Welcome to the NHK is a manga/anime series about Tatsuhiro Satō, a NEET dealing with panic attacks, agoraphobia, and paranoia; and a mysterious girl named Misaki Nakahara, who offers to cure him of his agoraphobia, if he will sign a contract promising to meet with her every day.
Unbeknown to him, Misaki is also dealing with her own problems (the death of her parents, abuse, and symptoms of borderline personality disorder). Similar to Benny and Joon, the romance in Welcome to the NHK is between two people who feel unwanted by others and society.
My favorite aspect of this series is that audience is meant to identify and sympathize with a protagonist with mental illness. No diagnoses are given (they never see any mental health professionals in the course of the series), but symptoms (such as panic attacks or black and white thinking) are portrayed accurately.
On the cons side, their relationship is pretty codependent, but is essentially depicted as the solution to their problems. Also, a chunk of the plot pertains to Tatsuhiro developing an erotic game with his friend, so there is a lot of (arguably sexist) sexual content that some might want to avoid.
Call the Midwife: Series 3 Episode 7
Any episode of Call the Midwife leaves me a sobbing mess, but this one hit me pretty hard. While I didn’t deal with postpartum paranoia, compulsions, or psychosis, I did deal with postpartum depression and intrusive thoughts.
Anytime I’ve seen postpartum mental illness in media, it’s either been for laughs (see Futurama) or sensationalism (see most procedural crime shows). However, CTM included a detail that may not seem obvious to viewers: the mother wanted and loved her baby.
The problem is not a lack of concern for her baby, but that her psychosis plays on her concerns. She is worried about her bond with her baby, worried about her milk coming in, and worried about her baby staying safe and clean, which are all normal worries for new mothers. However, her brain’s reactions to and solutions for these concerns are not grounded in reality, and she needs treatment and time to heal.
They show the father’s struggle with stigma and the mother’s resulting isolation. They show both the scariness and effectiveness of ECT. Most importantly, they show the mother’s continual desire to be close to her baby physically and emotionally.
Call the midwife is generally very compassionate to those with mental illness and developmental disabilities. My only complaint is that they portray illnesses such as PTSD and Agoraphobia as suddenly cured by witnessing a birth. While intense events can often be the turning points in mental health/family functionality, I would also expect setbacks in the course of recovery.
I thought about Momma and all the crazy things she did and said. Though I didn’t want to admit it, a part of me missed her. Not the way she was before she died, but the way she was before she got sick.
I had been ashamed of her for so long that any good memories had been distorted and smudged by her illness. I’d forgotten how much fun she was when I was real little, how she’d tell me bedtime stories about fairies who used daisies as umbrellas, how she’d buy me coloring books and sit at the table and help me pick out what crayons I should use.
My chest ached when I remembered how often she had said, “Promise you’ll never leave me.”
I could smell her Shalimar perfume, and I could feel the gentleness of her kiss on my cheek.
And then they came. Tears. Hot and stinging.
Not tears for me, for my shame, or for all the things I feared about the future. They were tears for Momma: the haunting sadness she felt— the years her illness had slashed out of her life— her tragic death.
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman, pg 239-241
We exited the room as a tiny, bow-legged woman in a floral housedress shuffled from the doorway across the hall. “Y’all better hurry,” she said with a wide, denture-clicking smile. “Louis Armstrong is here. We’re gonna sing a duet together in the dinin’ room.”
As the woman scuttled down the hall in a pair of green terrycloth slippers, I turned to Oletta. “Wow. Louis Armstrong is here? Can we listen to him sing?”
Oletta leaned close and whispered, “Louis Armstrong ain’t here. He’s only here in poor Miz Pearson’s mind. But the nurses let her believe he’s here ‘cause that’s the only way they can get her to take a bath.”
Through an open window the scratchy sound of a worn-out record began and a moment later Louis Armstrong, accompaniewd by Miz Pearson, began singing “What a Wonderful World.”
When the song ended, Miz Pearson shuffled out to the porch, blowing kisses like a celebrity. “How’d I sound?” she asked.
"Olive, you was great,"Sapphire said. "Ella Fitzgerald ain’t got nothin’ on you."
Miz Pearson beamed, we all clapped, and then a nurse cam and gently led her back inside.
It was such a small thing, letting Miz Pearson sing along to an old record. It caused no harm and made her so happy. I thought about Momma, how she was happiest when she could live in her imaginary world of beauty pageants. And as crazy as that world was, I knew that if my father would have listened to me and taken her to a special hospital, she’d still be alive.
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, by Beth Hoffman, pg 177-180 (abridged)
I don’t know how I feel about this excerpt, but I thought I’d post it for discussion’s sake.
Did heaven have a special place reserved for people who were mentally ill, or, if you were mentally ill and died, did you automatically get well?
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, by Beth Hoffman, pg 31
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