The ‘Mr. Robot’ Guide to Living With Mental Health Issues (And Celebrating the Show’s Final Season)
Mr. Robot has been lauded for its timely and accurate depiction of hacking, but its representation of mental illness deserve recognition, too. Protagonist and programmer Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) suffers from dissociative identity disorder (fka multiple personality disorder) and social anxiety. (Spoilers ahead!) His alternate identity, Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), is the ruthless anarchist leader of fsociety, a “hacktivist” group with plans of major destruction. Elliot is tormented, and he battles both physically and mentally with Mr. Robot for control of his mind and actions. Along the way, he attempts various methods to control his psychopathology, some of which are more successful than others.
Viewers who have mental health issues (and let’s be honest, that’s most of us to some degree at some point in our lives) have found a kindred spirit in Elliot while Malek’s raw and authentic depiction of mental illness makes it more relatable to those who haven’t experienced it firsthand. As the fourth (and final) season of the USA Network series approaches, we’ve collected a few things we’ve learned about living with mental health issues in the insightful Mr. Robot guide below.
Cover Photo: USA Network
Feel your feelings.
Stuffing down emotions is toxic to you and your relationships. Whatever you're feeling, really feel it, whether that means crying, screaming, smiling, or something else (in private when appropriate, of course). One way to think of feelings: they're along for the ride, but relegate them to the backseat; never let them drive. Speaking of cars, they're a great place for emoting, as are closets, stairwells, and soundproof rooms. Feel it, then let it go.
Go to therapy.
Roll your eyes all you want, but if your'e struggling with mental health issues, you need to go to therapy. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Talking with a professional might not solve all your problems (and, in fact, if all you do is talk and don't make changes, improvement is unlikely) but it will be a helpful component of your treatment plan. You'll learn to identify the ways you're impeding your own progress, how to form better habits, and have someone objective to listen when you just need to unload.
Get a dog.
We're going to be bold here and say that dogs are better than any other kind of pet when it comes to companion animals. Dogs need you, are happy to see you, and encourage you to get outdoors for walks multiple times per day, which are all good things you need when dealing with mental health issues.
Strengthen family ties.
Even in dysfunctional families, there's usually at least one member you click with. Seek that person out and spend some quality time with them. The wonderful thing about family is they can never really disown you. They're also a link to your family history, which might reveal some clues as to why you struggle with certain conditions or addictions. Come as you are and be curious. You just might learn something about yourself.
Hug it out.
Physical affection is healing. If there's someone around you can ask for a hug, by all means, do it. Humans need physical touch to be healthy, so hug long, hard, and often (with consent, of course). If you can't find someone to hug, you can hire a professional cuddler or schedule a massage to get some skin-to-skin contact.
Taking time out each day to be quiet and focus your mind is crucial in maintaining mental health. The world moves so fast these days that if you don't force yourself to take a time-out, you'll never get one. Whether you use a meditation app, soothing sounds, or just stare at your fish (yes, it counts), the important thing is to disconnect from everything and focus on your breath and being present for at least 10 minutes (and ideally more) once daily.
Keep showing up.
When you're struggling with mental health issues, it can be tempting to draw the blinds, hide under the covers, and refuse to answer your phone. But hibernating creates a vicious cycle. It's better to get up in the morning and get on with your day as best you can. If you're employed, go to work. Having a sense of purpose and a place to be are both buffers against mental illness. Showing up, even if you're not at your best, is essential. You never know where the day may lead; give hope a chance. If your condition is preventing you from doing your work, make sure you speak to your boss or human resources to get the support you need.
Have a sense of humor (when you can).
There's nothing funny about mental illness, but a strange side effect can be that you find the humor even in the darkest times. Make a joke, have a laugh. It's OK. We won't tell anyone you're funniest when depressed.
Remember the good times.
Our memories can be a comforting friend or a dangerous enemy. When we fixate on our fuck-ups, we sink deeper into despair. Instead of replaying your failures for the umpteenth time, revisit the instances when life went your way or even delighted you. Keep a gratitude journal and jot down the little things you feel thankful for so whenever you need a pick-me-up, you have one at your perusal.
Treat yourself (in moderation).
Everyone deserves a reward for surviving the daily battle that is living with mental illness. Let yourself indulge from time to time, whether that means sipping a cocktail, smoking a joint, or splurging on a hot fudge sundae. The key, of course, is moderation. Too much, even of the best things, can be bad for you and your mood.
Celebrate small victories.
Going through life with mental health issues is like carrying a 50-pound sack of rocks on your back. It's exhausting. The energy and brain space mental health issues occupy can make it difficult to accomplish even the simplest of tasks, like paying bills, returning phone calls, and doing laundry. When you have a good or productive day, celebrate it. There will be more of them. Just keep going and never give up.