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Bipolar Disorder, Psychosis and Films

R

RonPrice

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Location
George Town Tasmania Australia
WHEN A PSYCHOSIS IS FUNNY
...and when mental illness is stigmatized

Part 1:

Analyze This
is a 1999 gangster comedy film directed by Harold Ramis. He co-wrote the screenplay with playwright Kenneth Lonergan and Peter Tolan. The film starred Robert De Niro as a mafioso and Billy Crystal as his psychiatrist. A sequel, Analyze That, was released in 2002. I had the pleasure of watching these two comedy films about a mafia mobster who has a psychotic-break while in prison and several panic attacks outside prison. It was more than a dozen years, though, after these films were released before I watched them. That is the pattern now in the evening of my life. I have not been to the cinema in all the years of my retirement from paid-employment since back in 1999 when I lived in Western Australia. I wait, and eventually I can watch the movie on television.

Initially there was no plan to create a sequel to Analyze This, but the positive reaction generated by the first film encouraged the producers to consider a sequel and discuss it with the studio and actors. They believed, as Crystal put it, that: "There was an unfinished relationship between Ben Sobel and Paul Vitti, the psychiatrist and the mobster, from the first film" and "there was a good story to tell", so the sequel was commissioned. I leave it to readers with the interest to Google the story, the plot and the characters, the production and background details, the box office and reception/ratings the films received, the money which the films grossed, and all the who's whos.

Part 2:

In the last 50 years, since the first manifestations of bipolar disorder in my late teens, I have been stabilized on anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. In those same five decades, there have been an increasing number of films and TV series that deal with issues of mental health. I won't even try to summarize them all. They each deal, in their own ways, with specific disorders and, from time to time, with Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and the infancy and development of the psychoanalytic movement.

"Freud has never been more relevant," said David Cronenberg(1943- ) recently. Cronenberg is a Canadian filmmaker, screenwriter, and actor. He is one of the principal originators of what is commonly known as the body horror or venereal horror genre. "Because of Freud's understanding of what human beings are, and his insistence on the reality of the human body. We do not escape from that. Jung went into a kind of Aryan mysticism, whereas Freud was insisting on humans as we really are, not as we might want to be."2

Cronenberg points out in relation to some of his more extreme depictions of violence and sex, mental health issues and criminality that: "Different countries have different reactions to my depictions of somewhat extreme situations and topics..2 Some films are successful in some places; some not. What will play in Glasgow for three years non-stop will be taken off the air in a dozen or more Middle Eastern countries.......I'm interested in people who don't accept the official version of reality, but try to find out what's really going on under the hood."-Ron Price with thanks to 1Wikipedia, 7/2/'15; & 2Steve Rose, "David Cronenberg: Analyse this," The Guardian, 6 February 2012.

Part 3:

The psychotherapy used in these
movies, like that used in the TV
show, The Sopranos, raised all
sorts of questions about human
nature & morality; for example,
can a criminal mind be changed,
and committed to going straight?

What is the nature of a psychotic
break and can it be treated in the
short-term without medications &
therapy for years to come?.....Are
these portrayals of mental health
problems honest and accurate???
Ron Price 7/2/'15 to 9/2/'15.
---------------------------------
Mr JONES and ME
Part 1:

I saw the 1993 movie Mr Jones at some time during the years when I was retiring from FT, PT and volunteer-work, 1999 to 2005, and retiring from an extensive involvement in Baha’i community life.1 I had had a working life of 50 years, 1949 to 1999, and been involved in the earliest years-decades of community-building for Baha’is in Canada and Australia.

I don’t remember now exactly when I first saw Mr Jones, but I watched the last half of that same movie last night.2 In the movie Jones was diagnosed with manic-depressive illness in his late adolescence. He had several hospitalizations over more than 20 years. I, too, was diagnosed with a variant of manic-depressive illness. It was called a "schizo-affective state" at first, but a dozen years later psychiatrists gave it the name bipolar disorder. Jones talked about his serious suicide attempt at college; I have had suicidal ideation or the death-wish, as it is also and sometimes called, for more than half a century from 1963 to 2015.

Part 2:

Watching this movie made me reflect on my own experience and the result is this prose-poem.-Ron Price with thanks to 1 The Universal House of Justice, April 1996; and 2Mr Jones, 7TWO TV, 10:40-1:00 a.m., 23 & 24 March 2012.

Richard Gere is a lovely fellow;
Lena Olin is even more lovely.1
But bipolar disorder is not-so-
lovely & needs to be watched
all of one’s life. After Gere &
Olin form the bond that ends
the two hour movie I wonder
what happened to him in his
middle age, late adulthood &
old age…Did he come to full
compliance on his meds; did
he have more talk therapy or
did his battle continue with a
win-win as one likes to think.

1these were the leading actors in this film

Ron Price
24/3/'12 to 9/2/'15.
-------------------------------------------------
SOME REFLECTIONS ON MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES IN THE MOVIES

Part 1:

If I were a Hollywood actor in the last fifty years (1965-2015), to say nothing of films in the last seventy(1945-2015) years of my life, I would be calling my agent to be on the lookout for roles in which I could play a mentally troubled character. Just about every possible disorder finds its place in at least several, if not one or two dozen, films in the decades since WW2.

If I listed all the films, not to mention the TV series containing mental disorders, which I've seen in those 70 years, this prose-poem would go on far too long. I will, though, list some of the disorders themselves: antisocial, avoidant and borderline personality disorders; histrionic, narcissistic, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders; schizoid and schizoaffective personality disorders, inter alia. The list is legion, and the disorders I have mentioned are just a start.

Part 1.1:

I will list a few films I've seen since retiring from FT, PT and casual-work and enjoyed while on an old-age pension in the last decade: 2006 to 2015. Dustin Hoffman in the 1988 film Rain Man won an Academy Award for 'Best Actor in a Leading Role' for his portrayal of a man with autism; Kathy Bates earned her Oscar playing a woman with delusional disorder in Misery in 1990; the next year, Anthony Hopkins earned one for the role of a cannibal/serial killer, in the 2001 film Hannibal; in 1993 Holly Hunter was the mute heroine in the 1993 film, The Piano; 1994 produced Tom Hanks as the PTSD and mentally challenged but winning Forrest Gump; in 1995 there was the alcoholic-clinically depressed Nicholas Cage of Leaving Las Vegas; Geoffrey Rush won the Best Actor award in Shine for his 1996 performance as the schizoaffective pianist David Helfgott; 1997 was Jack Nicholson's turn in As Good As It Gets for doing obsessive compulsive disorder; James Coburn picked up his Oscar as the sadistic paranoid father in 1997's Affliction; and in 1999, Michael Caine was a narcotics addict and Angelina Jolie co-starred as a person with clinical depression or a sociopath of Girl, Interrupted. All of the following films featured BPD: Mr. Jones (1993), Pollock (2001), Sylvia (2003), Mad Love (1995), and Michael Clayton(2007).

Part 2:

Overall, the mass media do a poor job of depicting mental illness, with misinformation frequently communicated, unfavourable stereotypes of people with mental illnesses predominating, and psychiatric terms used in inaccurate and often offensive ways. People’s information and knowledge of mental health subjects comes, for the most part, from television. TV often perpetuates the stigma and the negative stereotypes by inaccurate depictions, misinformation and uninformed dramatic sketches. This has been part of the world of the mentally ill for centuries and it has been part of the backdrop of my own experience in these several epochs.

In some ways it is difficult to appreciate how far society has come in its knowledge and understanding; in other ways the problems are massive and complex. The list of activities performed by people and various organizations dedicated to struggle against stigma, though, is not only impressively long and wide-ranging, but provokes strong inspiration as well.

The year 1981, for example, was proclaimed the International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP) by the United Nations. It called for a plan of action with an emphasis on equalization of opportunities, rehabilitation and prevention of disabilities. The theme of IYDP was "full participation and equality", defined as the right of persons with disabilities to take part fully in the life and development of their societies, enjoy living conditions equal to those of other citizens, and have an equal share in improved conditions resulting from socio-economic development. By 2008 there were 3,900 athletes from 146 countries in Beijing at the paralympics. Although this extended discussion of the disabled portrayed in films and the disabled in sport is tangential to my BPD story, it is relevant to mention, en passant.

Part 3:

The illness I had suffered from, starting perhaps at my conception in 1943, had become, in some ways, a source of claim to fame. But it was not all a story of a new age of understanding. On television, that most popular story-teller in modern society, people negotiated their attitudes to and their understandings of different social and political issues of which mental illness/distress was but one. The most common disability portrayed on television during the years that my autobiography was being written, 1984-2015, has been mental illness/distress.
------------------------------
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SarahD

SarahD

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UK
That was very interesting, thank you.
 
W

white-witch

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Dark side of the moon
Very interesting and I will be looking to download 'Analyze This' and the sequel.

Thank you for sharing.

Take care X
 
R

RonPrice

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Joined
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Messages
94
Location
George Town Tasmania Australia
My appreciation goes out to the two senior members here who have responded. They both deserve a prize for their 100s and 100s of posts.-Ron Price, Tasmania
 
R

RonPrice

Well-known member
Joined
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Messages
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Location
George Town Tasmania Australia
After seeing the biographical drama film, A Beautiful Mind, twice: on 15 October 2013 and 12 September 2015, respectively, I put the following sequence of three pieces of prose & poetry together.-Ron Price, Australia
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A BEAUTIFUL MIND

Part 1:

A Beautiful Mind
is a 2001 American biographical drama film based on the life of John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics. I watched the film last night, a dozen years after its opening and after it had grossed some 400 million dollars. I won’t give you chapter and verse on: who wrote the screenplay and the novel on which it was based, who directed and produced it, who acted in it, and what awards it enjoyed. You can read all about this film in cyberspace at several sites of which Wikipedia1 was my main source.
The story is also one I only sketch here, FYI. The film begins in the early years of a young prodigy named John Nash. Early in the film, Nash begins developing paranoid schizophrenia and endures delusional episodes while painfully watching the loss and burden his condition brings on his wife and friends.

Part 2:

Like historical fiction novels, biographical film and drama cherry-pick aspects from the real life of the person concerned and the society, the mise-en-scene, in which they lived. All biography and autobiography, genres I’ve been studying and writing-in for the last 30 years, cherry-pick. I remember after writing the first draft of my autobiography during the years 1984 to 1993, just after I turned 40, I found the result so boring I could hardly bare reading it, and so began the next twenty years of my personal cherry-picking. Cherry-picking is not, therefore, a pejorative term; everyone has to do it as they survey their lives and try to give some sense and sensibility, context and texture, to what is often a rag-and-bone shop of everyday, quotidian reality, however moving and engrossing a life may be.

To make this film both more interesting, more entertaining and, as writers and film-makers know, more popular in the market-place a whole army of people, often called ‘the credits’, are involved. In addition, a certain poetic or literary license takes place, often unbeknownst to the casual reader or film-goer. Although this film was well received by critics, it has been criticized for its inaccurate portrayal of some aspects of Nash's life, especially his other family, his homosexuality, and a son born out of wedlock, and its treatment of paranoid schizophrenia. However, the filmmakers have stated that the film was not meant to be a literal representation.

Part 3:

The film begins in the late 1940s when John Forbes Nash, Jr.(192:cool: arrives at Princeton university. Nash is an American mathematician whose works in game theory, differential geometry, and partial differential equations have provided insight into the forces that govern chance and events inside complex systems in daily life. His theories are used in market economics, computing, evolutionary biology, artificial intelligence, accounting, politics and military theory. The film ends in 1994 when Nash, then serving as a Senior Research Mathematician at Princeton University, gets the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

In 2002, PBS produced a documentary about Nash titled A Brilliant Madness, which tells the story of this mathematical genius whose career was cut short by severe mental health problems. In his own words, he states:

″I spent times, of the order of five to eight months, in hospitals in New Jersey, always on an involuntary basis, and always attempting a legal argument for release. After I had been hospitalized long enough, I finally renounced my delusional hypotheses. I then reverted to thinking of myself as a human of more conventional circumstances; it was only then that I could return to my mathematical research. In these interludes of, as it were, enforced rationality, I did succeed in doing some respectable mathematical research.”

“Thus there came about the research for Le problème de Cauchy pour les equations différentielles d'un fluide général; the idea that Prof. Hironaka called "the Nash blowing-up transformation"; and those of Arc Structure of Singularities and Analyticity of Solutions of Implicit Function Problems with Analytic Data. After my return to the dream-like delusional hypotheses in the later 60's, I became a person of delusionally influenced thinking. My behaviour was relatively moderate, and thus tended to avoid hospitalization and the direct attention of psychiatrists.” -Ron Price with thanks to1Wikipedia, 15 October 2013.

TO A DEGREE: JOHN NASH, SCHIZOPHRENIA AND BPD

All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.--Swami Vivekananda

Part 1:

For many people, interaction with others provides most of what they require to find meaning and significance in life. It is the place where virtually everyone meets people, forms partnerships and marriage, raises children, and earns a living, among a host of other activities. For others, the ultimate and the most significant of meanings are obtained from other sources.

Creative activity is a particularly apt, indeed, highly rewarding way to express oneself. Creativity is an activity that is often solitary, although group creativity is just as, or even more, common in this modern age. The productions which result from creativity are often regarded as possessing value to society but, of course, not necessarily.

In my life, beginning as it did in the 1940s, solitariness has been unavoidable and essential in one way or another, and so has human interaction. After more than fifty years of extensive interaction (1949-1999), I had come to the point in my lifespan where my employment, my interaction with others, and my health were causing me to feel an immense weariness, a certain tedium vitae, to draw on an old Latin phrase. In the last year before I took an early retirement at the age of 55, I even had to take shots of testosterone to keep me going through my 15 hour days. Throughout the 1990s, as I headed into my final years of work as a teacher and lecturer, I increasingly felt the need for the solitary. I was moving, by sensible and insensible degrees, into a period in my life which I wanted to be characterized by a dominance of the solitary. I also wanted to write.

Part 2:

After some forty years, 1962 to 2002, of travelling-and-pioneering from place to place, and job to job, from one house to another, from one relationship to another, from deep and meaningful relationships to trivial, routine and difficult relationships, the time to finally stay in one place and, at the same time, to decrease the quantity of interaction with others seemed to have arrived. I was not entirely sure but, at the age of 55, I took a sea-change, moved to a little town where that human interaction would be minimal, and I could get off what had become life’s old treadmill for 60 to 80 hours a week. I could cease my work in life’s several salt mines, so to speak. I wanted--as I say--to write and, gradually in the decade from 1999 to 2009, when I went on an old-age pension, I reinvented myself as: a writer and author, poet and publisher, editor and researcher, reader and scholar, online blogger and journalist. As I write this in 2015, I now have millions of readers in cyberspace.

Back in the late 1990s I wanted, like Robert Redford, “to be a private man doing his own thing in a remote place.”2 Like Robert Redford, too, I had had trouble attaining this dominance of the solitary. Now, though, after nine years of retirement from: FT, PT and most volunteer work, 2007 to 2015, I have finally found that privacy, that remoteness and that solitary life.-Ron Price with thanks to: 1Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind: A Biography of John Nash, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1998, p.15; 2Minty Clinch, Robert Redford, New English Library, London, 1989, p.3.

There were always lots of people around.
back then in ’49, in ‘59, & again, & again.
They were unavoidable, essential to my way
of life. I accepted them like the air; they’d
always been there. And it stayed that way,
in one way or another, until just the other day
when it became just me and my wife,1 a couple
of shopkeepers, my son and my step-daughter
dropping in, many good-byes to the Baha’is,
lunch or dinner with family or friends: the quiet
life at last, at long last, much the same as it had
once been long ago during those first memories.2

Getting closer to solitude, but never really
there, probably never really attainable, not
totally, for this commitment, this vision, is
all part of what Holley called: ‘this social
religion’ and social it is, with solitariness
only really desireable to a degree, a degree.3

Ron Price
26/6/’99 to 13/9/’15.

1 My son moved out of home about the same time that I had given-up all FT and PT work, about 2004 at the age of 60. My wife and I were alone for the first time in our marriage, with an empty nest, since our relationship had begun back in about April 1974. Between the first draft of this prose-poem in 1999, and its last in 2015, my son married and he and his wife had a daughter. One of my step-daughters also had a child, and these new arrangements brought grandchildren into our lives. My second step-daughter also became a greater part of our lives because she was and had been a nurse for 25 years and had a useful caring-role.

2 My first memory goes back to about 1947 or 1948 when I was an only child of older parents and my personal life was relatively solitary.

3 I have been associated with the Baha’i Faith now for over 60 years, and this world religion, and its highly social emphasis, brings me even now in touch with people on a daily basis in one way or another. I keep this interaction, as I now go through my 70s, to about one hour a day on average, not counting the time with my wife. In August 2015, with terminal cancer in my life, I have become even more solitary.

PREAMBLE:

The year before I retired from FT employment as a teacher and lecturer, Sylvia Nasar published, with Simon and Schuster, A Beautiful Mind: A Biography of John Nash. This week I watched the film that was based on this book and its subsequent screenplay. I place the following prose-poem below and following, as it does, the above piece on the nature of the social-solitary continuum in my lifespan. I do this because the content of this prose-poem also draws on that same biography of John Nash.

Section 1:

A Beautiful Mind is a 2001 American biographical drama film based on the life of John Nash(1928- ). I have already discussed the film in some detail and will not repeat the details here. Early in the film, in 1959 in fact, Nash begins developing paranoid schizophrenia. That was a big year for me; I was 15 in 1959, and the home-run king in a little town in a region of Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe. That same year I also joined a Faith that claimed to be the latest of the Abrahamic religions.1

Nash went in and out of psychiatric hospitals until 1970, as I was planning to come to Australia from my home in Canada and to work in the city of Whyalla in the state of South Australia as a primary school teacher. The film ends with Nash receiving the Nobel Prize in 1994. By then I was looking forward to retirement from a 50 year student-and-employment life, 1949 to 1999.

Like most biographical drama, the film takes considerable literary or poetic license with the story. It is the same with historical fiction. If people want more accuracy in the lives of those about whom personal drama and bio-pics are made, they have to go to biography; even then biographers have a certain stance, a certain take, on the person concerned. That is why some critics of the genre say that a true biography can never be written.


Section 2:

In 2002 PBS produced a documentary about Nash entitled A Brilliant Madness which tells the story of the mathematical genius whose career was cut short by severe mental health problems. I took a special interest in this film because I suffered, during my eight decades in the lifespan, from several mental health issues beginning with ‘a mild schizo-affective disorder’ and, then, bipolar 1 disorder, among other mental health problems. In the 400 page overview of my experience I mention several other mental health problems that I have had to deal with.3 -Ron Price with thanks to: 1The Baha’i Faith, 2Wikipedia, 16/10/’13, and 3Ron Price, 72 Years of A Chaos Narrative now located at several mental health sites.

Section 3:

Your visual hallucinations
were not on the spectrum
of my paranoid experience;
yours lasted much longer
than mine with or without
the medications; I only got
hit in two episodes, but ECTs
and medications sorted me out.

Problems with what is called
compliance were not as bad in
my case. I thought that the film
could have been more accurate
in its handling of the treatment
for paranoid schizophrenia; the
film’s use of the insulin shock
therapy frightened the pants off
of the millions in the population
who saw the film, gave psychiatry
yet another pejorative pubic-image,
and discouraged people with mental
health disorders: schizophrenia, BPD,
and other mental health sufferers from
taking medication….thus simplifying
what is a very complex health problem.

Ron Price
16/10/’13 to 13/9/’15.

STILL IN THE DARK

Part 1:

A Beautiful Mind was directed by Ron Howard, from a screenplay written by Akiva Goldsman. It was inspired by a bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-nominated 1998 book of the same name by Sylvia Nasar. The film stars Russell Crowe, along with Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly, among others, in supporting roles. The story begins in 1947, the early years of a young prodigy named John Nash and continues, episodically, through to the 1980s.

Nash is given a course of insulin shock therapy and eventually released. Frustrated with the side-effects of the antipsychotic medication he is taking, which make him lethargic and unresponsive, he secretly stops taking it. This causes a relapse and the manifestations of his paranoid schizophrenia returns.

Part 2:

The film opened in the United States cinemas on December 21, 2001. It went on to gross over $313 million worldwide and win four Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress. It was also nominated for Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup, and Best Original Score.

We may not leave the cinema with A level competence in game theory, but we do get a glimpse into what it feels like to be mad - and not know it. I had already had such a glimpse of this ‘madness’ back in 1968 and 1977 when I experienced “a mild schizo-affective state,” had eight shock treatments, and several different medications.

Part 3:

Sylvia Nasar, who wrote the 1998 biography that informs Akiva Goldsman's screenplay, begins her book by quoting Wordsworth about "a man forever voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone." The setting in the late 40s through to the 1980s calls to mind aspects of the Cold War, and changes in society from the 1950s to the 1980s. Nash observes: "Without his 'madness,' Zarathustra would necessarily have been only another of the millions or billions of human individuals who have lived and then been forgotten."1-Ron Price with thanks to Roger Ebert, 21/12/’01 at Roger Ebert.com.

My mind was filled with
paranoid ideas that were
hit on the head by ECTs,
drugs for neuropsychiatric
symptoms. I went on to live
a relatively normal life as the
meds got better and better, the
issues surrounding mental illness
continued to keep pundits as busy
as ever, and the public for the most
part in the dark in an increasingly
complex world with a tempest
unprecedented in its magnitude
sweeping the face of the earth, and
harrowing-up the souls of its inhabitants.
I went on to live a voyaging
through those strange seas
of thought that old William
wrote about so expansively
in his Prelude, & I wrote so
expansively in my Pioneerng
Over Five Epochs, or Four!!1

1 The Prelude or, Growth of a Poet's Mind; An Autobiographical Poem is an autobiographical conversation poem] in blank verse by the English poet William Wordsworth. Intended as the introduction to the more philosophical Recluse, which Wordsworth never finished. The Prelude is an extremely personal and revealing work on the details of Wordsworth's life. Wordsworth began The Prelude in 1798 at the age of 28 and continued to work on it throughout his life.

My autobiographical prose-poem was begun by sensible and insensible degrees in the 1980s and 1990s. I have continued working on it in this 21st century.

Ron Price
13/9/’15.
---------------------------
End of document
 
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