Of Two MindsPosted: March 11, 2012
I was flipping channels tonight and stumbled upon the premiere of Lifetime’s Of Two Minds, a movie about a woman, Billie, who takes responsibility for Baby, her sister with schizophrenia, after their mother dies. Billie is played by Kristin Davis who is best known as Charlotte on Sex and the City. It should come as no surprise that I sobbed uncontrollably throughout.
Despite my emotional reaction, I have to give Of Two Minds a mixed review:
Thumbs up for:
- Incorporating Billie’s estrangement from her Mom and the loss of parental attention, time, and interest which is commonly experienced by many siblings of people with mental illness. The movie only lightly touched on this. In the hospital, Billie has a chance to talk with her mom before she dies. Instead of using this time to express her love for Billie, her mom focuses on Baby and asks Billie to care for her. I’m not sure anyone who hasn’t grown up like this can fully understand how painful it is to feel like you don’t matter to your parents. I would have liked to have seen a greater emphasis how parental favoritism creates tension in even adult sibling relationships despite the fact it isn’t the sibling’s fault.
- Accurate portrayal of the emotional rollercoaster. The hope felt when the sibling is doing well and the anguish when the sibling relapses. You think for a moment, “This is it. This time she’s really going to get better!” But it doesn’t last. There is always a relapse. You learn to temper your hope so the relapses are less devastating. You learn to live in the good moments, the normal moments, because they are fleeting.
- Communicating a family member’s almost painful desire for the best life possible for the one with mental illness and the ongoing sadness that comes with knowing whatever that life turns out to be, it will never measure up to what you wished for them.
- The multidimensionality of Baby’s character. She is not presented as a freak but as a real person, someone scared, at times hopeful, grieving the losses inflicted by her illness, emotionally hungry yet distrustful. One scene that made me sob was Baby sitting on the porch at her Aunt’s ranch. She is doing well, really well. Billie asks if she’s going to call it a night and Baby says she wants to stay up just a little while longer and enjoy what its like to feel normal.
Can I just stop for a moment and say how much I HATE this devastating category of disease we call mental illness?
Thumbs down for:
- Inadequate portrayal of the often deplorable housing options available to people with mental illness particularly those who do not have financial support from family. Billie is able to pay for Baby to live at a nice facility with full-time professional care. Sadly, most of us are not able to do this for our siblings. And if we are, do these places even actually exist? In Durham? I’d like to know where. There is a scene in the movie where Billie visits a room and board option in a bad neighborhood but I can tell you, even that looks like middle class compared to the group home and boarding houses where Jerri spent time after first coming to Durham.
- Lack of depth in Billie’s character. You don’t walk away with a strong sense of her childhood pain or the raging conflict she feels about the situation thrust upon her. The movie tries to depict Billie’s desire to give her sister a good life without having to give up her own life but it falls short somehow. She comes across as insensitive and self-focused. You wind up feeling more compassion for Baby when you should have empathy for Billie.
- The seemingly magical resolution of what to do with Baby. Billie is told there is a three year waiting list for most assisted-living facilities yet when she and her family decide Baby can’t live with them, suddenly a spot opens up at a idyllic ranch-like property. Really? If only it worked like that in real life!
It’s been a tough week for us here. Jerri is going through an episode right now which made watching some of Baby’s episodes even more difficult. Jerri has had gastrointestinal issues and she stopped taking her antipsychotic, Latuda, because she said it made her nauseous. Whenever she goes off this med, the impact is physical, emotional, and mental. Physically, she clenches her jaw, her lips protrude, she moves awkwardly as if her brain is not communicating with her muscles. She talks fast and can’t stay on track in a conversation. She becomes almost incoherent. She gets wild-eyed and cries easily. She calls and gives orders like “You and Stan have to go to Walmart and get an antenna for my TV” or leaves half messages like “I’m done trying to be friends with Catherine, because . . . [click].”
I spoke to her Internist’s nurse and she fears Jerri is dehydrated. Jerri needs to go to the hospital but refuses. She said after they discovered she was bipolar the last time, the ER couldn’t get rid of her fast enough. I don’t doubt this at all and knowing they will treat her differently if I’m there, I promised to go with her. She still won’t go. Telecare can’t help in this situation since the health issue is physical, not mental. (Exasperating given “mental illness” is actually a chemical imbalance in the brain so yes, it too is physical!) All I can do is check in periodically to see if she is better or if she’s ready to try the hospital.
So while the closing credits have rolled on Lifetime’s Of Two Minds, the drama at my house continues.