of two minds – a new documentary about bipolar disorder

by lifeonaxis1

somehow, an announcement about a new movie crossed my desk.  i don’t go see movies very often, but this one was a necessity.  it’s called Of Two Minds, and it’s a new documentary film about living life with bipolar disorder.  it was in town for one night only, so i canceled my appointments and headed to the theater.

i wasn’t sure what to expect, both in terms of turn out and my response to the film.  i was a little nervous because i’m still in the “not sure i’m bipolar” phase and i wondered if i’d identify with the individuals in the film.  if so, it would be bittersweet.  find community, lose hope about not being bipolar.

it played at the local artsy-ish theater in town, which means it wasn’t going to be your typical movie going experience.  for instance, the director of films for the theater pulled up a microphone before the movie to introduce it, as well as the director (!), and other representatives from the mental health community.  we heard from reps from DBSA, NAMI, and the Aurora Foundation.  they announced the post-movie discussion panel and Q&A session, which i thought was a pretty neat idea too.

but let me back up a little.  i pulled up to the theater, and saw a crowd of people swarming the entrance.  fortunately, my friend was already there, so we’d have a place in line.  i was surprised to see such a turn out.  i honestly wasn’t expecting a lot of people to show, but that might be more a reflection of my history of perceiving this town to be a desert wasteland than anything.  boy, was i wrong.

by the time i parked and walked up to the theater, the line was wrapping around the building.  i scooted past a diverse group: old and young, normal…and not so normal, male, female, subculture, counterculture… the line went on.  i must admit with some amusement that it was fairly easy to distinguish the psychiatrists and psychologists in the group.  it was almost as if they had a dress code to adhere to: business professional, tweed, the works.

we walked in to a half full theater.  even then i thought it was far more people than i expected.  but they kept coming.  lines and crowds of people filtered in, filling the theater.  the start of the movie was delayed because people just kept coming and coming.  soon we were in an auditorium brimming with people.  i caught my breath, and tears filled my eyes.

i’m not alone.

once the movie started, my palms were a bit sweaty.  what would i see?  would i see myself, reflected in these lives?  would i identify with the trials and tribulations of these individuals?  the mania?  i knew the depression would be no question…but the mania?  would i identify with that too?

the movie followed the lives of several people living with bipolar disorder, some in more detail than others.  one of the opening scenes showed a young women up close to the camera.  she said, this is what mania feels like, and started dancing while the credits rolled.  i giggled a little, because it was silly, and because it resonated with me, much more so than some of the videos i’ve scanned by searching “bipolar mania” on youtube.  i wasn’t uncomfortable, to my surprise.  i wasn’t sad.  i was amused.

the stories unfolded, and spanned a variety of experiences, although i am fairly confident that the movie captured mostly bipolar 1 and not so much of bipolar 2.  it spoke of mania, psychosis, depression, and suicide.  of being untreated, undiagnosed, and unmedicated.  it featured love and relationships: those that worked, and those that didn’t.  of self-medication and pharmaceutical medication, and alternative methods of medication.

i was a little disappointed that more mania and hypomania weren’t captured on film.  that’s what i really wanted to see, in any case.  sometimes the individuals described it, along with psychotic episodes, artistic endeavors, and the vitality that is so often paired with bipolar disorder.  but it wasn’t featured all that much.  at least, not directly.  one of the characters who was refusing to take medication was clearly cycling up and down, and i think that was the extent of it, aside from the introductory cuts of the young woman dancing.

more poignant were the descriptions of depression, of yearning for death and ending the pain.  that was all too familiar.  right on the mark, really.

but overall, the film was good.  did i see myself?  yes.  was i upset about it?  no…i think i’m in a new place to be open to this possibility without freaking the fuck out.  it is what it is.  let’s just hope i don’t cycle into depression again because i’m not sure i’ll survive the next one.

the post-movie panel was great, with a few especially memorable quips by the panel members.  one guy, a representative from dbsa who is bipolar himself, said, “isn’t stable a place to keep horses?” which i found fucking hilarious, but it didn’t translate so well when i tried to recreate the moment for a non-bipolar friend.  his response was more like “…”  i, on the other hand, was crying from laughing so hard.

the director, a mr. doug blush, said probably the most striking comment i’ve heard in reference to mental illness so far.  an audience member asked him why he personally was interested in making this film.  mr. blush went on to say how much he has learned about the mental health community, and how in the mainstream media, mental illness is always portrayed in such a destructive way, with extreme behaviors that don’t capture most of life with mental illness.  he said (paraphrasing), “i’m just so tired of seeing mental illness portrayed in this way, and i’m tired of the media making mental illness out to be the only illness in this country!”  i got the tingles when he said that.  poignant indeed.

if you want to check out the movie yourself, it’s now available on amazon and itunes.  i’m going to get it, just so i can watch the extra footage.  enjoy!