essay in 2008. The story revolves around Lexi (Anne Hathaway), who has bipolar disorder. As someone who has carried the same baggage on my back since I was 15, there were depictions in the show that were too on-point—I nearly thought it was my life they were portraying. That said, there were also moments during the 30-minute episode that I find a little too alarming. 

Take me as I am, whoever I am

The episode started with Lexi feeling all hyped up and insanely happy. Her sequined dress symbolized the energy she was feeling. The feeling that everyone around you are all backup dancers in your own Broadway show is a clever representation of how one feels during mania

The sudden gush of euphoric vibe that was way too good to be true was shown during the show’s first few minutes. 

Soon after her encounter with Jeff, the man she met at the supermarket’s fruit section, she crashed and fell into depression. She stayed in bed for days, skipping meals, skipping daily errands, skipping work. Come morning, after a disastrous date with Jeff; she woke up manic. She invited Jeff for dinner over her place, cleaned her flat, cooked food, dressed up really nice, and right after hearing the doorbell, she crashed back to depression, falling on the bathroom floor—unable to get up. After numerous attempts to ring the doorbell, Jeff left. Lexi could hear his footsteps leaving her front door. 

How reality really looks like to people with bipolar disorder

This is where the issue with the episode is coming from—the portrayal of manic as a “happy vibe”, the abrupt switch from manic to a depressive state, and the lack of euthymic periods. For people who experience bipolar disorder, mania is not always a state of inexplicable euphoria. It is a dangerous state that could make people lose their jobs, relationships, and even their sense of reality. It does not always lead to anxiety or depression either. After a period of mania, some go back to a “normal” state without any mood disturbances. Others experience prolonged depressive states, which could last from a few days to a few months.

People with bipolar disorder may sometimes “switch” from being extremely happy to extremely sad. The operative word is extreme. With or without any triggers, they experience sudden changes in their mood while going out and functioning like normal people. Some people experience the switch while carrying out an important errand, pitching for an important client, closing a deal, speaking in public, or even simply crossing the pedestrian lane. 

Mania does not always translate to productivity. Though it would seem like one is being extra productive at work, for people with bipolar disorder, it is simply not the case. That productivity translates to fixation. For the most part, when they feel like they cannot fix a problem, they fixate on doing other things where they feel like they are accomplishing something, but in reality, when a person is in a manic state, that feeling never goes away. A person could go on and on and only stop when they could no longer lift a finger out of exhaustion or when their body crashes before passing out. 

The silent ones left in the dark

Others experience it in silence. They experience it without other people knowing—in fear of being judged or misunderstood. Many people who experience bipolar disorder carry the condition without telling anyone. They are the ones who often isolate themselves because solitude and silence are the only comforts they can get when everything else around them seems to be shouting at them—when things seem so bright and shiny in all the wrong places.  

However, shows like Modern Love is essential in making people talk about social issues like mental health. The episode created an opportunity to discuss further how bipolar disorder affects the lives of people struggling with it. It opened up a lot of discussions that led to people seeking help and caring more about others. 

Many of us would resort to thinking that it will go away if we don’t pay attention to it, but these conditions could lead a person to irreversible circumstances. If you think you or someone you know is experiencing the things mentioned above, seek professional help. For free mental health support, you may call the 24/7 toll-free hotline of Hopeline through 2919 for Globe and TM subscribers. Everyone may also contact its hotline at (02) 804-HOPE (4673) or 0917 558 HOPE (4673). Remember, one call can save a life. 

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