I was having trouble sleeping that night. My thoughts were racing and I was beyond restless, but at the same time, I was exhausted and my body was begging me to sleep. I tried writing, reading and just laying in bed staring at the ceiling. It didn’t help. My mind wasn’t going to let me sleep. I sighed in frustration as I rocked myself in my chair and resigned myself to staying up late.
Then I heard the voice of Martin Sheen whispering to me. He told me I needed to watch Apocalypse Now. I thought that was an excellent idea. I quickly jumped up from my chair and pulled the DVD from it’s case and popped it into the player. I settled down in my chair as the first notes of The End started playing.
The monotone voice of Martin Sheen began telling the story of Captain Willard and there was something oddly soothing about it. As I listened to the voice my mind calmed down and settled into the rhythm of the slow-paced story line. I didn’t even make it half-way through the movie before my eyelids started to droop and I was finally able to go to bed.
I could go into detail about the parallels between Apocalypse Now and Mental Illness, but that’s not what I want to do right now. Right now my intention is to illustrate how movies (and other forms of media) can help a person cope with Mental Illness. Apocalypse Now is one of the simplest examples of how a movie has helped me work through my illness.
Manic episodes and racing thoughts are both symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, which I have. During my manic episodes I would walk around my apartment complex for hours at a time, just to be moving. Sometimes I would clean the apartment from ceiling to floor, other times I would just drive. It wasn’t something I had control over; I had to be moving or I would go crazy. My whole body would jumpy and my mind would be all over the place.
The racing thoughts were just as terrible. I couldn’t control them, couldn’t make them slow down. I would think about everything; the newest season of Doctor Who, what I was going to have for dinner that night, what would happen if a tornado formed over my apartment, what I would do if a burglar came to the door? All this would pass through my mind at light-speed. Sometimes I would walk to get my body moving with mind. Sometimes I would throw myself into my work, trying to focus on something and quiet my mind. There were nights I was up until four in the morning unable to sleep, because of my thoughts.
That night when Martin Sheen spoke to me, I wanted desperately to go to sleep, because my newborn son was in the other room; finally sleeping.
Sometimes there is no in-depth analysis into how a movie has helped you cope with mental illness. Sometimes it is something that seems so small that helps you out the most. Like a familiar voice that calms your mind so you can get enough sleep to take care of your infant son when he wakes up.