Anl. Disability in Me Before You

When I first heard of Me Before You, I was drawn to the cast. Emilia Clarke is adorable as Louisa. Sam Claflin is witty as Will. I didn’t realize how much it would irk me as a disabled person. Before I begin, here’s a summary of the story. Louisa works as Will’s care-giver after an accident leaves him quadriplegic. They fall in love over the course of six months. She discovers that Will had planned an assisted suicide. He’d set up his will and planned his death.

Focus:


The first flaw in the narrative lies in the focus. I wish we’d gotten the story from Will’s point of view. It would have been incredible to see more of a disabled person’s perspective. Will speaking about his own struggles. Or, maybe he could have been showing his pain and frustrations. It is important to shed light on the life of quadriplegics and other disabled people.

 

Helplessness: 

 

 

Louisa is presented as this cheery happy person. The brunette girl tries to “save” Will’s life with her chattiness. This disabled man is presented as a damsel in distress. But, he is not this. Moreover, he has all the reasons to be angry.  The movie touches on this aspect of disability subtly. Being diagnosed with an incurable illness is hard. Will loses so much more than his health. He can’t work the same way. Nor can he maintain physical intimacy with people. He cannot go on adventures the way he was used to.

Misrepresentation: 

 

Mental illnesses are misrepresented in this story as final unmoving things that cannot be treated. Will’s inability to see joy in his life is never addressed or confronted. Instead, Louisa distracts him from facing the real causes of his pain. Counseling would have helped. Antidepressants could have helped.

The problem is that the film presents disability as unbearably frustrating and that death is the only option to have. It’s not. Louisa shouldn’t be represented as the only one who researches activities for quadriplegics. It would have been great to see Will take control of his life in ways before deciding on death. I am not saying that death isn’t a valid option. That’s fine and understandable. However, Will isn’t shown as someone who had tried to live and cope with his new life.

It’s just odd to see Will’s message to live boldly. Yet he does not follow suit. He could’ve been presented as able to live happily as a disabled man.

Overall, the story of Me Before You presents a flawed portrayal of disability. It has some beautiful moments. I laughed a lot watching this film. I enjoyed it, for the most part. The more I watch it, the more I fall in love with it. My heart goes out to Will and Lou. They truly are memorable characters. It is still a pleasure to have known these people. I am glad I got to see it.

Your Turn:

What is your favorite movie with good representations of diversity and disability? Why do you like this adaptation? Share in the comments!

For More:

“Me Before You” Review from Paraplegic Amy
“Me Before You” Review and Ableism Discussion

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Disc.: Facebook, Social Media, and Mental Illness

Social media is rarely seen with a concentration on mental illness. It is fascinating to think of it under the mental health lens because of its prevalence. Those not on social media are often seen with judgment and concern. The norm is to be on the Internet. In other words, to be connected to strangers, family, friends and coworkers. The point of this post is not so much to chastise or condone the use of social media. After all, this is cross-posted all over social media. What I am suggesting is perhaps a change in how we use and regard it.

Comparisons and Competitions

What comes with an influx of information is comparisons and competitions. I have seen so many posts about self harm, and starvation, encouraging eating disorders and fostering mental illnesses, rather than suggesting help. There were so many times where I felt like I wasn’t “sick enough” to go to a doctor, and it wasn’t until family and friends sat me down and dispelled these ideas out of my head that I went to get professional assistance. It’s good that some websites are starting to suggest that there is help out there for those who need it, but this is only when certain keywords are used in a search bar. Unfortunately, there are too many keywords that can be used to find the disturbing material worsening a person’s illness.

Endless Scrolling

Availability of endless content can be helpful because it can lead to awareness but it can also be a distraction and deterrent of productivity. I know that when depression hits, it can be extra hard to stay focused on one task rather than aimlessly watching YouTube videos or reblogging images and quotes on Tumblr. It makes things much worse when you’re already feeling unproductive or unfocused.

Like for Like?

The way the Internet works is through constant approval: people want likes, shares, comments, and it is so hard to get accustomed to having no audience to your work. With that said, there is also the way people feel more honest when they’re not judged by their appearance. I have met like-minded people on the Internet because we shared interests or hobbies. But, there’s also the exposure to trolls on the Internet, who bully people mercilessly and brutally. Too many lives have been lost because people were incessantly mocked. It comes with the territory of being anonymous online.

Being compassionate, open minded, and accepting would help a lot on the Internet. Extending kindness to others is crucial as mental health is difficult as it is, and every bit of support helps tremendously.

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BR: Depression and Art in Hold Still

“The sun stopped shining for me is all. The whole story is: I am sad. I am sad all the time and the sadness is so heavy that I can’t get away from it. Not ever.” –Nina LaCour, Hold Still.

Accuracy in the Complications 


It is very rare for an author to capture the pains of being suicidal and misunderstood. It is hard to convey this isolation, the desperate attempts to find glimmers of hope, the guilt for not being okay. Yet, LaCour achieves these feats with grace and honest understanding. It’s so matter of fact, this loneliness depression Ingrid has. There is no “justification” going on and I was so grateful for that, because mental illness is not something to reason with. It just exists and seeps the life out of you. Ingrid’s self-harm, her sadness, her despair: all are presented as valid. Caitlin never blames her friend for feeling this way. If anything, she mostly struggled with how she didn’t do anything to help, which is a powerful message to have in a book aimed at young adults. It’s interesting to read, because I was at this point before, and just taken to a hospital, so my life was spared. But, I remember the note-writing and the research. It is unfortunate that some people write about self-harm methods and techniques, about suicide ways. In a way, this book offers a suggestion: consider the impact you have on others since you don’t operate in a vacuum. 

Caitlin

This leads me to Caitlin, who was just reeling from the loss of her best friend. She is not annoying about it, but she is grieving and struggling to understand, which makes sense. I never was the friend who wanted to save a life. I was kind of too overwhelmed by my own self that I just didn’t ever read someone’s journals or see signs of a struggle, and that makes the book even more powerful because I could learn a thing or two from Caitlin. She’s empathic and brave. I love how she reaches out to Dylan repeatedly, and chooses her to be a friend. Choosing your friends is important as hell. It is so crucial to be in control of who gets to be in your life. It’s your life. Be careful who you pick. I like the role art plays in Caitlin’s life, because it truly brings her character to maturity and understanding. She processes her identity through Ingrid’s portraits of her. In a way, I wish I could have an Ingrid to show me who I am, because, seriously, mental illnesses can hijack your sense of self. People can be limiting, and simplistic. 

Ms. Delani


Ms. Delani hit very close home because I was once a teacher, and I remember the responsibility of the position. I remember looking for signs of trouble, I remember reaching out to people, and I remember being shut out many times. But, I can’t even imagine the loss of a student. That is so difficult to process, especially when they are so engaged and talented–they leave traces around your life for good. I like that she is portrayed as a pained person who uses photography to get through the pain of the vacancy. 


Photography, friendship, love, family, are all used as vehicles to cope with loss and pain, and I think that is a wonderfully inspiring thing to read. It’s also the hardest, most honest thing you can suggest to someone with mental illness. Reach out, throw yourself into something that helps you express the pain. For some, it is photography. Caitlin saw the world differently behind the lens. She gave Ingrid a home through the pictures (and through pictures, Ingrid did the same for her best friend). Maybe it is simply creating (the tree house was a great idea, too). I like Taylor being understanding and sweet. I like Dylan and Maddy. Not like, love, and I haven’t feel this full emotionally and mentally since
The Fault in Our Stars. 

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Mental Illness in the Hunger Games

I didn’t realize the connection I had with Katniss and Peeta as they experienced grief outside of the arena and after the war. It has taken me a while to understand how PTSD works, how anxiety and depression truly function. But, now, I feel a closer tie to these characters. I comprehend the messages in these stories even more than ever before. Katniss struggles to cope with the loss of Rue, of Prim, of Finnick, of so many people over the course of the stories. And, she feels so disconnected that she considers committing suicide.

Her hope is in Peeta. He is her dandelion in barren fields, the sunlight in a dark sky. He truly anchors her throughout the stories as she starts to trust him. But, even Peeta struggled to understand reality after being tortured by the Capitol. His “Real or not real” game with Katniss honestly reminds me of what it is like to have mental illnesses. When your mind is not well, it plays tricks on you. You cannot tell what is reality and what is pure paranoia.And, it becomes so confusing that all you can do is ask, sincerely, “Real or not real?”

Back to Katniss, who struggles to sleep, to use her bow and arrows, long after the games. If that is not a testament to how difficult PTSD is, I don’t what is. Yes, sure, she lives through the war, through the games (twice!), but even a strong girl like her is bound to break down. It’s only natural, honestly. But, it is also liberating to see that if a character like Katniss can get hurt by the things she faced, it is okay to go through the same thing. I am not saying that we all know what it’s like to go through wars; however, the struggles, the losses we experience are worthy of breaking us down at some point. Obviously, we have to fight. We have to be our own Mocking-jays, fight back the darkness, find the dandelions in our worlds. And, by the same token, our sunshine can falter and flicker. And, we need to be there for them. Support each other, and help get back up. That’s the best all of us we can do.

As Katniss says, “There are worse games to play.” Truly.

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