Amanda Bynes has a mental illness, there is no question about that. She is in pain, clearly, and living through some fairly confusing times for her brain. I know this, somehow, not because I am seeking this information out, but because it keeps flashing all over my social media feeds.
This morning I got sucked into the Amanda Bynes is in need of help rabbit hole after ignoring it for about a week. But this morning I was noodling around the Internet and had a few moments of leisure. Why I chose to spend those moments watching a young gal in the midst of active delusions stalked and obstructed by paparazzi while having what looks to be like a staged call about how her father is the worst person on earth, I still don’t know.
Honestly, I feel ashamed of myself.
This girl’s illness, her pain and heartbreak and decompensation, are none of my damn business. It’s none of any of our damn business, but clearly, it sells, so there is a market for it. I wish that were different.
The other thing that has stuck with me from the video I watched this morning were the other travelers in the airport. Some of them were just trying to get past Ms. Bynes and the throng of snapping and shouting paparazzi that surrounded her. Others took out their smartphones and started shooting themselves.
Man. I really hope that if I were ever in that situation I would leave my phone unused. What does anyone gain by capturing another human in pain, clear distress, in the midst of some kind of psychotic break? What do you do, exactly, with that footage, those photos? Do you put in on your own Facebook wall, “WOW. Look who I ran into on my way out of town! What’s her name, even — I forget?”
Allow me to extrapolate to prove a point. You’re coming off an airplane, trying to get out to your car or your family waiting for you. You come across a former celebrity (does such a thing even exist? once a celebrity always a celebrity?) who is in some sort of clear distress. Is is a heart attack, a seizure, a diabetic episode? Whatever it is, something is clearly wrong and this person is not themselves. Is your first inclination to whip out the old smart phone and record their obvious distress for all your friends and family to see? If so, please, think again.
Mental illness sucks. Loving someone with mental illness sucks. The stigma attached to mental illness sucks. It all just sucks. I can’t even imagine being or loving a celebrity with mental illness. There are some, like Robin Williams or Catherine Zeta Jones, who manage to separate their public persona from their private anguish. And yes, where there is mental illness there is anguish. Others, like Brittany Spears and Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes have whet America’s appetite for watching the inevitable decline of someone in the midst of a break.
Is it a coincidence that all of these gals are pretty faced young women who look good in short skirts?
Let’s just stop that. Let’s not click on the stories from TMZ and Radar Online and Perez Hilton — any outlet that profits off someone else’s clear pain and illness. Let’s just walk right past the rags at the grocery store cashier. Let’s call the more legitimate news outlets out when they, too, jump on the ‘so and so did some outrageous things today’ bandwagon. It is not news.
That’s what I’m committing to anyway.
Today I spent some time thinking about Amanda Bynes and her family. When you love someone with a mental illness, your capacity to help them can be quite limited. The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) privacy protocol ensures that. People with mental illness are accorded rights that practitioners must honor, even when it is clear that the tendency to isolate and self destruct is so common a symptom of so many mental illnesses.
With mental illness, you watch someone you love make decisions that you know will hurt them and are helpless as it happens. Pain begets pain. Imagine a diabetic denying themselves insulin, a stage I cancer patient refusing chemo, ensuring the disease progression, or a cardiac patient refusing their blood pressure meds, leading to the inevitable but entirely preventable heart attack. And all the while, that person has the support of the medical field who can simply tell you, “It’s their choice.”
Like I said, mental illness sucks. Let’s stop buying into it.