Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers about “Love,” season two.
As I binge-watched “Love” in a matter of days, I couldn’t help but see myself in Mickey Dobbs. “Love,” a Judd Apatow series available through Netflix, follows Mickey, a neurotic, impulsive woman, and Gus, an awkward, freshly single, stereotypical “nice guy,” as they navigate what can most easily be summed up as love. Both characters are relatable; they’re flawed, they make mistakes and they show that, most of the time, love is messy.
However, as a woman diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), I found myself particularly drawn to Mickey. Though the term itself is never used in the series, she shows several signs of BPD, including patterns of intense, unstable relationships, frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, impulsive and risky behavior, emotional instability, intense anger and more. People living with BPD often show patterns of unpredictability and may engage in destructive activities including excessive drug and alcohol use, risky sexual behavior, self-harm and more.
What I find particularly striking about Mickey’s character is that, despite her habits, mistakes and poor decisions, the audience is able to relate to her character as an overall well-intentioned but markedly flawed character. Mickey identifies herself as an alcoholic, a sex addict and a love addict. She has a history of unstable relationships, and has a habit of returning to past relationships out of fear of isolation or abandonment. In season two, I was able to relate to her tendency to turn to other people out of feelings of isolation and the urge to feel fulfilled; people with BPD may act out, even pushing away those they love the most, when faced with potential heartache or abandonment.
As Gus prepares to leave town in season two, for instance, Mickey warns him that she “doesn’t deal well with separation,” a common symptom experienced by people with BPD. Still, despite her attempt to prepare herself to deal with his absence, her sadness evolves into other distractions and the growing emotional distance between Mickey and Gus causes her to make the ultimately
destructive decision to reach out to her ex-boyfriend, with whom she has a particularly unhealthy history. On multiple occasions, her heightened emotions and fear of rejection — common symptoms of BPD — cause her to make decisions at the expense of other people, including Gus, Dr. Greg and others.
In season two, Mickey’s dad visits for a brief period, and viewers get a small glimpse into her childhood. Her father, for example, dismisses the severity of her alcoholism and tells a story that overwrites Mickey’s reality. She later tells Gus her own version of her father’s story, highlighting his anger and refusal to take her feelings into account, invalidating her emotional responses as “overreactions.” The representation of their relationship is familiar; people with BPD have trouble effectively managing their own emotions, largely due to a history of emotional invalidation, gaslighting or abuse.
While there have been representations of borderline personality disorder in the popular media (think “Fatal Attraction” and “Girl, Interrupted”) most of them are either inaccurate, overwhelmingly negative or harmful to people with BPD. Contrary to popular belief, people with mental disorders are not inherently dangerous or abusive. In fact, people living with mental illness are actually more likely to be victims of violence.
“Love” gives the audience a glimpse into the daily turmoil of life with symptoms of borderline personality disorder. Mickey is not necessarily a lovable character, and she is exceptionally stubborn and selfish at times. Still, the audience is able to see her perspective in a way that doesn’t necessarily justify or excuse her behavior, but does allow for empathy for her experience. Though Mickey and I actually don’t have much in common, I think she is a fairly accurate representation of some of the many ways borderline personality disorder can manifest in a person’s relationships. She never identifies herself with BPD, but her character fits much of the criteria and, as a person with the disorder, I find her oddly relatable. I don’t know if “Love” will continue or if her character will ever use that title, but I hope to see the popular media continue to focus on more accurate representation of characters with mental illness.
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Lead image via “Love” Facebook page