This is my first review of anything on TV but one particular episode on this new Prime series, Modern Love, resonated so deeply with me that I had to share it. The particular episode # 3, ‘Take me as I am, whoever I am’ stars Anne Hathaway as a young woman negotiating dating and life with a diagnosis of bipolar illness. Mental illnesses straddle a spectrum and we may share many of the same symptoms if not diagnoses.
The premise of the series is this – individual short stories about love inspired by personal essays in the New York Times column, Modern Love. This episode followed Hathaway through a funny/sad shift in moods while trying to connect with a new boyfriend. He couldn’t understand why she was acting so differently because, quite naturally, she didn’t want to reveal something deeply private. She finally realized that she couldn’t keep hopping from job to job and leaving friends mystified, so started to share her secret diagnosis. In this story, it seemed to be a rewarding experience.
What impressed me most was Hathaway’s brilliant acting although it might seem contrived to someone who had not experienced bipolar symptoms. There is a hilarious scene in a supermarket, when she is on an obvious high, and in her head she is in a stage show. This isn’t exactly how I feel but it is pretty close. When I am feeling good, the world is vibrant, friendly and buzzing. Tunes and thoughts are happily dancing in my head. Everyone is my friend and I talk the pants off every stranger I meet. I can even tell that I make people happy.
Then there is the abrupt change – going to bed for days on end unable to even look at my blog or emails. It is physically painful to move my joints or answer the phone. Most of the time my cell phone is on mute, unless I am working. What Hathaway emoted, so successfully, was her inability to control this or explain how she was feeling. My years of dealing with my family and personal mental illness, along with working in the field have given me some terrific masking skills but I can only keep it up for so long.
Thank goodness I met Teddy, who is naturally empathetic and nonjudgmental. I can only imagine what it is like coming home to ‘who will she be today?’ Sometimes I am curled up on the sofa with dark circles under my eyes and a haunted look. Nightmares plague me for weeks on end. Of late, happy Bunny has arrived and Teddy is relieved to return to a funny expression from his beloved or even jumping out from behind the door.
It was such a joy to watch an uplifting short program about mental illness that wasn’t patronizing or dramatic. I don’t know if Hathaway has a personal experience or the writer had but it was spot on. She wasn’t homeless or self-medicating and eventually used her common sense to relieve the worst of the symptoms. Even better, she was educated and attractive – many of us are just that.
An old boyfriend once said, with passion in his eyes, that he didn’t know which version of Kerry he was dating. I am a chameleon with my style, personality and moods. My varied career gives the wrong impression of my intellect. In Scotland I worked with my friend’s husband on a project. He had shared with her that he didn’t realize how brilliant I was in certain work situations, especially facilitation or brain storming. Clearly my friend didn’t know that either and was surprised. This isn’t bragging but just an observation that I wonder what I might have achieved without this illness. Hathaway demonstrated this in the episode by sadly expecting to leave any job quite quickly. Not many employers are willing to give some leeway although in recent times my bosses have understood my inability to fully function at times.
If you get the opportunity to watch it, please do. Hathaway’s acting says so much more than mere words can. Prime/Amazon are not paying me for this review – or anyone else!