Do you watch Homeland?
Posted Thursday 1 November 2012
I was diagnosed with bipolar around 10 years ago. I was in my first year of University studying Astrophysics at Edinburgh and my flatmates in University accommodation had noticed that I was erratic - eventually they told me that if I didn't go to the GP they would take me. I was referred to psychiatry and was given a diagnosis of 'manic depression', prescribed a mood stabiliser and decided to carry on without much thought to it. Ten years later and I have had to come to terms with the fact that living with bipolar has been more of a roller-coaster than I first imagined as I have contended with trying to pursue my chosen path while dealing with my mental health.
I started watching Homeland when it hit the UK on Channel 4 and I was immediately hooked. I love intelligent drama and it was the new big thing - never mind the excellent cast and glowing reviews. When I started watching, however, I had no idea how much of a personal journey it would take me on.
I have seen many different attempts to dramatise a character with a bipolar disorder. Although I applaud any attempt to bring mental health to the fore I have always failed to see much of my own experience in what I have watched unfold on television. Characters with bipolar disorder have often been represented in a very stereotypical manner with symptoms of destructive psychotic mania.
There is often very little focus on their day to day challenges and their attempts to carry on with a 'normal life', especially post diagnosis. I watched ER, Six Feet Under and Casualty tackle bipolar disorder, and although I don't watch EastEnders have noticed the mixed press reaction to accuracy of they way it has handled bipolar storylines over the last couple of years.
My great revelation about how much I had identified with Homeland came during a home visit from my CPN. He'd arrived to visit me at home after I'd missed several appointments. I was trying to describe my latest hypomanic episode to him and I found myself asking 'Do you watch Homeland?'.
I then used the image of Carrie in Season 1 episode 11, surrounded by bits of paper, channelling her energy into her 'project' to give a visual idea of what I had been up to. Although I wasn't working for the CIA trying to find a terrorist I had come up with a brilliant idea for an online forum I participate in. I had put everything down on bits of paper, written a document and then tried to get everyone to see my vision – although I think my enthusiasm had got them all a bit confused.
What I have finally found in Carrie is a character in the popular media that I can use to visually demonstrate to people how living with bipolar effects me. In turn I hope that Carrie shows the general population that the stereotypical representation of bipolar disorder isn't the be all and end all. There is a lot of literature available on bipolar but the average person won't read it, they might, however, watch Homeland. I have even found myself wondering what the next turn in the plot will be for Carrie by thinking about what I might do in that situation.
I am hooked on Homeland but on a personal level I am hooked beyond the CIA story. I am also hooked on Carrie because in her I see me – a driven women in her 30s (although I have just turned 30) who desperately wants to be successful in her chosen career while dealing with a mental health problem she doesn't want to define her. I have watched her mood swings, watched her struggle with stability, agonise over how much to reveal to those around her, look for something that will finally 'fix' her and then her despair when those around her lose confidence in her because of her mental health issues.
I have a feeling I will continue to ask people 'do you watch Homeland?', and hope that they do.
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