5 Ways I Relate to 'Mr. Robot' as Someone With Depression
“Mr. Robot,” the excellent USA show that has garnered critical acclaim and several awards, follows the plight of Elliot Alderson, a cybersecurity engineer and hacker who struggles with mental illness, specifically a hallucination of a man known as Mr. Robot. After eagerly awaiting Season 2, I found myself comparing the show to my recent major depressive episode.
For instance, in Episode 2, Season 2, Elliot comes to the following realization, “Mr. Robot has become my god and, like all gods, their madness takes you prisoner.” Just as Elliot feels trapped by Mr. Robot, I often feel imprisoned by my mental illness, unable to reach out for help.
1. I lose control of my mind.
When I experience a major depressive episode, my depression takes hold and controls me. Similar to Mr. Robot, my depression likes to take control of my mind for long stretches of time. It changes the way I think and act. I become a different person to the people who love me. However, instead of becoming a technology sabotaging genius, I drift into a cloud of darkness, withdrawn and uncertain of my every step.
2. I self-medicate with alcohol.
I often drink to self-medicate when I’m depressed, which results in the loss of chunks of my memory. I’ll wake up wondering what I did the night before. While Elliot cannot recall the periods of time when Mr. Robot seizes control, I cannot recall every moment of when I drink to subdue my feelings of worthlessness.
Most recently, I posted a lengthy drunken rant on an online mental health forum. Aside from the misspellings and skipped words, I genuinely expressed how I was feeling in the midst of a depressive episode: “I go to a psychiatrist who prescribes me medicine, but then I forget to get it refilled. I feel sick when I stop taking it. I feel barely better when I am taking it. I think about how this is how my whole life is going to be. I feel uncomfortable all of the time, at work, at home, with friends. I’m tired of feeling this way. I’m tired of feeling that my life doesn’t matter. That I’m a f*ck up. That I’ll never meet someone who I can truly connect with, who I can truly open up to.”
I reread my post the next morning and cringed, much like Elliot does when he learns of Mr. Robot’s actions after a blackout. I cringed because I chose to self-medicate with alcohol, instead of cope with my depression in a healthy way. In Season 1 of Mr. Robot, Elliot often self-medicates with drugs. He sees a therapist, but rarely opens up to her about how he’s really feeling.
3. I withdraw from family and friends.
Elliot’s mental illness causes him to forget his connection to the people closest to him. A major plot twist in Season 1 was when Elliot realizes that Darlene, a fellow hacker, is not a mere acquaintance, but his sister. Although I do not completely forget who my friends and family members are, I often forget they love me. Depression makes me think they resent me and I’m a nuisance to them.
4. I self-harm.
In Season 1, Elliot as Mr. Robot harms himself in anger and awakens in a hospital to learn about his injuries. I’ve overdosed on medication after drinking to drown out the thoughts in my head, screaming I was worthless. I hurt myself in anger and frustration, thinking there was no other solution to my pain. Characters in Mr. Robot voice their concern for Elliot when they notice his downward spiral. Similarly, people in my life are worried and upset when I self-harm. However, depression blinds me to the love that my friends and family have for me.
5. I isolate.
While Elliot thinks he can block out Mr. Robot by taking Adderall and staying awake, I often think I can hide from depression by sleeping. I go to bed early and have difficulty waking up for work the next morning. I think about getting up and trying to be productive, but I’ll remain in bed feeling fatigued. I avoid socializing, thinking that I wouldn’t be fun to be around. Depression dominates my life in the same way that Mr. Robot becomes the focal point of Elliot’s life.
When a mysterious new character, Ray, tries to talk to Elliot about Mr. Robot, Elliot becomes flustered and gets up to walk away, telling Ray he doesn’t want to talk about this. Ray replies, “Yes, you do. Because you’re smart enough to know that keeping this inside isn’t going to last.” I’ve also learned it’s important to talk about how I’m feeling when I’m depressed. If other people are aware I’m beginning to descend into a depressive episode, then they will encourage me to talk to a therapist and psychiatrist. My parents will remind me to deal with my depression in healthy ways, instead of ways that are harmful.
“Mr. Robot” is important to me because I feel less alone while watching it. Now that I’m feeling better, I can watch “Mr. Robot” and recognize the unhealthy ways I’ve dealt with my depression in the past. Although I can’t predict Elliot’s fate, I can look ahead to a more hopeful future for myself knowing I have a support system to guide me and helpful tools to fight depression.