Carrie and me
Posted Tuesday 20 November 2012
Last night Homeland picked up the award for best drama at the Mind Media Awards. Homeland has brought bipolar into the mainstream and I hope has shown that mental illness can be complex and difficult to deal with even for people who should have good insight into managing it.
In order to reduce the stigma of mental illness and increase understanding across the general population we need accurate portrayals in the popular media, and for me, Homeland is probably the best I've seen, because I can relate to it where I have struggled to relate to bipolar characters in other dramas. I hope that Homeland will continue to provide an insight into bipolar for the viewers, but also that it will open the door to including more well considered characters with mental health problems in intelligent, hard hitting drama.
The third episode of season two of Homeland was one of the hardest things I have watched in a long time. I spoke to my mum (my parents are also Homeland fans) after the episode aired and it was like we had been watching two different programmes. My mum had been focusing on the Brody storyline, which she had thought had been a bit unbelievable, whereas I had watched an all too believable Carrie storyline.
I watched Carrie with interest throughout season one and I saw her hypomania become mania. Although I know the destructive side of being 'high', whether I want to admit it or not, some of the best work I have produced has been while I have been in a 'productive' hypomanic phase, I have worked through the night and made connections in analysis that I previously hadn't seen before. I have even produced pieces of work that have astonished me – and astonished those I worked with. Whether I like it or not being 'high' can bring out as much good as bad – and the memories of the good made watching Carrie's high less traumatic.
The Carrie we see in Season two is very different. After every high comes something different. The catastrophic low doesn't necessarily follow straight away, but there is always a come down. At the start of season 2 we see a different woman. A woman struggling, but still trying to come to terms with things. A woman trying to work through recovery but with a loss of confidence and associated anxiety. A women trying to be the person she was, and trying to convince everyone that she can still 'cut it' – while masking all the insecurities that have developed during her recovery.
What was to come was inevitable. I spent an hour with a direct analogy for every emotion I saw on screen, and it brought back nothing but bad memories. I saw Carrie sidelined, lose confidence, wrestle with coping with losing the one thing that she thought she was good at and ultimately consider the way out way – I've been there more than once and know it all too well. It hurt to watch my biggest demons played out on screen.
I would bet a significant chunk that the way I interpreted Carrie's actions was different from most people.
If I asked around I don't think people would believe that her intentions were serious. I can imagine there would be comments like 'she hadn't talked about it before so she can't have really meant it', 'it was spur of the moment, she got all dressed up to go out first so she wasn't really thinking' and 'she obviously changed her mind because she was sick afterwards'.
I'd like to believe that was the case, but I can't be completely convinced because the fact is that when we hit that low we hide our intentions from those around us because we don't want them to prevent us carrying out any plan we have. I saw Carrie first isolate herself and then do what I have done. The debate is open in my mind.
Moving on from the specifics, season two teaches us that how other people around you treat you can have a great bearing on your mood.
I remember trying to go back to work after a long sick absence. Despite still not being 100% I wanted to prove myself. I wanted the same opportunities as everyone else. I did admit that I might need some leeway here and there on bad days but on the whole I wanted to be involved and feel like I was still valued. It was obvious, however, that things had changed. I wasn't being as trusted to work independently, I was being checked up on and I watched while other people were offered the trips I used to go on.
We see Carrie trying to do everything right, everything that she thought was expected of her, and yet still being made to feel like she was coming up short. I know from experience how that lack of faith other people have in you can destabilise you as fast as anything else can.
Where Carrie will go from here I will watch with interest. I'm already trying to make predictions in my mind based on my own experiences but in many ways I don't want to see that. Whatever happens I have a feeling that I will have some more tough viewing.
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Season one of Homeland won the drama category in our Mind Media Awards last night.
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