It was with some trepidation that I sat down to watch “My Mad Fat Diary”. It had been well advertised on television, across Channel 4’s network, and with the inevitable six degrees of separation it meant that friends on Facebook had some involvement with its production. The result being a continuous stream of reminders appearing on my newsfeed. I knew it would be close to home, dealing with issues that I share, and I’d like to say the anxiety I had was because I wondered just how psychiatric in-patients would be treated. Would this be another “look at them, they’re different, isn’t that funny.” The fear being baseless, I’ve always thought Channel 4 has had a history of dealing with difficult issues rather well (to their credit they gave warnings before the programme started and offered website links for help)
The real reason, however, was much simpler. I was just worried about the parallels it could draw with my own life. My own recovery and readjustment to life outside a psych unit.
Watching, it soon became apparent my fears of similarities were well founded, but contrary to what I had convinced myself, I found it engaging. Enthralling. I saw a character that was not just a work of fiction, a character I could connect with. That struggled with the same challenges I had, and still do. From issues with continuity of care, to self-image and even with the relationships that form between patients.
Rae, the main character and narrator of the programme never mentions her diagnosis. In a way she doesn’t have to. It’s told through her interactions, her relationships. What we are told, as the viewer, is her crutch. The way she would binge eat as a form of support when the world seemed too much to handle. Now, in recovery she no longer wants to continue the pattern, something I’m sure many of us with have stories of struggle. In my case, probably somewhat unsurprisingly being from Glasgow, it was drink. Used to self-medicate, with the obvious, disastrous consequences. But I could see myself in Rae as she tries to break habits forged by dark thoughts and bleak corners of the mind. She shows us that it’s not easy but far more importantly she show, it can be done. That there is hope.
The more I watched, the more I wanted to be with someone who hadn’t been hospitalised, who hadn’t a history of mental disorders. Someone who didn’t have these experiences first hand. Would they identify as strongly? Would we laugh at the same jokes?
I don’t know where Rae’s story will go from here, but I do know I want to find out. Just as I discover mine.
Also posted at Mind.org.uk