Yesterday I saw “Silver Linings Playbook,” a movie where actor Bradley Cooper plays a man suddenly hospitalized for undiagnosed bipolar disorder after a (provoked?) violent incident. He leaves the hospital after 8 months instead of serving jail time.
The movie, I felt, was a fairly accurate portrayal of many things related to mental illness, and particularly bipolar disorder.
- The ups and downs of a person finding stability after a mood disorder incident. It’s not a straight line of increased stability.
- A person trying to fit into society again after hospitalization. One gets used to the routine of an institution within days. Now imagine months. Of course a person says things out of context.
- The obsession with the one way you think recovery looks like for you. And the surprise when months later your more healthy life is completely different from what you thought.
- The unhelpfulness of a family member’s own obsessive behaviors. Patrick’s father’s various OCD and obsessive superstitions was not helpful during the part of Patrick’s recovery we see in the movie, and likely not helpful during his growing up years either as the illness began to manifest.
- The importance of a support system to the recovery process. Patrick could not have found some stability and healthy ways of living without people who challenged him and supported him – friends and family. And those who treated him as the way he was before, and those who adapted with him as he changed.
- The reality that people in your support system won’t get it right all the time – or at all. Some people will stay away from you while you are in the hospital and while you might still be easily triggered. Some people will want to help too much and coddle you. Some will completely not understand what you have been through, what you are going through, or what you hope to happen, AND they won’t ask because they don’t know how. And others will try and get it right most of the time.
- The depiction of how it feels to be triggered. Patrick responded to a song trigger with fear or paranoia, sometimes with violence or anger, and with vulnerability, shock and paralysis. I explained to my significant other that what he portrayed was EXACTLY how I felt when I was triggered, whether I showed the same behaviors or not. That struck a chord for our family.
- The importance of routine and schedule to recovery. Patrick finally finds some hope and moves toward health by sticking to a commitment. It even includes physical exercise.
Overall, I thought “Silver Linings Playbook” is a good movie to help people with and without mental illness better understand and sympathize with those who live with mental illness. My main criticism is that the movie didn’t show how long it took for Patrick to recover. In the movie, it might have been a couple months. But it would be more realistic if the events occurred over a period of 6-12 months or so.
Definitely go see this movie!