Opinions

How ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ Helped Me Cope with My Mental Health Diagnosis

Photo: Scott Everett White/The CW — © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

I was diagnosed with adult ADHD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder in late 2017. After years of feeling I could only describe as ‘scatterbrained’ or ‘impulsive,’ and dealing with major setbacks in my professional life, I headed to a psychologist for an official diagnosis. As I sat in the room listening to the doctor explain her findings I realized my whole life was about to change.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend debuted on The CW in late 2015. Starring Rachel Bloom as Rebecca Bunch – the titular crazy ex-girlfriend – the musical series originally presented itself as a tale of one woman’s obsession with a boy (Josh Chan, played by Vincent Rodriguez III) and the lengths she would go to be with him. Those lengths, it turns out, included uprooting her life in New York and moving to Josh’s new residence of West Covina, California. Led by Bloom and a stellar cast of supporting characters including Donna Lynne Champlin as Rebecca’s BFF Paula; Pete Gardner as Rebecca’s boss Darryl; Vella Lovell as Rebecca’s neighbor Heather; and Gabrielle Ruiz as Josh’s new girlfriend Valencia, the show managed to be both hilarious and charming all while set to the songs in Rebecca’s mind.

What began as a show focused on Rebecca’s numerous antics to win Josh’s love soon revealed itself to be a moving, frank commentary on mental illness and the effects it has on the person and those closest to them. As the series progressed and we began to learn more about Rebecca we realized she was much more than the jilted ex-lover – she was struggling with depression and anxiety brought on by an absentee father and overbearing mother.

By the time season three debuted in 2017, Rebecca’s journey hit a major turning point: after nearly overdosing and taking her own life, she realized it was time to face the music (naturally) and get a new diagnosis. In the season’s sixth episode ‘Josh Is Irrelevant.’ that diagnosis was revealed to be Borderline Personality Disorder. Thanks to the support of a new doctor and those closest to her, Rebecca found a way to come to terms with her diagnosis and began working towards healing.

Although my diagnoses were different from Rebecca’s, watching as she overcame her hesitations and fears helped me immensely. Let’s face it: mental health is rarely talked about on television – let alone by a main character throughout multiple episodes of a series – and even less so in the real world. There is a stigma to the discussion, but being able to laugh and sing along as I watched Rebecca Bunch’s journey helped me feel less alone.

Ever since I was a young boy I’ve used television and film as a way to understand myself and the world around me; as the only out gay person in my town, this was all I had. These functioned for me, not only as entertainment, but as a guide to life of sorts and the same rings true even now. To me, this is the mark of a great television series: it not only entertains, it teaches you something you did not know about yourself or the world around you.

Luckily, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend accomplishes this in spades, tackling a wide-range of topics including bisexuality, infidelity, and abortion with the same openness and honesty as Rebecca’s mental health storyline. I would be remiss to not give credit to the Crazy Ex writers for telling these stories ­– even those that are considered taboo or controversial.

Most of all, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend taught me that neither Rebecca nor myself are defined by our diagnoses. As Rebecca Bunch would say, the situation’s a lot more nuanced than that.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness or to learn more, visit https://www.nami.org/.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend airs Friday nights at 8/7 central on The CW.

About the author

Spencer Barrett

Stars are his kind of thing! Spencer Barrett joined the TV Source team as a staff writer in 2013. In 2018, he was promoted to Senior Writer, TV & Pop Culture, shaping our pop culture content. He loves all things horror, Archie Comics and Taylor Swift.