34 thoughts on “Thoughts on ABC’s “Black Box”

  • April 25, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    It bothered me that she was so med non compliant. It also bothered me that she immediately went manic within hours of not taking her Meds. I don’t know anyone who reacts like that.
    The problem I see with this show is it shows mental illness as glorified. The old lady who is better off seeing her imaginary friend because he gives her company. The teenager who has a tumor and isn’t mentally ill at all and is completely cured with surgery.
    She dated the guy for three years and he never knew she was bipolar even though she’s obviously not med compliant? Unrealistic. I’m totally med compliant and still struggle with mixed manic episodes.

    There was a show a couple years ago about a psychologist who worked in a hospital. The cases seemed more real. Too bad it didn’t last.

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    • May 3, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      Last night I watched both the first and second show. My take aways:

      . I celebrate the opportunity presented by this “dramatized” look into the complexities of not only Bipolar but other issues related or misdiagnosed, as well.
      . This is not a documentary, it is a drama series, comprised of a beautiful lead actress and supporting cast. To draw an audience, and a viewership to keep it on the air it will not be entirely accurate ( totally agree w/comments re rapid mania after not taking meds).
      . I found comfort and greater acceptance of my own illness as I saw throughout both episodes a person creatively addressing and serving others out of her own growing understanding of her own illness. Authentic in its depiction of loss (her daughter), family dynamics and genetic predisposition (I saw myself in the tragedy of her mother, the affect on her, and the defining of her brother – without codependency to love and care for her).
      . Our collective pain is powerful and we are capable if we do not “go it alone” to be a profound agent of change to the predjudice, false beliefs, attitudes, etc.
      . Lastly, reminders throughout re the reality that many if not most people – families included – don’t get it. Friends for years accepted me in depression but when the darker parts of my story, with its heaviness are shared, just can’t handle it. Therapy helps to frame the truth (2nd episode “give me one reason to live” question posed to therapist and truth that her work, because of WHO SHE IS helps others) and support a life that at times seems to possess nothing but pain, to a life with endless possibilities. I have a disease of the brain. It has not taken my intellect or my ability to choose. It HAS heightened the fragility and unique challenges I must manage. This TV show tells me what I need most to know. I am not alone.
      .

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  • April 25, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    I hated it. It upset me tremendously, in the “this is the fictional textbook bipolar character study” complete with a raging manic episode following what, five hours off her meds? My friend, who also has bipolar, was very upset by it as well.

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  • April 25, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    *raises hand* I have, in past manic episodes, been all about risky sex. And risky drinking and risky driving. Anything but drugs. But reckless and risky sex has always been part of my manic MO.

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  • April 25, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    I just want to say that I am bipolar, and I am hypersexual and it HAS caused reckless behaviors over the course of my 40 yrs that are detrimental. I think that it is realistic that she does not follow her medicinal regimen as I also go stints without it. But I agree, mania trickles back in for me as well and usually my friends and family notice before I do.

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  • April 25, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    I don’t have tv (regular tv) so I won’t see it. Unless it eventually makes it to netflix.
    Did you ever see homeland series? I thought that was a brilliant portrayal of the disorder.

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    • April 26, 2014 at 3:43 pm

      Popsie,
      I haven’t seen Homeland, but definitely want to. I need to see if it has hit Netflix. Thanks for the recommendation.
      xoxo,
      Elaina J

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  • April 26, 2014 at 12:14 am

    I watched it too. Liked it. But the part where she was told to get out of the car after revealing she had bipolar……I didn’t see it the way you did. He seemed to be upset about the things that she said she does when she goes off her meds. I got the feeling she was hinting to him that she has cheated on him, and he picked up on that, and became angry.

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    • April 26, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      Medee,
      I think you are right. A lot of readers are saying the same thing. I guess I just still felt like if I were newly diagnosed and was worried about how people would react to the news, the show’s portrayal might scare me from speaking the truth. Thanks for your thoughts.
      xoxo,
      Elaina J

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  • April 26, 2014 at 12:27 am

    When I have manic episodes, they happen instantly. All I want to do is screw or drive my car into a tree. Sex is a huge deal when I’m manic. I have to have it, and sometimes I don’t care with whom. I don’t take meds and I don’t go to therapy because I don’t have insurance. I think group therapy feels like AA. I’m only saying this because I’m manic now and don’t care. She’s probably a fine example of how crazy bipolar really is. Relationships are impossible and don’t get me going on keeping a damn job!

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    • April 26, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      Suze,
      Mania is a dangerous beast – I know. I wanted to let you know about a site – http://www.needymeds.org. When I didn’t have insurance I was able to get my meds for free by applying for them through their manufacturer. Check it out. See if your medication is offered at a reduced rate or free. It is worth the time for the sake of sanity. Also, check around to see about free community mental services. NAMI may be able to point you in the right direction. Thanks for taking the time to post.
      Stay well,
      Elaina J

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  • April 26, 2014 at 7:00 am

    I had most of these same thoughts and I agree completely. I am not bipolar but I have a sister who is and I have been reading a lot about it. It is interesting to me that I spotted these things, especially the ones about how fast her mania came on and her boyfriend getting upset and leaving her behind. I also thought that the conversation between her and the doctor when they hooked up was ridiculous. All in all, it does have potential but if they keep showing her going off her meds every episode, I will stop watching as that will get old fast and will not show how while she is on her meds, she is successful and responsible.

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    • April 26, 2014 at 3:34 pm

      Kim,
      I just want to say thank you for caring so much for your sister. It is good that you have been reading a lot about bipolar disorder so you can better understand her illness. You might want to check out the blog post “Books that have helped me,” for a list of some of my favorite books on bipolar disorder. Thanks for reading.
      xoxo,
      Elaina J

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  • April 26, 2014 at 7:59 am

    I did not care for this show for the most part. Part of me just kept thinking “this is far too glamorized.” Just the whole part with her having all of that sex was a little extreme and over-dramatic, even for a manic episode. For anyone that truly wants to see an accurate and relatable portrayal of bipolar disorder, I highly recommend the musical “Next to Normal.” It is absolutely fantastic.

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  • April 26, 2014 at 8:26 am

    I think the reason the man told her to get out of the car is because he realized that she cheated on him…She said that she does bad things sometimes and he goes like what?? and she just stares at him, I think he understood..Thats why he was soo pissed off

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    • April 26, 2014 at 3:30 pm

      Heather,
      That seems to be what readers of this blog are agreeing on – that he knows she cheated. I kind of got that, but still felt it would scare someone who was watching and who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder from being honest with people they know. Thanks for taking the time to post.
      xoxo,
      Elaina J

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  • April 26, 2014 at 11:18 am

    I am not bipolar, however I am a registered nurse, with past mental health experience, and I have to agree, that, yes, it is unrealistic that after only a few hours of not taking her meds she go into a manic state, but let’s acknowledge that this is a television show, and they only have a limited amount of time to fill the slot. But to say her symptoms are exaggerated because they are not like yours, is ridiculous. Everyone presents differently. I like what they are doing, it brings light to the taboo topic of mental illness. Remember it is a TV show meant for entertainment purposes, so, don’t get too wrapped up in the technicalities, be glad that this topic is being addressed.

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    • April 26, 2014 at 3:28 pm

      Janelle,
      Thank you for doing such a much needed job as being a nurse. I don’t think I was being ridiculous. I said, “I am not saying this doesn’t happen for some people, but for me it was a stretch.” Of course, there will be people who exhibit symptoms faster than others. I was just saying that in my own personal experience it was a stretch from my norm. Thanks for reading.
      ~Elaina J

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      • April 29, 2014 at 1:22 am

        Thank you Elaina J. and many other bloggers, including Janelle; The problem I see with all TV programs is that many people who are not clear thinkers outside the square, can be mislead about the issue exhibited by the story-line. There can be numerous idiosyncrasies that only a medical person, therapist will be able to help an individual patient/client with. When errantly portrayed by a TV show it may well cause adverse reactions by some people. Then only the Nurse, Medico, Therapist can help patient get back on track.
        I am a Counsellor, I have friends and family members who are BP. And siblings who are Nurses and Medico Aids in education Department helping adolescents.

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    • May 2, 2014 at 12:45 pm

      Janelle, you are so right. One person’s illness is not another’s. We are all chemically different and one drug doesn’t work for some, but does for others.

      Amazing how many can be so judgmental about their fellow bipolars.

      The premiere was a bit over the top. Last night’s episode was somewhat better.

      Always remember this is Hollywood, not real life.

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  • April 26, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    Funny, they wouldn’t make a show like that for someone who has diabetes or heart disease or cancer. Not as far as I know. It seems exploitative and not compassionate.

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  • April 26, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    My husband & son (10) can tell within 6 hours if I’ve missed meds. While not fully manic by that point, it is a difference in my temper/aggression, I do exhibit signs of being hypersexual, and my judgement is impaired. I have not cheated on my husband, but in the last 20 years he is the only person I could be faithful too, and that’s because he stays close, or has a friend or family member stay with me when I’m like that. I also know though, manic or not, if he found out he would probably leave me on the side of the road. So to me the behavior may be dramatized some for TV, it is plausible.

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  • April 26, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    I am not bi-polar, but my son is and I am his caregiver; thus I have spent his lifetime living this disease vicariously. I also don’t have cable, so I have not seen this series yet, but I am going to have to add it to my list. Having read about the first episode and about the main character, I am really having a tough time with just who the main character is: a successful neurologist? Ok, I’m not saying its not possible for doctors to be mentally ill, but would we not all agree that it takes a certain amount of self discipline to get through med school? My son has taken his drivers test 6 times and he still has not passed, and lets not eleven discuss his inability to acquire employment. There is a reason as to why people who are mentally ill are eligible for SSI. I am not saying it is not plausible that this woman could not have a job, but I am saying that it is pretty unlikely that she would be a successful physician. But with all her time spent in med school, when could she possibly have time for psychiatrist inpatient stays or time spent in jail for doing gawd knows what. I’m sorry if this offends anyone, but know knowing what I know, this is the part that seem highly unlikely.

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    • April 27, 2014 at 11:14 pm

      There is a book called “An Unquiet Mind”. It is a memoir by Kay Redfield Jamison, a Psych Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She had her first manic episode in high school, and her illness continued to escalate throughout medical school. Years later, even as a professional, she still sometimes went off her meds and engaged in ruinous behavior. Bipolar disorder exists on a spectrum and is different for everyone. Some people are unable to function enough to work even when being treated with medication; some manage to lead successful lives even though they give in to the temptation of stopping their meds on occasion. You can’t look through the lens of one individual’s experience with mental illness and assume it’s like that for everyone. It sounds like you are supportive of your son, which is a great asset.

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  • April 26, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Elaina,

    You do realize this is the nighttime equivalent of a soap opera, right? (Just like the shows “Scandal” and “Revenge” on the same network.) It’s not about “shedding some light” on the disorder…that’s what a documentary is for. If she was compliant with her meds (and let’s face it, a lot of patients aren’t, be it psych meds or any other meds), then there wouldn’t be a show!
    No person with any diagnosis (be it physical or mental) should rely on a tv show plot line to predict how people in their own lives are going to react. That’s the point of education and communication with friends and family!
    If a show is upsetting to anyone in any way, they should just change the channel. A fictional tv show just isn’t worth taking that seriously!

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    • April 26, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      KK,
      I do realize it is television, but I also realize that many people learn about things they don’t know about through the media. So, if I didn’t know about bipolar disorder I might rely on a show with a main character who is bipolar to “shed some light” on the disorder. I’m not saying we should believe everything we see and hear, I am merely pointing out the fact that some people will and I want it to be an accurate portrayal. If you haven’t already seen it, Stephen Fry’s “The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive,” is a documentary you may be interested in viewing. It is on YouTube in two parts. Thanks for chiming in.
      xoxo,
      Elaina J

      Reply
  • April 26, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    I think what I didn’t like about the show was how quickly she recovered from her episode. It can take months to get over an episode and it seems like she was in a psych ward and on the job a couple days later. It takes time for the meds to work. Many two years out from a manic episode haven’t regained functional recovery.

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  • April 26, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    I thought the show was good for a premiere episode. I felt like the feelings and effects of mania were captured quite well – at least, for me. I believe it’s important to remember that Black Box is an entertaining TV show, not an informational class about mental illness. With regard to the protagonist becoming manic only hours after missing her meds – entirely possible. The sexual behavior is also quite believable, and that her boyfriend kicked her out of the car for cheating on him was very realistic. I have some difficulty understanding how a woman as unstable as Dr. Black became and remains a working neurologist, but perhaps the show will further explore that theme – and, again, is IS a TV show. I’m curious about how the issue of med non-compliance will be handled in future episodes. If the show’s main focus is Dr. Black going on & off meds, I will eventually find that dull in its predictability. For now, I’m looking forward to next week’s episode.

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  • April 27, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    As someone who s bipolar, I do not have the manic stages, I cycle from the low-lows to a mid-range. Lamictal has been a God-send to me and of course, my family who lives with my illness.

    My biggest concern is that this show will glorify bipolar. Make it cool to say you are bipolar. If you have a wild night sexing it up with stranger(s) how easy to get off the hook to say “It wasn’t my fault, I have no control, I am bipolar” Any mood swings that are normal or hormonal could be written off by saying one has bipolar.
    It is real, not an excuse for bad behavior. That is what I am most concerned with.

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    • April 27, 2014 at 7:31 pm

      I see a lot of people posting that Black Box glorifies mental illness. How can a fictional TV show not “glorify” mental illness? If the show isn’t dramatic and entertaining, well, then it’s boring. The other option is a program that’s non-fiction (documentary). I’m not sure what, really, viewers expect from a show about mental illness.

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  • April 28, 2014 at 10:05 am

    I have not seen this show yet but I will check it out. I am hyper aware of the social stigma around our illness, and I try to fight it by emailing producers, even the actors, and I have twice written the writers of Law and Order episodes about their demeaning portrayals of bipolars. I will also look at Homeland, I was not aware we are portrayed there. Television script writers are consistently notoriously in error. It seems that they learn a little bit about a mental illness(or anything)and then write-away using every stereotype they learned, and they think this is accurate. I speculate it’s Hollywood ego and competitive pressure that causes them to write so carelessly.

    I’m leaving this week on a two plus year journey backpacking throughout the U.S. with my dog, and I’m making raising awareness of the harm of mental health stigma my primary goal. In addition to lobbying and protesting on two other issues important to me. I’m collecting Likes and Followers and inviting my brethren in bipolar disorder to watch from my Page for my entire journey. I’ll be meeting hundreds of people, camping on private lands and public parks. I’m visiting many historical sites. I’ll see the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, the Rockies, the Keys, the Sierras, Hollywood, Alaska, Tahiti. I’ll be fishing a lot. Writing a lot. One of the greatest challenges will be staying medicated. The State mental health department that cares for me is unable to help me stay medicated. I’m going to have to seek out, weeks in advance, a private psychiatrist willing to let me do a drive-by patient visit. Most will say no. Most other health departments will serve the homeless, but I’m not really homeless on this trip – I may have to feign homelessness to get meds! I may have to wait while a state health department completes protocols of waiting periods, psych evaluations, lab testing and etc.. What a PIA! But please come over and check out the journey that is about to launch. I know it is inappropriate to promote web sites on forums such as this but this is different, it’s a site dedicated to the journey of a severe bipolar who is washing off five years of social stigma delivered to him primarily by the institutions he sought help from! http://facebook.com/BPTrek See ya!

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    • April 28, 2014 at 4:47 pm

      Awesome, James! Happy hiking~

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  • May 9, 2014 at 11:26 am

    I watch a good bit of television and frequently very graphic psychological dramas. I am more or less immune to the thrill of hyper-mental conflict at this point. However, last night’s episode of Black Box left me very uncomfortable. I simultaneously felt that it was over the top and dead on. I really found Homeland to be the best depiction of bipolar ever on television. It was not sensationalized or “look-at-the-crazy-person”. Black Box is very sensational but it is also from Catherine’s point of view and, let’s face it, sometimes those with bipolar tend to sensationalize their own lives – I do, or did.
    TV dramas tend to show the damage that bipolar leaves in the wake. What BB did that I have never seen a TV show do before is show how addictive mania can become for those around you. Sometimes, especially lovers, become super-charged by the mania and don’t know what to do when you suddenly don’t want to be that wild, spontaneous, over-the-top, hyper-sexual thrill ride of a person anymore. The manic is not only the most hated persona but often the most loved by others and it can really hurt that your “normal” seems disappointing to those you love.

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