BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - This week, I took a trip to the movies to watch Silver Linings Playbook. The plot follows Pat, played by Bradley Cooper, a man diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Throughout the movie, you watch Pat attempt to control the "craziness inside me" while also attempting to reconcile with his ex-his wife with whom he has been separated since he suffered a violent psychotic break. Things get a little tricky when Pat befriends Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who also has her own set of issues.
In short, it's a love story for the modern, screwed up world. Oh, and it's funny too.
The irony in the whole situation is that while Pat, who compulsively spits out every thought in his head along with a few thoughts in everyone else's, is attempting to find his silver lining, everyone around him is obviously dealing with some sort of issue behind closed doors. His father has signs of OCD, with a touch of bipolar. His best friend suffers from anxiety. Tiffany openly talks about her depression and struggles to overcome it.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking part of the whole movie comes when Pat's dad apologizes for not spending enough time with him as a child.
"It was your thing. I didn't know how to handle it," he tearfully told him.
Mental illness is one of those subjects people don't like to talk about. Being "crazy" is socially unacceptable and therefore shameful. (One could argue that we're all a little crazy, but I digress. For more on that subject, I'll refer you to The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton.) For the most part, mental disorders and diseases are taboo.
That's why I loved Silver Linings Playbook. It talks about the complex struggles that happen when the brain or body misfires. And, it does this in a way that is completely relatable.
You see Pat's tug of war between wanting to fix himself through will power and his genuine need for medication. You see his family struggling to address his condition and cope with it. You see the awkward social situations as his friends tip toe around Pat's mood swings.
Then you realize, I've been there before.
I would wager that we've all known someone who has struggled with depression, addiction or any number of mental issues. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of conversation in how to handle these situations.
When pop culture begins to embrace what Tiffany calls the "dirty, sloppy" sides of humanity, the rest of us begin talking about it and, more importantly, learning about it. We begin to realize that mental illness isn't something to lock in a closet and hope it will go away. It has to be acknowledged by those suffering from it and by those witnessing it. Fortunately, the silver lining for all of this is that there is help out there for every situation if you know where to look.
Baton Rouge has some great resources when it comes to dealing with everything from addiction to body image issues, from depression to anxiety.
The Baton Rouge Crisis Center for example, is manned 24-7 with a crisis hotline and online chat line. There you can find a trained counselor who will confidentially talk with you about any crisis in your life, whether it is suicidal thoughts or simply an overwhelming day at work. No judgment allowed. They can also point you in the right direction to find more help.
That number, by the way, is (225) 924-3900 or toll-free at (800) 437-0303.
The Cenikor Foundation is another great resource. Cenikor is a long term recovery residential treatment center designed to help people with chronic substance abuse. It prides itself on being a therapeutic community, addressing the whole person in treatment.
You can contact them at (225) 218-1960.
In addition to these two groups, Baton Rouge is full of counselors and churches and people willing and able to help with the struggles of mental issues. Like so many conditions today, having a mental disorder is not a death sentence. With the right treatment and help, it can be managed.
I realize that not every case or condition is cut and dry, nor are they always easily treated. There are conditions that make people severely ill, even violent.
However, the hardest part is taking that first step. There is no shame in admitting that you can't handle something on your own and getting help.
When it comes to "crazy," I like what Julia Sugarbaker, the lead character in Designing Women, says:
"I'm saying this is the South. And we're proud of our crazy people. We don't hide them up in the attic. We bring 'em right down to the living room and show 'em off. See, Phyllis, no one in the South ever asks if you have crazy people in your family. They just ask what side they're on."
Personally, they're on both sides of mine. How about you?