Ever felt like a movie was written just for you? That's how I felt watching the 2014 Kristen Wiig movie Welcome to Me—a dark comedy about bipolar disorder that was so unbelievable relatable that, while I can't say it's a biopic, I can say I was born to write about it.
The film tells the story of Alice Kleig, a woman living with bipolar disorder and a serious television addiction. She loves TV so much she hasn't turned hers off in 11 years. So when she wins $86 million USD In the lottery, Alice does what any other totally normal person would do—buy a television station thats on the verge of bankruptcy and use it to broadcast bizarre, self-indulgent recreations of moments from her life, all day, every day, despite the ratings.
Look. I never won the lottery. I never had my own TV station, and, thankfully, I don't spend as much of my life relentlessly reflecting on perceived slights and emotional breakdowns. But there are still way too many parallels for me not to see something relatable in Alice.
Throughout the movie, she refuses to take her medication, preferring instead to experiment with different kinds of healing, especially different diets. She also claims to have used "masturbation as a sedative since 1991." While I was born in 1991 and can't really relate to doing anything for that much time (aside from, you know, existing), I have used orgasmic meditation since 2014 to help control my own highs and lows
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The movie is wild, weird, and funny in a dark kind of way that I didn't really get the first time I watched it. It's also four years old, which might make you wonder, "why the hell are you writing about it now?"
Well, time for some of my own emotional exhibitionism. I recently came across this film while I was in one of the lowest lows I have experienced in years. The first time I watched it, a lot of the weirdness seemed a bit too weird for me. Alice spends much of the film in full-fledged mania mode, rocketing from one cringe-worthy moment of her life to the next on live television. There's huge swans, a room full of Alices, and millions of USD worth of sets, tiaras, and sequenced gowns. It's definitely worth a watch.
It was also definitely a slap in the face—a wake-up slap that brings all your senses into clarity. I've been dealing with my own bipolar disorder throughout much of my 20s. I was clinically diagnosed as bipolar at 22, and the years since have been a wild ride. For years I didn't take my meds regularly, because of their side effects.
I would relapse every year or two, and whenever that happened, I would broadcast the entire dramatic ordeal on social media. For days on end, I would sit there and write stuff that ranged from the bizarre to the hysterical, before, eventually, ending up in the hospital. There, I would feel connected and important in ways I struggled to understand. I wrote the following from McLean Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Massachusetts:
"Every time I got hospitalized, everything seemed to take a disproportionately large scale of importance, and everything seemed to relate to me, the patient diva, the most sane person in the whole unit of insane personas. I would not settle for anything less than a VIP treatment. In the meantime, the world seemed to conspire with and against me. Every single vibrational wave seen and unseen, every single action and intention within the universe would affect me, the enlightened one, stuck in the middle of the web of living and non-living things. I, Alice, was the sole conscious entity in this forsaken hospital, and I felt the pain of everybody else’s more acutely than they themselves felt it."
I look back at all of this now, as a medicated person, and realize how strange it must've seemed to anyone outside my own head. But I've always been a little odd, so it's hard to find my baseline after each relapse. And living in an age of social media narcissism makes it hard to notice when my own posts are out of control, or just normal Facebook Generation self centeredness.
Millennials are often called the most narcissistic generation thus far. We want to be unique, to be heard, to broadcast everything that has happened in our lives. We're also a generation who shares and connects at a much faster rate than any other, making us the first generation to understand how universal our stories really are—in all their infinite depths, exuberant joys, highs, and lows.
But Welcome To Me reminded me that beyond Alice’s narcissism there was a plea for help. Beneath all of her self glorification is a heart that feels deeply, a heart that breaks often. As that Alice underwent a process of catharsis on film, the people around her did too. And the film ends with another question mark—will she really turn off her TV this time around?
What about this Alice? My current understanding of bipolar disorder is that it's an ongoing process. There's no silver bullet cure out there. All I've got are a set of tools that I can use when the time calls for them. Hopefully, now, my own show is over and done, and I will remain stable for a long, long, time. And, until then, I'll have a movie to remind me of what it's like on the other side.