Can Mental Issues Be Solved By Romance?

To those who haven’t watched Bride For Rent, this post is Rated S for Spoilers.

spoilers_sweetie

This TARDIS approved spoiler alert brought to you by River Song.

I just finished watching the movie Bride For Rent. I had fun watching it, Kim Chiu is spot on for the perky(sometimes a bit too much?)-funny-yet-normal-girl-next-door character; she seems to be our country’s answer to Zooey Deschanel. Xian Lim is predictable as the McDreamy of teenage girls; he can act well the part of snarling-on-the-outside-yet-wounded on the inside, misunderstood anti-hero that drives girls crazy.

It’s a normal girl gets with rich guy kind of story: Xian needs to pretend to get married in order to get his trust fund and pay his gambling debt, Kim needs to agree because they will be evicted from their home. Pilita (Xian’s grandma) catches Kim and tells her to pretend that her wedding with Xian isn’t fake. Shenanigans, misunderstandings and reconciliations ensue.

The misunderstood hero was all better in five weeks. His issues are gone, forgiveness is given and received, they get married for real and everything ties up into one tidy, pretty pink ribbon. But life is not always so organized. If anything, life is messy; and although some things are quite simple, others are complex. Mental and emotional issues don’t disappear just like that.

To me that myth of romantic love curing mental issues is dangerous. It implies that people with mental problems are simply overestimating their problem. Depressed people are simply “emo” or “cowards”. Bipolar people simply “can’t control their emotions”, and so on.

Let’s talk about Xian Lim’s character for a minute. He parties hard, gambles away 10 million pesos, lies to his grandmother and takes her for granted, disrespects his friends and his wife, fails to deliver ad copies for his godfather who gave him a chance, and is an entitled sonnovabeech. And all these disappear at the end of the movie after a few hugs and tears, and spoken words of love to someone he barely knows.

The movie is not fair to Xian Lim’s character either: their goal is to try and change someone to their ideal instead of trying to understand his issues and help him through them. Yes indeed, he needs to change. But he has deep-seated issues that a therapist needs thigh-high boots to slog through. He was abandoned as a child by his father, who didn’t bother to connect with him after he left and lived his own life with another woman. His mother is dead and his grandmother loves him too much to be able to reign him in and drag him into a psychiatrist’s office.

Trying to change people instead of connecting with them just leaves them feeling all the more alone. How would you feel if someone assumed about your problems and didn’t actually make an effort to understand what you’re going through?

The worst is, he is made to feel inferior because of his issues. He bloody says to Kim Chiu’s character, “You deserve (to marry me again) because you chose to love someone (unlovable) like me.” Way to put yourself down bro.

Romantic love is an illusion. Yes, it feels so good and as they say, if it feels so good then it must be right. But it does not make a relationship. External factors (i.e. having children from a previous relationship, parents not liking you, financial problems, etc.) are easier hurdles compared to compatibility. Do you have the same set of values? Are you friends, and do you like each others’ personality? Do you trust and respect each other? Have you seen each others’ vulnerabilities and not just accepted them, but loved them for it?

[Let me digress for a minute: vulnerability is not weakness. Learn more about vulnerability with Brené Brown’s TED Talk here. She is awesome.]

I tell you now: no, romantic love cannot solve mental and emotional issues.

In order to give credence to what I am saying, I am going to have to admit to experience. I have battled with myself as to if I should reveal something so personal to a blog which, even though it only has a very small readership, any stranger can actually read. But I have decided that courage is one of my virtues, and I am determined to be brave about this most of all.

I have been severely depressed for the past year. To give you a clue: on my birthday last year (2013) I cried for two days because I felt old and unsuccessful. There were times last year when I wouldn’t leave my room to eat or drink for days. (What’s weird is I did take a bath everyday. I can’t take not showering.) With my family’s support, medication and therapy I am doing a lot better, I am a lot happier, but I am still recovering. My birthday was a lot happier this year, I cooked yummy (except for the too salty part) birthday noodles and we ate lumpia ice cream with wansoy and crushed candied peanuts, Taiwan street food style.

There was a time when I blamed and lost my faith in God. Why, what is the purpose of this? Why me? Why would you have skyscraper-tall monsters ravaging me day and night without leaving me any defense? Then He told me, “So that when you recover, you can help others going though the same thing.”

The best solution for mental issues is therapy and a strong support group.

As someone who has experienced depression, I fear that cavalier treatment of mental health issues makes people feel that they have the right to put down people with mental health issues.

Unmistakably, there is a stigma against people who have mental issues here in the Philippines. Most times it is seen as a weakness in character. People who have it just don’t have the mental strength to deal with his/her problems. But you can’t just say, “You are so blessed, you don’t have the right to be upset!” The monsters that plague us aren’t exactly logical.

Let us be tolerant and open-minded, and if we can’t be, let us have the courage and kindness to examine why. Because we all have to admit, our world is full of loneliness and dislike and judgement. As Nikola Tesla once said, “If your hate could be turned into electricity, it would light up the whole world.”

Watch the video the WHO made about depression below. If you know someone who is experiencing depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, be kind, understanding and tolerant. And remember: don’t try to change them. Try to help.

Thank you for reaching the bottom of the page. Let’s all be kind to one another. High five!

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