Good morning to the freshies, to Dr. Wilter Friales, to the NSTP facilitators, and to the paid laughers and clappers I scattered around this gymnasium. This is such a wonderful day, essentially for me. It’s not every day that I get asked to speak of mental health, the thing I am passionate with and striving to achieve.
Most of all, this day motivated me to shave my facial hair and dress properly. For the past few days, I had been pulling off a shirt and layer it with jacket to hide my laziness.
I teach Student Development Session for the first time. Where my kids at? Secure your attendance kids, because I won’t do it again.
Wellness and development are topics I handle every week, so my students—if they’re not checking their Twitter accounts on my time—kind of know my progressive stance on these. However, this is still different, because I’m given a longer time, unlike the usual class, which is once a week, one hour.
Because of the time limitation, I talk too fast, not go to the bathroom even if I badly needed to, and most importantly, my students complain because I do not have the time to show my talents at singing, dancing, debating, rapping Hamilton lyrics, playing the guitar, running 21 kilometers, cooking pasta, reciting pop culture references, and knotting a cherry stem with my tongue for 15 minutes. Because I am humble and the kindest person in the planet, I would not make the class about me.
I am a believer that art is supposed to expose us on the subversive, unnamable, disgusting, complex human condition.
This talk on mental health is divided into four sections. First, I am going to discuss the common mental illnesses we may have to deal with in this world. Second, I am going to talk about the common misconceptions surrounding mental health, and why we should stop the stigma. Third, it’s about why the hell am I here? Here’s the time when you can live tweet and not listen to me. Suggested hashtags: #BoringSaturday #ThanksForListeningToMyTedTalk #Kloydes2Cents #KloydeFinallyShaves #AsAFreshie #WillDelete. Fourth, I am going to pull you back again for my suggestions on how we can ensure our mental health and other’s mental health are in check.
I got 2.00 on Public Speaking and 2.50 on PE4 (Team Sports), which means to say that quantitatively, I am not the best speaker for you. To digress: when Sir Friales invited me to be the resource person, I was like, sure sir. Deep inside, I was like, the hell; is he okay? Who wants to listen to a 5 ft. 6 inches brown guy who looks like the little brother of Enchong Dee and Aladdin on a controversial topic as this?
So there, on this mental health meditation, I need a help from Atty. Netflix and Dr. Crazy-ex girlfriend to make up for all the speaking talent that I lack. If you aren’t aware of this underrated romantic-comedy musical series which I predict will be a cult classic, it’s my honor to summarize to you the series. Wikipedia, do your job!
Rebecca Bunch, a Yale- and Harvard-educated lawyer based from New York City meets Josh Chan, a Filipino-American dancer she briefly dated, across the street. She impulsively decides to leave her high-paying job and follow Josh to West Covina, California, thinking that it will bring her true happiness. Simple story right? You could have said, she’s crazy! But in the words of Rebecca, the situation is a lot more nuanced than that.
Crazy ex-girlfriend hooked me up as soon as I found out this is a weird musical that alludes a lot of pop culture trope living in our skin: from Backstreet Boys to Spice Girls to Madonna to Blink 182. Wait, you are in a different generation, so aside from the previous pastiches I said, here are some of the song parodies: Let’s have intercourse is to Thinking out loud by Ed Sheeran, Love kernels is to Lemonade album by Beyonce, I’m so maternal is to Uptown funk by Bruno Mars, and so on.
I have never seen a show as progressive and irreverent as this. This Netflix series might not comfort you as it attempts to make you laugh while navigating radical topics, like feminism, human relationships, mental illnesses, family, suicide, abortion, and sexual liberation.
I am a believer that art is supposed to expose us on the subversive, unnamable, disgusting, complex human condition. This is not to say that Crazy ex-girlfriend is a reckless show. In fact, it’s one of the few shows (looking at you, 13 reasons why) that do not glamorize mental health as cute, or sexy. It handles intrusive thoughts as how it should be. That is why I think, to exemplify such mental illnesses, Crazy ex-girlfriend is the most appropriate and most relatable.
I could go on at length just praising the whole show, but this is not what this talk is all about. So let’s keep the ball rolling.
Some Mental Illnesses
The thing with the mind is it is very intricate. There are a lot of labels one can draw to differentiate mental illnesses, from bipolar disorder to ADHD to eating disorders to borderline personality disorder to phobia and so on. I must admit that I do not have the authority to comprehensively talk about all of them, so I will only be covering at least five common mental illnesses that the show has discussed. I will distinguish such illnesses, give its signs and symptoms, and relate to the show Crazy ex-girlfriend.
Generalized anxiety disorder.
In my research (and by research, I mean Google) generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), “is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things. People with GAD may anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues.”
Trust me, it is natural to react anxiously in this world that always breaks our hearts. Something could be wrong with you if you won’t be worried on your examination especially if you did not study right? However, not everyone reacts and controls intrusive thoughts the same way.
According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the signs and symptoms of anxiety disorder are:
- Feeling nervous, irritable or on edge
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
- Having an increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation), sweating, and/or trembling
- Feeling weak or tired
- Difficulty concentrating
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
One of my favorite songs in this show is Thought Bubbles, sung by Josh Chan. It funnily depicts what it is like to worry about the future, with him growing up, having problematic relationships, and finding a better work.
Social anxiety disorder.
Related to, but different from generalized anxiety disorder is social anxiety disorder. National Institute of Mental Health explains it as “symptoms of anxiety or fear in certain or all social situations, such as meeting new people, dating, being on a job interview, answering a question in class, or having to talk to a cashier in a store. Doing everyday things in front of people—such as eating or drinking in front of others or using a public restroom—also causes anxiety or fear. The person is afraid that he or she will be humiliated, judged, and rejected.”
On social situations, people with social anxiety disorder tend to:
- Blush, sweat, tremble, feel a rapid heart rate, or feel their “mind going blank”
- Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach
- Show a rigid body posture, make little eye contact, or speak with an overly soft voice
- Find it scary and difficult to be with other people, especially those they don’t already know, and have a hard time talking to them even though they wish they could
- Be very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed and awkward
- Be very afraid that other people will judge them
- Stay away from places where there are other people
In the show, Rebecca Bunch was not diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. However, when she sets a house warming party in West Covina, she regresses into childhood and insists that she has many friends. But with her rough childhood and awkwardness, we doubt that objectively she can say that she has all the friends.
The author Carol Galbicsek defines alcoholism as severe form of alcohol abuse and involves the inability to manage drinking habits. People think that by drinking alcohol, they can cope with loss and shame, and get rid of their anxiety and stress. Alcohol addiction, like severe dependence on cigarettes and drugs, is a brain disease.
From the same source, here are the different signs of alcoholism:
- Being unable to control alcohol consumption
- Craving alcohol when you’re not drinking
- Putting alcohol above personal responsibilities
- Feeling the need to keep drinking more
- Spending a substantial amount of money on alcohol
- Behaving differently after drinking
Greg Serrano, Rebecca’s other man, struggled with alcoholism. Despite his addiction, he is seen by fans as one of the most mature. He comes into terms with his alcoholism after realizing his behavioral changes through a group therapy like the Alcoholics Anonymous. In the song ‘Greg’s Drinking Song,’ which similarly mirrors the song The Times they are a-changing by Bob Dylan, Greg admits he can’t control his glasses of beer, but assures his friends that they can still drink moderately.
The National Institute for Mental Health enumerates the different factors that affect depression, such as genetics, brain chemistry, and serious life events. It is normal to feel sad and grieve at a loss of a loved one, or a failure during an exam. However, if sadness lingers for at least two weeks, and one can barely function, one may be suffering from depression:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms
Others even may live with depression without sadness or trigger. It may come from nowhere. Suddenly, depressives just hate themselves. They had lost motivation on some things they used to enjoy, like studying, working, and so on. The widely used analogy to it is a ‘downward spiral.’ They may also have lost their confidence to show up.
Another thing is that anxiety and depression often coexist. If you have depression, you most likely are anxious. If you are anxious, you most likely have depression.
This song (sorry for the language) is titled ‘You stupid bitch.’ This is the most popular song in the show, as many people can relate to it. This shows some of the symptoms of depression: chronic self-hating, frustration, pressuring herself, and regretting her life decisions. She also likens herself to the broken glass from her window.
Okay, so I am aware that it contains strong language, but I just want to show how it feels like to have depression. I do not condone the use of such language. If you want to file for a complaint because talks on depression do not make you comfortable, go tell it to the police and tell them my name is Salvador Panelo.
Suicidal ideation/suicidal thoughts.
Last, we have suicidal ideation.This is a very serious issue. Here are people who do not find any reason to live their lives, or they cannot see any future for them, so they think of suicide as the only option. It is a difficult conversation, and you may never hear someone opening up they want to end their lives before they really end their lives. I must admit that it’s very complex, and others do not even send signals. But if one says he/she is going to take his/her life, you should take him/her seriously.
What I am trying to say is, again, suicide can be prevented if we listen well to the indications. If we open our doors for them. If there is a support telling them they may not go to the darkest place.
This may be the most emotional part on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Every time I watch this, I can’t help but be sad and cry. Rebecca Bunch attempted suicide by swallowing a number of pills.
For me, this is one of the most realistic portrayal of suicide. It does not have any shock value, and according to the writers of the show, they consulted therapists and experts to discuss this scene. According to the creator Aline Brosh McKenna, “when there’s that little burst of hope and when that’s taken away from her, she really doesn’t know what to do. I think she feels she’s really out of options in that moment.”
Anxiety, depression, alcoholism, suicide. These are serious health illnesses, and they are not ought to be a punchline for our jokes. These labels have proper definitions, so we have to use them appropriately. Don’t say, ‘I am depressed,’ if you mean you missed out on the BlackPink concert. Don’t call someone ‘crazy’ or ‘insane.’ Even Crazy ex-girlfriend’s storyline proves that Rebecca is not to be called as one. If you are Team Kathniel, don’t tell the Team Jadine to go kill themselves as it trivializes suicide.
It’s nice to help become the solution, isn’t it? We have come a very long way that we have one Netflix show representing how it is to struggle with mental illnesses and hope for better things. And though not all of us are psychology majors or doctors having an upper hand on understanding these illnesses, we can significantly be an agent of change if we help end the stigma surrounding mental health.
TO BE CONTINUED…
*First of the four-part speech I delivered on the NSTP class in Notre Dame of Marbel University.