We all have a habit of judging someone as normal or not normal, placing them in the boxes we use to organize our myriad of thoughts and to guide our behaviour. I have been pushing myself to gain a broader perspective, or to use fewer boxes, when seeing the people around me, with less judgement and more empathy.
Oddly enough, I want to thank Netflix for providing shows for me to watch that portray individuals who display behaviours that are different for reasons sometimes unknown or sometimes stemming from mental illness. What has been truly amazing to me is watching the supporting characters to those individuals learn to live or work with them.
Let me tell you about three examples:
1) The Bridge
This is a Scandinavian crime television series featuring Saga Noren, who is a member of the Malmö County Police Department. It is suggested, but never stated, that she might have Asperger's syndrome or appears to fit somewhere on the autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) scale. She is portrayed, however, as "completely oblivious to social norms, but a brilliant and devoted police investigator".
Here is a little clip with a colleague to help you see her behaviour:
What caught my attention in the show's episodes was her captain who seemed to fully appreciate everything Saga was and accept everything she wasn't. Whenever her behaviour would move in an asocial direction, her captain had a wonderful way of redirecting her attention. He never overreacted -- just a gentle redirection.
River is a BBC One TV show about a detective named John River "who lives among the dead and dying victims and killers from the murder cases he’s trying to solve. Through time spent with these imagined lost souls, River is able to piece together the truth behind the crimes he investigates." Spoiler alert: it takes a while to figure out that River is actually talking to one particular lost soul -- but you begin to appreciate the reality of the situation for River.
This show reminded me not to judge and to be more empathic when I see someone interacting with themselves (or with others I can't see) or even just behaving differently.
3) Please Like Me
Please Like Me is an Australian television comedy drama series, dealing with realistic issues with humorous tones, featuring the main character, Josh, who finally comes to terms with being gay and not having any clear direction in life.
Josh's mom has been hospitalized following a suicide attempt, who deals with depression and displays manic behaviour. While in the hospital, Josh visits his mom and meets others in the same hospital with various mental health conditions. Josh has a wonderful way of speaking with these fellow patients as regular people and doesn't buy into their mania. But it is more than that...
Josh ends up dating Arnold, a young male patient who has been in and out of the hospital with severe anxiety attacks and depression.
One of the most gripping scenes was in Episode 25 (YouTube), called "Champagne". There is a scene where Arnold has a panic attack while in a giant observation wheel and Josh uses Arnold’s love of math to calm him down. The exchange is beautiful and heartwarming -- and provides a wonderful lesson in helping someone diffuse their anxiety. [Notice: profanity in play]
So now you have three more shows to add to your watch list...
And perhaps you will join me in throwing out some of those boxes?