I’m not a big fan of Lady Gaga’s music, but I must admit that, sometimes, she’s a good role model for teens looking for acceptance. She’s also been a huge supporter of the gay community and worked hard on anti-bullying campaigns which has become a very important mission in my life.
I am a total Gleek (fan of Glee combining the words Glee and Geek), and I just watched the “Born This Way” episode of Glee where the kids and teachers all learn to take that one thing that they hate the most about themselves, own it, learn to love it, and tell the world about it.
I could relate to Rachel hating her big nose; I have a big beak myself…and it’s a little crooked.
However, the thing that got to me the most was Emma, the school counselor with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) who openly admits her OCD to the Glee Club and goes to see a therapist to get a handle on it.
I have dug and dug around looking for a clip of Emma’s therapy session online, but I have come up empty handed. But trust me when I say that the scene was so moving and so inspiring and touched me on a very personal level.
While I do not have OCD, I can relate to Emma’s character having a mental illness that prevents her from fully functioning in our society. I know how it feels to be out of control and scared. I have dysthymia, a chronic depressive and anxiety disorder. I also understand the stigma surrounding mental illness and those who have them as explained by Emma’s therapist.
Therapist: “There’s a stigma, in this country, about mental illness. I mean, depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar…they’re hard to diagnose so people don’t understand that they’re serious problems, but they are.”
Emma: “I don’t know. You know I’m not sure I want to lay on a couch and tell some stranger all of my secrets. And I don’t want to start popping pills just so I can turn into something that other people want me to be. This is how I am. This is who I’m supposed to be. “
Therapist: “Your illness is not who you’re supposed to be. It’s keeping you from who you’re supposed to be. Look, you’re a guidance counselor, right? So, if a student came to you and said they had diabetes, would you give them insulin or would you say, ‘Hey, that’s just who you’re supposed to be!’?”
Emma: “I just feel so ashamed.”
At the end of the episode, the glee club does a performance for themselves of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” with t-shirts showing what they are embarrassed about themselves or hate about themselves that they have come to terms with and want to share with their fellow glee clubbers. While Emma’s original shirt to inspire the kids into participating said, “Ginger”, after her therapy session and taking an SSRI (an anti-depressant medication given to her by the doctor), she chooses a new shirt telling everyone about her OCD.
What an amazing episode. While I fully enjoyed the previous episodes where they treated Emma’s OCD like a cute little quirk, the fact that they took it to a new level and chose to make it something serious and show everyone out there that mental illness is real, not something to be ashamed of and that taking medications such as anti-depressants for depression is really no different than taking insulin for diabetes, getting chemo for cancer, or using an inhaler for asthma.
And before you tell me that these conditions can be life threatening, untreated depression and anxiety can also be life threatening. Untreated mental illnesses can lead to suicidal thoughts, and that’s just the obvious. People with untreated mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder get less physical activity, go through stints of not eating healthy, engage in risky activities, can become addicted to dangerous drugs and alcohol, and a host of other problems.
I want to thank Glee and Lady Gaga for helping to shed light on mental illness and stigma surrounding it. It’s okay to have a mental illness. It’s okay to take medication (something I am just now coming to terms with), and it’s important to seek help.
It’s inspired me to think about possibly revealing my identity on here, though I don’t want to make any hasty decisions. It’s easy to act and pretend to have a problem and put it out there on television. It’s different to live it everyday and show the world who you are, like this brave young woman.
If you are ready to show the world who you really are, announce that you were “Born This Way” and help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.